The Necks – Open

open(RER NECKS 11)

Not exactly a jazz group – they don’t swing or play the blues – but what this Australian trio does is as totally improvisatory as it is possible to get and still make great art. In fact, it is this extreme form of creating in the moment that elevates what The Necks do and makes it a different kind of experience for the listener: really great art.

Pianist Chris Abrahams, double bass player Lloyd Swanton and drummer Tony Buck assemble unrehearsed and with no preconceived plan. Then they play.

Open returns them to their favoured structure – one hour-long track. It’s more meditational and less funky than of late, quieter and with more space. And it’s well up to their usual high standard.

The Necks

The Necks

As Swanton says: “Mindset [their 2011 release] reached some pretty intense levels at times, and although we never discussed it, I think that on Open by contrast, all three of us were taken by the idea of working in an area of great stillness. After a couple of days’ recording, it was clear that the music was leading us in this direction.”

The album opens with Buck striking a single-stringed monochord and then filling in with bells and cymbals around it. It’s a mood taken up by Abrahams with little piano phrases here and there, and then there are rich double bass five note phrases, slow and ruminative piano replies and we’re off on the kind of journey only The Necks can take us on.

There is minimal and highly effective use of electronics, and the album has been beautifully recorded at the Studios 301 (yep, the same place E.S.T. made their last recordings)

The Los Angeles Times has described them as “a magic act masquerading as a piano trio” and there is that almost supernatural quality. It’s also deeply refreshing in these short-concentration-span times for the listener to be able to sink into the music as a swimmer might into a vast lake.

While the band is fascinating and hugely enjoyable on record, it is in attending a performance that one really gets the full Necks experience, being there in the moment for a truly unique creation.

Luckily for us, The Necks are currently in this hemisphere, and are playing the following English dates:

Tomorrow: Capstone Theatre Liverpool
Saturday: Howard Assembly Room, Opera North, Leeds (in the round)
Sunday: Birmingham Town Hall, Birmingham as part of the RISK weekend (in the round). Details here
Monday – Wednesday: Cafe Oto, London [SOLD OUT]

You can find more details of The Necks and subsequent dates in Europe 7-16 November here.

Buy The Necks’ Open here.

Categories: CD review

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