Album Reviews

The Necks: Travel

With their 19th studio release, the improv’ veterans unearth another gem.

As time goes on, it’s seems harder to be wowed by live music. Don’t ask me why, it just is. COVID has completely broken social structures and changed people’s habits and – for me at least – it’s realising that live music doesn’t hold the importance it once did. That’s hard to admit for many reasons, but there it is.

It could all change of course, and despite this currently feeling, it doesn’t alter the fact that when and you do come across something that exceeds expectation, that’s what makes the experience of live music truly worth it. One of those moments arrived at the Auditori Rockdelux at Primavera’s 2019 edition. Its harsh, metallic-styled exterior playing home to Sydney trio The Necks, who for 45 minutes, drew their audience into a narcotic dream state.

In a performance that was so telepathic and singular, it was a moment where you wished that time was frozen, as pianist Chris Abrahams, bassist Lloyd Swanton and drummer Tony Buck, juxtaposed rich textures with bourgeoning doom jazz. For over 30 years, not one creative collective has replicated the celestial, panoramic soundscapes The Necks have delivered over their 19 album tenure.

Weirdo Rippers #4

Seemingly immune from failure, while their latest dispatch, Travel, is a slight departure from The Necks’ usual methods, it’s still uncompromisingly Necksian in all facets.

With Travel, for the first time in their history, The Necks captured 20 minute improvisations performed in the studio during the recording process. And the more you listen to Travel, the more you realise how closely aligned to their live performance it is. As snippets filter out of the speakers, from a personal point of view, Travel almost teleports me back to that fateful afternoon in the Auditori Rockdelux. I’m certain many others can reference similar experiences.

The Necks - Travel

Opening with Signal, the oceanic keys, crumpled percussion and sweltering strings are delivered in fractured new ways. In fact, the opening sequences flicker with the cinematic allure reminiscent of The Boys Ost.

Then there’s Forming. With its syncopated, elastic percussion, a rush of Swanton’s strings and Abrahams’ meandering riffs across the keys, like Signal, Forming simmers and builds with that staple Necksian pressure. Swanton’s thrumming bass lines and Buck’s rumbling percussion feeling like you’re on the crest of a panic attack.

The Still: Got It – “beauty in brevity”

Dialling things down with a loose, gentle swing, Imprinting sees the trio delve into the fissures of jazz, with a protracted swoon through the moon-lit marshlands. Possessing all the hypnotic hallmarks of their live performance, Imprinting best captures The Necks latest recording approach.

On Bloodstream, Abrahams brushes across the ivories with a melodic line that coils around an eastern-inspired drone that, despite Buck’s epic percussion almost smoking it out, forms the backbone to the composition. It’s a thrilling end to Travel, as The Necks catch and harness the lightning in one of those rare moments in the realm of creativity. The sheer magic of it all, and The Necks add yet another hit to the pile in what is their most diverse range of recordings since 1990’s Next.

Travel is out now via Northern Spy Records. Purchase from Bandcamp.

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

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