Necks


(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

Sex (1989), 7/10
Next (1990), 6/10
Aquatic (1994), 6.5/10
Silent Night (1996), 6.5/10
Piano Bass Drums (1998), 6.5/10
Music for the feature film The Boys (1998), 6/10
Hanging Gardens (1999), 7/10
Aether (2001), 6.5/10
Drive By (2003), 6/10
Mosquito/ See Through (2005), 6.5/10
Chemist (2006), 6/10
Townsville (2007), 5.5/10
Silverwater (2009), 7/10
Mindset (2011), 6.5/10
Open (2013), 6/10
Links:

The Necks are an Australian instrumental combo formed by three veteran jazz musicians: Chris Abrahams (piano), Tony Buck (drums) and Lloyd Swanton (bass), a former member of the Bernie McGann Trio.
Abrahams has also released three solo piano albums, and has played with such distinguished avant-jazz musicians as John Zorn, Tom Cora, Phil Minton, Peter Brotzmann, Hans Reichel, Han Bennink, Shelley Hirsch, Wayne Horvitz.
Lloyd Swanton also leads the Catholics, a more overtly jazz combo, who have released four albums, starting with The Catholics and Simple.

Necks' albums contain lengthy, trancey jams anchored to simple melodic lines and propelled by swinging, funky grooves. The insistent repetition of harmonic elements recalls minimalism while the fluid and atmospheric instrumental interplay recalls jazz-rock.

The trio first proved its worth on the 56-minute composition that fills the album Sex (Fish Of Milk, 1989 - Private Music, 1995). The subdued rhythm and slightly syncopated tempo create a delicate texture for the intermittent patterns of neoclassical piano and sensual trumpet wails. The cascading piano notes coalesce in a hypnotic stream of casual tones. But then the music begins to warp, and dissonances and harsh tones appear. The way Abrahams caresses the piano is unique, both abstract, exotic and romantic.

Next (june 1990 - Fish Of Milk, 1990) contains six pieces that try different avenues.

Aquatic (Fish Of Milk, 1994 - Carpet Bomb, 1999) featured Stevie Wishart on hurdy-gurdy and introduced an ethnic flavor. If Next Had Tried to differentiate their art in six different directions, Aquatic serves the same purpose but in a continuum rather than a set of discrete pieces.

Necks went back to the original format to achieve their classical sound. The double-CD Silent Night (september 1995 - Fish Of Milk, 1996) contained just two meditations, the sample-driven Black and especially the slow, fragile, colloquial interplay of White.

Piano Bass Drums (Fish Of Milk, 1998) was recorded live.

The Boys (Fish Of Milk, 1998 - ReR, 2004) is a film soundtrack. It suffers from being a fragmented work, the opposite of their favorite format.

Hanging Gardens (Fish Of Milk, 1999 - ReR, 2001) is a 60-minute composition that summarizes their minimalistic technique. Frantic hi-hat work and ominous bass lines surround and underpin haunting keyboard noises. The mood is cryptic if not gothic. The music gets more frantic, stormier, funkier and more psychedelic. Ten minutes into the piece, the piano, by repeating a pattern of five notes, creates an atmosphere of suspense, akin to Peter Green's End of the Game. The playing begins to reveal its jazz roots and, twenty minutes into the piece, the five-note pattern resurfaces at a higher octave and the jamming fires up. When it dies out, a phase of quiet abstract counterpoint takes over. Forty minutes into the piece, the music picks up energy again, unleashing a rocking, Nice/Colosseum-style organ-driven tumult, eventually leading to the five-note piano pattern again, this time in a more claustrophobic setting.

The Neck's ambient minimalist jazz-rock reaches its zenith on Aether (Fish Of Milk, 2001 - ReR, 2002), where a simple chord is repeated like a mantra to elicit consonant vibrations from the other instruments, like evoking one by one all the subtle hues of one fundamental color. Eventually nirvana appears, in the form of a cosmic drone that leads the music into an ecstatic crescendo of counterpoint. It is probably the most ethereal of their works.

Athenaeum (Fish of Milk, 2003) is a 4-CD live set.

Photosynthetic (Long Arms, 2003) was recorded live in Moscow in 2002.

By now, the trio (spread around the world) played together only a couple of times a year. Drive By (ReR, 2003), yet another one hour-long slowly-unfolding chamber piece that relies on both minimalist repetition and jazz improvisation for its dreamy ambience and fluent dynamics. If Hanging Gardens was lively and virulent, and Aether was pure understated bliss, Drive By can be said to be the perfect encounter of Miles Davis, Terry Riley and Brian Eno. With a stronger sense of the groove than its predecessor (and a touch of African polyrhythm), the amalgam of Tony Buck's tribal drums, Lloyd Swanton's repetitive bass lines and Chris Abrahams' wavering piano meditations is a classic of casual conversation. It almost sounds like the counterpart to Soft Machine's sixth album, which, starting from similar premises, accomplished much more austere and geometric structures. The keyboards are absolute protagonists, yielding the totality of the piece's diversity, with occasional peaks of pathos. As usual, the meaning is as cryptic as a summer breeze. Halfway into the track (at 27 minutes), children are heard playing in the background, and the delicate timbres of the piano seem to engage in some kind of counterpoint (while a distorted organ whines on top of it); and at 48 minutes the music is invaded by a loud buzzing sound, as of thousands of bees, and other animal-sounding noises, while the tempo gets funkier, until the music dissolves and only chirping birds are left.
The only drawback compared with its predecessor is that somehow the textures do not achieve the same sense of otherworldiness. The process is, in a sense, too obvious for the spectator to be hypnotized by the clockwork.

The double-CD Mosquito/ See Through (ReR, 2005) contains two hypnotic streams of consciousness. Mosquito opens with disjointed percussion sounds. A stubborn piano note is joined for a minute by light drumming (for the first time about 14 minutes into the piece, then a few more times). That is all the excitement for the first half. In the second part the drums are a bit more prominent, but the piano note is still hypnotically (although not mechanically) repeated and the center of action remains with the percussion.
See Through, one of their formal peaks, opens with smooth, half-whispered, jazzy piano phrases dropping on a fibrillating noise of cymbals. For seven minutes, it sounds like a jam between Pharoah Sanders and the Art Ensemble of Chicago. This is a slow dance between a sexy piano and ominous cymbals. The piano phrases relent as soon as they accelerate, relax as soon as they hit harder. Chris Abrahams is a master of breaking the suspense before it acquires the slightest dramatic overtone. His keys float weightless in the air, rarely encountering an obstacle or a detour. His fugues are colorful as much as his silences are cryptic. This piece is his personal showcase. After about 50 minutes of cascading tones and sudden pauses, the piano is finally engaged by the drums (not just the cymbals) and the last ten minutes are a crescendo of frantic drumming.

Chemist (ReR, 2006) was unusual for the Necks because it contained three mid-length tracks instead of the usual hour-long monolith. Steady drumming, echoing bass chords, tiny dissonances, hypnotic and jazzy keyboard runs build up the eerie, raga-like atmosphere of Fatal, reminiscent of early Pink Floyd and of Miles Davis' jazz-rock via his underrated rock disciple Peter Green. The progression of the playing mirrors the increasingly feverish reaction to an ecstatic vision, driven by intensely fibrillating piano a` la Terry Riley and harsher distortions. A puntillistic exercise for deep listeners, Buoyant weaves a fragile tapestry of disjointed notes, held together by the thinnest of musical pretexts. Abillera disentangles itself from a facsimile of the cryptic pulsing cacophony of Riley's In C to soar in an intricate mandala-like pattern of frantic piano notes.

The live album Townsville (february 2007 - ReR, 2007) is representative of their method. A bass-line is used to set the tone for the improvisation. The other instruments build sounds around it, notably the piano with cascading meditations that shift from a new-age mood to a forceful free-jazz attack. All the way the cymbals sound more like light rain than rhythm. While time brings more structure and emphasis to it, there is no question that their music remains in a permanent state of suspension.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Nicola Mecca)

I Necks sono un complesso strumentale australiano, formato da tre esperti session-men: Chris Abrahams (pianoforte), Tony Buck (batteria) e Lloyd Swanton (basso). Abrahams ha anche pubblicato tre album per pianoforte solo, e ha suonato con importanti esponenti dell’avant-jazz, come John Zorn, Tom Cora, Phil Minton, Peter Brotzmann, Hans Reichel, Han Bennink, Shelley Hirsch, Wayne Horvitz. Lloyd Swanton è anche il leader dei Catholics, un ensemble jazz più tradizionale, che ha pubblicato quattro album, a partire da The Catholics e Simple.

Gli album dei Necks contengono jam estese ed ipnotiche, basate su semplici linee melodiche, portate avanti attraverso groove sincopati. La ripetizione insistente di elementi armonici strizza l’occhio al minimalismo, mentre l’interplay fluido ed atmosferico richiama il jazz-rock.

Il trio dimostrò per la prima volta il suo valore sulla composizione di 56 minuti che riempie l’album Sex (Fish Of The Milk, 1989 – Private Music, 1995). Il ritmo sommesso ed il tempo leggermente sincopato creano una trama delicata per gli intermezzi pianistici neoclassici e per i lamenti sensuali della tromba. Le note del piano scendono come una cascata, sfociando in un flusso ipnotico di toni casuali. Ma poi la musica comincia ad alterarsi, e fanno la loro comparsa dissonanze e toni striduli. Il modo in cui Abrahams accarezza il piano è unico: astratto, esotico, romantico.

Next (june 1990 - Fish Of Milk, 1990) contiene sei tracce che si avventurano per strade differenti.

Aquatic (Fish Of Milk, 1994 - Carpet Bomb, 1999) include Stevie Wishart all’organetto e introduce un sapore etnico. Se con Next avevano provato a scindere la loro arte in sei direzioni differenti, Aquatic serve lo stesso intento ma in un continuum invece che in pezzi diversi.

Per ottenere il loro “sound” distintivo, i Necks ritornarono al formato originario. Il doppio cd Silent Night (september 1995 - Fish Of Milk, 1996) conteneva solo due meditazioni, Black, animata da una frase campionata, e specialmente il lento, fragile, colloquiale dialogo di White.

Piano Bass Drums (Fish Of Milk, 1998- ReR, 2004) era una registrazione live.

The Boys (Fish Of Milk, 1998 - ReR, 2004) è una colonna sonora per un film. Ha il difetto di essere un lavoro frammentario, non certo il loro formato prediletto.

Hanging Gardens (Fish Of Milk, 1999 - ReR, 2001) è una composizione di 60 minuti che riassume la loro tecnica minimalistica. Un pattern di hi-hat alquanto frenetico e delle linee di basso inquietanti circondano e puntellano affascinanti rumori di tastiere. L’atmosfera è enigmatica se non gotica. La musica diventa più inquietante, disturbata, più spaventosa e più psichedelica. Intorno ai dieci minuti il piano, ripetendo un pattern di cinque note, crea un atmosfera di tensione, simile all’ End of the Game di Peter Green. Il playing comincia a rivelare le sue radici jazzistiche, e giunti ai venti minuti, il pattern di cinque note ricompare all’ottava più alta e la jam si infuoca. Quando termina, subentra un momento contrappuntistico abbastanza astratto. Ai quaranta minuti la musica riacquista ancora energia. Una parte in stile Nice o Colosseum, guidata da un organo aggressivo, fa clamorosamente irruzione, portando alla fine nuovamente al pattern di piano in cinque note, questa volta però in una atmosfera decisamente clasutrofobica.

Il jazz-rock minimalista e di atmosfera dei Necks raggiunge lo zenit con Aether (Fish Of Milk, 2001 - ReR, 2002), dove un semplice accordo è ripetuto come un mantra per provocare vibrazioni simpatiche dagli altri strumenti, come per evocare una per una tutte le tinte di un unico colore fondamentale. Alla fine si giunge al nirvana, nella forma di un mantra cosmico che porta la musica in un crescendo estatico di contrappunto. E’ probabilmente il loro lavoro più etereo.

Athenaeum (Fish of Milk, 2003) è un live in 4-CD.

 

Photosynthetic (Long Arms, 2003) è registrato dal vivo a Mosca nel 2002.

Fino ad allora il trio aveva suonato insieme, soltanto un paio di volte all’anno (in giro per il mondo).

Drive By (ReR, 2003), è un altro pezzo da camera lungo un’ora, che si sviluppa lentamente. Si basa tanto sulla ripetizione (minimalismo) quanto sulla improvvisazione (jazz) per la sua atmosfera sognante e le sue dinamiche fluenti. Se Hanging Gardens era agitato e virulento, ed Aether era una beatitudine pura e sussurrata, si può dire che Drive By rappresenti il punto di incontro perfetto di Miles Davis, Terry Riley e Brian Eno. Con un senso del groove più marcato dei suoi predecessori (ed un tocco di poliritmia Africana), l’amalgama della batteria tribale di Tony Buck, delle linee di basso martellanti di Lloyd Swanton e delle tentennanti meditazioni per pianoforte di Chris Abrahams, è un classico di conversazione casuale: suona quasi come la controparte del sesto album dei Soft Machine, che, partendo da premesse analoghe, si evolveva in strutture più geometriche e austere. Le protagoniste assolute sono le tastiere: producono tutte le variazioni presenti nella lunga traccia, con occasionali momenti di Spannung. Come al solito, il significato è enigmatico come una brezza estiva. A metà traccia (siamo a 27 minuti), si sentono bambini giocare in sottofondo, ed i timbri delicati del piano sembrano ingaggiare una specie di contrappunto (con in cima il lamento di un organo distorto); a 48 minuti la musica è invasa da un rumoroso ronzio, come uno sciame di api, e ancora rumori di altri animali, mentre il tempo diventa più sincopato, finché la musica si dissolve e rimangono soltanto uccellini cinguettanti.

Il solo difetto, se paragonato ai lavori precedenti, è che in qualche modo le trame non comunicano lo stesso senso di “alienazione”, di “appartenenza ad un altro mondo”. In un certo senso, è troppo ovvio per lo spettatore essere ipnotizzato dal movimento di un orologio.

Il doppio Mosquito/ See Through (ReR, 2005) contiene due ipnotici flussi di coscienza. Mosquito si apre con suoni sconnessi di percussioni. Una nota testarda di piano è accompagnata per un minuto da un ritmo leggero (per la prima volta dopo 14 minuti, poi poche altre volte). Questo è tutto il movimento presente nella prima parte. Nella seconda parte la batteria è più prominente, ma la nota di piano è ancora ipnoticamente (ma non meccanicamente) ripetuta ed il centro dell’azione rimangono le percussioni.

See Through, uno dei loro picchi tecnici, si apre con frasi di pianoforte dolci, sussurrate, di sapore jazzistico, sospese sull’oscillante scampanellio dei piatti. Per sette minuti, suona come una jam tra Pharoah Sanders e l’Art Ensemble of Chicago. E’ una danza lenta tra un piano sensuale e dei piatti inquietanti. Le frasi di piano non fanno in tempo a rallentare, che già riaccelerano, non appena si rilassano già ridiventano martellanti. Chris Abrahams è un maestro nel rompere la tensione immediatamente prima che acquisti la minima sfumatura drammatica. Le sue note fluttuano senza peso nell’aria, incontrando raramente un ostacolo o una deviazione. Le sue fughe sono sgargianti quanto ermetici sono i suoi silenzi. See Through è il suo personale biglietto da visita. Dopo circa 50 minuti di toni in cascata e pause improvvise, il piano è finalmente raggiunto dalla batteria (e non solo dai piatti) e gli ultimi dieci minuti sono un crescendo di batterismo sfrenato.

Chemist (ReR, 2006) fu inusuale per i Necks perché conteneva tre tracce di media lunghezza invece del solito monolito di un’ora. Un ritmo solido, accordi per basso riecheggianti, piccole dissonanze, tastiere ipnotiche costruiscono l’atmosfera misteriosa, quasi da raga, di Fatal, reminiscente dei primi Pink Floyd e del jazz rock di Miles Davis (e del suo discepolo sottovalutato, Peter Green). La progressione del playing rispecchia la reazione febbricitante ad una visione estatica, attraverso un piano a’ la Terry Riley intensamente oscillante, e distorsioni via via più aspre. Un esercizio puntillistico per ascoltatori attenti, Buoyant tesse un fragile ordito di note sconnesse, tenute insieme dal più sottile pretesto musicale. Abillera si districa dall’influenza della cacofonia pulsante e enigmatica dell’ “In C” di Riley, per innalzarsi in un intricato pattern, come un mandala di note frenetiche per pianoforte.

L’album live Townsville (february 2007 - ReR, 2007) rappresenta al meglio il loro metodo di lavoro. La linea di basso è adoperata per costruire su di essa l’improvvisazione. Gli altri strumenti costruiscono suoni attorno a questa linea, soprattutto il piano, con delle meditazioni a cascata che passano da atmosfere new age a violente scorribande free-jazz. I piatti suonano più come pioggerella che come un pattern ritmico. Mentre il tempo porta pian piano una struttura ed un’enfasi alla loro musica, non c’è dubbio che questa rimanga in un permanente stato di sospensione.

Swanson also plays in the Catholics and various jazz ensembles.

Abrahams is a member of the improvising trio Roil, that debuted with Meaning (2008).

The 67-minute suite of Silverwater (Fish of Milk, 2009 - ReR, 2009) starts out with one of their most unnerving sequences: sinister galactic organ drones a` la Sun Ra create a sticky lattice in which sparse piano notes and erratic metallic noises create tiny ripples. A multitude of percussion instruments takes center stage in the second segment, (notably a repetitive ticking sound halfway between a clock and a swarm of insects) with scattered bass chords following suit. They all disappear leaving only a repetitive pattern of cascading drum rolls. The organ drones return, but the tone is now majestic and imperious, and a steady beat of cymbals accompanies the increasingly mystical swirls. It is already about 30 minutes into the piece when simpler and warmer guitar chords and a more vibrant rhythm lift the mood. At this point the piano intones a childish motif that (unfortunately) breaks with everything that has been going on before: the music is now tentative and aimless, with jazzy propulsive interludes derailed by spaced-out pauses all the way to the final crescendo of guitar. For the first 30 minutes Silverwater is the most surreal and most otherworldly yet of their suites. Their hypnotic method finally unveils a metaphysical purpose, although the final meaning of their endless ceremonies still remains cryptic.

Mindset (ReR, 2011) contains two 21-minute jams. Rum Jungle starts out suddenly with propulsive drums and stormy dissonant piano notes and from those foundations weaves intricate and violent patterns, losing momentum only towards the end, when fatigue and uncertainty seem to derail the trip. Daylights is a very slow crescendo, from a swarm of liquid keyboard notes floating in the glitchy silence of the quantum vacuum to a suspense-filled tide of Indian-tinged drones and frenzied cymbals.

Chris Abrahams released Thrown (recorded 2004), Play Scar (recorded 2008-2010) Memory Night (Room40, 2013), Instead Of The Sun (2016 - january 2015), a collaboration with Burkhard Beins, and Fluid To The Influence (Room40, 2016), increasingly electronic works.

The Necks established a reputation for music that is not figurative, narrative, emotional, conceptual or anything else. It inhabits a sort of aphasic and autistic dimension, or at least so it appears to those who live in the material dimension. Their lengthy minimalist trances evoke an immutable imperturbable reality, hidden behind a cryptic harmonious geometry, impenetrable even to the deepest form of listening. Open (Northern Spy, 2013) breaks with that convention. It is by far their most narrative and emotional work. Instead of a largely stable continuum it unfurls in a series of stages, each emanating from the previous one but also significantly altering the course of events. At the beginning is a gentle murmur of dulcimer and bells, setting the tone for zen-like transcendence. This is the closest they have come to the mood of Brian Eno's Music for Airports and Harold Budd's Pavilion Of Dreams. But the tender piano that flow out of it are soon buried in ominous sub-bass lines. The music plunges into a mostly silent phase with erratic cymbals, skitting drumbeats, barely audible electronic noise and sparse sub-bass burps. This is as disjointed and discordant the trio has ever been. Martial piano lines take control, leading to a sea of celestial piano figures, but these too are destabilized by gritty organ drones. The music implodes again, this time into chaotic percussion and orchestration. Nightmarish tension arises, peaking with a monster rumble. Pounding throbbing rhythm regains control and self-propels towards a more typical section of raga-like and minimalist repetition. But this too is short-lived, and another confused dysfunctional section follows, unable to crystallize in a collective process. This is as "free" as their jazz has ever been. The instruments don't seem to play together anymore, as each indulges in secret pleasures independently of the others. The ending comes almost abruptly, unexplained, incidental. The Necks clearly wanted to experiment with new timbres and dynamics. By their standards, this feels like a collage of different materials, different ages, different... bands.

Neck's drummer Tony Buck also played on the live performances documented on Skein by the sextet of reedist Frank Gratkowski.

The 44-minute piece of Vertigo (Northern Spy, 2015)

Unfold (2016)

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

Se sei interessato a tradurre questo testo, contattami

What is unique about this music database