Review

The Necks

Travel

Northern Spy • 2023

The Necks don’t make music, let the air vibrate, and they do it with incomparable ease. Everything about this band is hard to describe and yet feels so easy: sure, somehow it’s jazz, improvised and with the urgency of a live concert. At the same time, however, the Australian trio also seems to have been committed to the spirit of musical minimalism since its formation in the late 1980s, using its sprawling pieces or albums—usually that’s the same thing, with most of their LP consisting of only one looong track—to play a game of difference and repetition. »Travel« is their 19th studio album and brings together pieces that are basically just warm-up training for their recording sessions: Chris Abrahams (piano and organ), Lloyd Swanton (bass and double bass) and Tony Buck (drums and percussion) began each session with a twenty-minute improvisation, four of which are documented here in full length with minimal subsequent edits and overdubs. Anyone who doesn’t know this would never think it possible: already the opener »Signal« seems so concisely composed and subtly arranged that it just doesn’t seem probable that this is an entirely spontaneous creation. But the three of them have been working together for more than three decades and are as well-rehearsed as hardly any other band in the world. So Swanton’s bouncing double bass line and Buck’s jazzy drumming become the backdrop for Abrahams, who as a sort of live composer and arranger constructs an emotional rollercoaster ride. Other bands don’t manage to achieve writing something as gripping as this in the course of their career; for The Necks, this is just the stretching exercise before the actual marathon. The three other pieces make the jaw drop even further in slow motion: »Forming« actually sounds like a slowly forming storm, »Imprinting« creates a Fourth World Music-like atmosphere and »Bloodstream« sounds at once beautifully dreamy and wildly aggressive. The Necks don’t make music, but somehow something else, something more than just that.