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The Necks: Body

Mark Sullivan By

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Their official biography calls The Necks "one of the great cult bands of Australia," which says more about their fan base than the music they play. But it's still not a bad place to start; certainly, the mesmerizing improvised, slow-moving sound they create together is not likely to attract a mass audience. Like most of their recordings and live concerts, Body is a single, nearly hour-long improvisation—but one with four distinct sections.

The performance begins with Chris Abrahams' ruminative piano, playing a series of slow tremolando figures. Drummer/percussionist Tony Buck plays a regular rhythm on triangle, along with shifting snare drum accents, while double bassist Lloyd Swanton contributes a heartbeat rhythm. So the rhythmic feel is simultaneously regular and rubato, a trademark effect for the band. It's a hypnotic minimalist groove, but it begins to calm down when Abrahams introduces sustained organ chords. At first the drums and bass maintain the rhythm, but thin out the texture.

Finally, it comes down to a regular piano chord and a recurring two-note bass lick. Buck brings in a strummed guitar part, then a ride cymbal...and a rock rhythm erupts, with Buck leading the way on drums and guitar—terrific contrast, which continues for far longer than most rock groups would take it, but just long enough. The rhythm stops—except for faint bells—and the final segment is atmospheric, with Swanton playing arco bass at the very end.

It is a varied performance, with much greater contrast and generally more energetic music than their previous release Vertigo (Northern Spy Records, 2015). Not that there is no atmospheric soundscaping here, just that it takes place on a broader canvas. All of The Necks music is surprising and wonderful—this album even more than usual.

Track Listing: Body.

Personnel: Chris Abrahams: piano, keyboards; Tony Buck: drums, percussion, guitar; Lloyd Swanton: acoustic bass.

Title: Body | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Northern Spy Records

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