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The Necks: The Necks: Open

Phil Barnes By

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Not many artists would respond favourably to a question on how they felt about audience members falling asleep in one of their performances. The Necks, however, are not like other bands—bass player Lloyd Swanton quipping in a recent interview that "I have no objection to audience members sleeping, as long as they don't snore and wake up the person next to them!."

The question was put to the band during a discussion of the best state to listen to Necks' music and actually had a serious basis. While a lot of quiet, controlled, jazz is routinely described by journalists as 'meditative,' many Necks fans report that the relaxed 'alpha' brainwave state from meditation allows them to hear and appreciate more of the details of a Necks performance. That said, there is a danger of tipping over into sleep—as audibly happened to one audience member who fell off of their seat during the recent BBC broadcast of the band's Cafe Oto concert in London!

But, whatever state you choose to listen to it in there is no doubt that the Necks make a beautiful sound. Their music is typically made up of complex, slowly shifting interlocking musical patterns played with the sort of level of understanding that you only get from playing together for more than a quarter of a century. It is emphatically music that repays concentration, revealing more and more detail over repeat listens. Structurally it probably has more in common with the ambient electronic music of people like Biosphere, or the filmic soundscapes of say Trentemoller, than maybe John Coltrane yet it is played on predominantly acoustic instruments. In any event the love of a broad range of music and sounds shown by the participants make this as easy to recommend to jazz fans as any other genre group.

The album consists of a single 68 minute piece that ebbs and flows confident in its use of space and silence. Open evidences the fact that the Necks as a studio band have small but significant differences from their live incarnation. Listen in headphones and instruments will fade in and across the soundscape patterns occasionally returning throughout the piece. In interview the band have confirmed that they typically record a bed track and overlay around 40 to 50 parallel tracks with each band member being in complete separation from the others. This allows them to move the contributions around the piece, fading them in and out at will on the mixing desk. While this is not quite the same as the often startling improvisational response to each other that they show in live performance, it is the quality of the overall music that matters and on that count there is no doubt that the Necks succeed.

The title Open is as good as any summary of the album— indeed it could almost be the quintessential Necks title. Openness to musical forms, a readiness to expand upon the ideas and prompts of the various band members are the foundations on which their live performances are built. The band have commented that they feel as if they are with the audience observing the development of their live music, setting up an almost communal environment within it. This allows the listener, if they so choose, to bring multiple interpretations to it, perhaps explaining the unusually strong bond between musicians and audience. But this is no cult—the Necks make wonderful, inclusive, music and as such their work deserves to be heard by the broadest possible audience. Highly recommended.

Track Listing: Open

Personnel: Chris Abrahams; Tony Buck; Lloyd Swanton Instruments played not listed.

Title: The Necks: Open | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: ReR Megacorp

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