The Necks don't swing. Since they are sometimes described as an "experimental jazz trio," it seems best to just put that on the table at the outset. I hesitate to call their music "free improvisation," as well, because of the abrasive, dissonant qualities so often found in that musicwhich doesn't describe The Necks at all. What this Australian group does is collectively create soundscapes that change and grow, but very slowly and gently. It's no accident that ambient pioneer Brian Eno chose them to be part of his house band for his improvisational "Pure Scenius" concerts.
"Vertigo" is a single 44 minute long performance, a somewhat darkyet invitingforest of sound initially built around a drone running from start to finish. It begins quietly, gradually building up layers of Chris Abrahams' piano and keyboards, with atmospheric percussion and guitar commentary from Tony Buck, and Lloyd Swanton's throbbing bass. It splits in two at about the 21-minute mark, as the backdrop falls away to reveal Abrahams' solo electric piano, then begins a new layering process. Not exactly dramatic in the conventional sense, but it demonstrates that the band is shaping the performance: it's not the formless ambient cloud that it might first appear. Careful attention reveals myriad interesting sonic details, and that attention is amply rewarded.
As an LP-length piece, it's an album well-suited to the announced simultaneous LP vinyl record release. Without knowing if that was a factor in the recording process, it still strikes me as a useful playing time limitation. Long enough to immerse the listener, but not too long to overstay its welcome.
Chris Abrahams: piano, keyboards; Lloyd Swanton: bass; Tony Buck: drums, percussion, guitar.
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