Friday, January 09, 2004


NFE has had occasion before to remark on the fascinating and unclassifiable phenomenon that is The Necks. The Australian acoustic trio consist of Chris Abrahams (piano), Lloyd Swanton (bass) and Tony Buck (drums). Their latest album, 'Drive By', is due out on 26 January 2004 - and it's what you might call jazz-in-opposition, though the label is ReR ('for experimental, electronic, art rock, avant-garde, sound art, radio art, phonography, plunderphonics and recommended recordings'). What they oppose is conventional expectations. Evolving repetitive phrases, juxtaposed and blurred polyrhythms, wandering chromatic shapes and a certain quiet, deliberative frenzy create an illuminating but dimly lit sound-world.

As John Walters says in The Guardian today, The Necks "can be slow, fast, gentle, aggressive, multi-layered, minimalist, tonal, abstract, retro, futuristic, chilled, funky, trance-like, controlled, overwhelming, intellectual and sensual."

On 'Drive by', he adds, "a triple-time electric piano figure provides a click track against which several different versions of The Necks fade in and out. There are glassy piano chords, deep bass guitar riffs, rattling snare, buzzing organ counterpoint, a Moroccan hand drum, the sounds of a children's playground, sci-fi percussion effects, played out across a constantly evolving and shifting pulse."

The band's live concerts are composed in real time (shades of Patrick Moraz's 'Future Memories' projects). In the studio they distill endless overdubs into an ethereal synergy of stasis and propulsion. Minimalistic in certain senses, but quite elaborate in others: you just have to hear it. I find them by turns compelling and unnerving.

The album is available through the ReR Last Release Memo. Also check out the definitive 6-CD remastered collection from The Art Bears, 'Spoors' from The Science Group ("somewhere between intense contemporary complexity and rock - passing most points between") and Absolute Zero's debut, 'Crashing icons' ("densely composed, layered, slightly post 5UU-school music).

Experimental and contemporary compositionalists such as Cornelius Cardew and Iancu Dumitrescu are also on ReR. The ReR discography at Squidco gives a good overview of what's going on. Says founder Chris Cutler, "we are not ever concerned with commercial viability, only with distributing the music we feel close to." General links here.

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