: the necks

Shock Records, 2004, FOM0011

It’s easy to see why The Necks have generated such a cult following over the past decade; their whole approach flies so defiantly in the face of all that characterises contemporary life. Their music poses questions in an era of pat answers, demands attention in a culture of distraction, and requires time in fast-paced world. The Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami once claimed he took it as the highest compliment when people fell asleep while watching his movies, a comment that came to mind while listening to The Necks’ latest release. Kiarostami’s films carve out a space in which our minds can wander, drifting through the disparate thoughts, memories and resonances evoked by his images. Similarly, The Necks carve music in time which is never the same twice over.

The new release comprises 2 disks, each an hour long. Mosquito begins with an uncertain, staccato dialogue between wooden blocks played by Tony Buck and Chris Abrahams’ piano. There are long stretches of silence, until the tinkering is joined by methodical, heavy notes periodically emanating from Lloyd Swanton’s double bass. A steady rhythmic purr starts up, sounding like an outboard motor travelling parallel to the band, until it branches off on its own path and fades into the distance.

Mosquito summons images of a slow journey up river in a humid tropical clime, with passing river traffic, wooden blocks evoking the night-time calm of a distant outpost of exotic Orientalist imaginings. At one point a mosquito buzzes in the listener’s ears. Seven minutes in, piano chords join the conversation and a structure begins to form, incrementally. In a Necks performance, the journey is the message. The trip has to be seen through to its end or not embarked upon at all—this is not a CD you can dip into. The sounds of the opening return at the end: we are back in port, our dream journey complete as the memories linger.

See Through is more typical of The Necks’ live work. It opens with a prolonged wash of cymbals, a persistent percussive rumble and a piano tracing melodic lines deep in the mix. See Through never leaves its starting point, hovering above the same spot as the trio work the sound, endlessly stretching the aural possibilities. Silences come and go, but always the rumble returns, a shimmering mirage of incandescent sounds on the horizon, continually threatening to burst over the listener or disappear completely.

Mosquito and See Through offer quite different experiences. I preferred See Through’s constantly shifting shimmer to Mosquito’s circular narrative, but each disk provides a unique musical exploration that demands concentration, rewarding the listener with a dream-like realm of infinite possibilities. The effect is only surpassed by the hypnotic energy The Necks generate on stage.

Dan Edwards

1 December 2005