The Necks – Vertigo (2015)

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When it comes to the Australian post-rock masters The Necks, there’s no difference between a single and an album, and their long succession of single track long players cut to the heart of what makes their music special. It might be minimalist by nature but with organic (read: non-programmed, handmade) construction, they set themselves a bit apart from the Steve Reiches and Terry Rileys.

Clocking in at nearly twenty-five minutes shorter than the prior sixty-eight minute Open (2013), the Necks’ second Northern Spy and 18th overall album Vertigo is still another extended trip through discreet musical evolvement, crafted painstakingly by the trio of Tony Buck (drums, percussion, guitar), Chris Abrahams (piano, keyboards) and Lloyd Swanton (bass).

A skittering piano figure that appears at the start of the performance eventually fades away, leaving behind an ambient held organ chord, but the resulting serenity is broken up by percussive splashes. Somewhere after that the key shifts, almost imperceptibly. The piano splits into two personalities: one playing lithe figures alongside a bass and another playing scattered dissonances. Cosmic electronic noises align with the freakier side, eventually prevailing. Of course, once that conflict is resolved, another good vs. evil clash is set up, and the cycle repeats with a different flavor of sonic imagery and intrigue.

The hidden genius of the Necks here — as it is with all of their performances — is how a figure, instrument or chord is introduced and later dissolved without any fanfare, because the layers all partially overlap each other. A new idea typically comes in during the middle of an existing one and exits in the middle of a new one. And the Necks even vary the number of layers: there might be drums, bass, keyboards and piano all going at once, or a solitary electric piano — as is found near the middle of the song — blurting out a solitary string of related chords. It evokes the feel of traveling through a landscape where fresh scenes unfolds before your eyes as completed settings sweep by and then diminish in the rear-view mirror.

The music never achieves full liftoff but that never-settled feeling is the driving force behind Vertigo. Otherwise, you’d never sit through a song three quarters of an hour long if you already knew what was ahead. The Necks reveals its secrets in enticing ways.


S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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