The Necks – Body (2018)

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Note: stream below is not from album reviewed here.

Musical genius can manifest itself in many ways. In the case of the Australian instrumental trio The Necks, that genius usually makes itself palpable over the course of about an hour.

Body — slated for release August 14, 2018 from Northern Spy Records — is another curious distillation of ambient, minimalism and post-rock that enwraps the listening mind, teasing it with oh-so-slight curves in the road it’s traversing with a steady hand, with an occasional sharp turn to throw listeners off balance. You can clearly see the scenery around you but you can never tell what’s up ahead.

Like other Necks albums, the title of the album is also the title of its only song, and sure enough, “Body” runs for fifty-six minutes and some change. But just as a single Necks song reveals its variations over time, so does their entire body of work. This release, the twentieth one for Tony Buck (drums, percussion, guitar), Chris Abrahams (piano, keyboards) and Lloyd Swanton (acoustic bass) is probably their most straightforward one in a while, with less overlapping of layers than we’ve heard on recent releases, but the intrigue level remains high.

Truth be told, “Body” is really four songs. Maybe it’s fairer to state it’s one song with four chapters. It immediately begins with a groove, an organic one not too far removed from The Bad Plus, but with the piano playing a series of repeating notes; if it were soloing instead, it wouldn’t be The Necks, after all.

Almost on cue, about one quarter into the track, it changes. The piano single note adventures end, the bass switches to a wider spaced pulse and drums are reduced to the tapping of cymbals while an acoustic guitar creeps into consciousness, leaving a gaping hole open in the sonic terrain as an organ vibrates across it. And soon, something pretty nifty unfolds: the sawing sounds of Swanton’s bass, which could almost be mistaken for bagpipes. When that fades, there’s temporarily the slight presence of only a plucked bass and drums. Piano and acoustic guitar are gently layered in, filling out a mixture that’s hypnotic in a Silent Way kind of way.

The critical jolt occurs at the 24:46 mark, when that peaceful bliss is rudely dispersed by a blast of energy, all while maintaining the same chord. This rock phase chugs along for precisely fifteen minutes (coincidence?), evaporating into a celestial, suspended ambience, imbued with Abrahams’ keyboard drones and alien sonic beads.

Sounding very much like themselves while incrementally reinventing themselves, The Necks’ constant tweaking of their formula keeps the music fresh and full of fascination. Body nudges the band forward on their long, highly rewarding journey.


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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