You know how the Necks do. Wake up. Get the coffee on. Simultaneously improvise instrumental gold. Another day. The wonderful and surprisingly dense Unfold was their last record and it came out on LP; now in typical Necks fashion they're releasing a CD only called Body, relying on the usual and ever-so trusty combination of piano, bass and drums -- though percussionist Tony Buck is said to really go out on a limb with some guitar excursions on this one.
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I’m just going to spitball here, if that’s okay, because we all know what a Necks album sounds like, or if we don’t who cares, improv is for nerds. Here’s my idea: the Necks perform ‘Body’ on Soccer AM. You know, they’re chatting, stuff happens, a few cheap and mid-level laughs are had -- all before the Necks launch into a fifty-six minute session of elegant avant-garde. Helen Chamberlain loves it and immediately becomes a lifetime member of Cafe Oto.
Sorry, onto it we go. ‘Body’, in truth, is a bit of a deviation for the Necks. At first it sounds like same old same old -- Chris Abrahams, Tony Buck and Lloyd Swanton start performing in medias res, their omniscient combination of glistening piano, scuttling percussion and accenting double bass doing the rounds it does. It sounds quite normal, give or take some surprise guitar in the background, which swirls around in a kind of ambient fugue state. It’s a quiet but significant textural innovation; rarely are the Necks more than a communal thought for three instruments, but this sound gives us a hint of what’s to come: everything but the piano drops out and a climax of high-stakes rock music begins.
It’s absolutely mad: the song spends ten minutes responding to Tony Buck’s use of guitar, as if the band were using the Necks template within the framework of the last two decades of psychedelic music. As if surprised at themselves, maybe even reproachful for what has come bursting out of them, they return, flushing out the fever with a tranquil percussive suite that chimes and chirps. The melodies, rhythms and reasons dissipate, as if the Necks are having to get to know one another again, the trio occasionally combining on gorgeous little motifs in which Abrahams’ piano trundles down into a percussive snap. Usually, with the Necks, you’re just in a pair safe hands -- with ‘Body’ you’re bracing yourselves against them.
9/10 Charlie Orbit 23rd September 2018
Been living with this for a few weeks before adding a review. As I wasn't sure at first.
But now I love it. So if you've ever sat - or worse stood - through a Necks gig desperately wanting to dance around like a maniac, then Body is the one for you. It's seemingly as simple as The Necks doing their Sister Ray, or so you'd think given the press it garnered. And there is an element of that. It's a nice image of three baldy blokes, looking at each other, and collectively going, you know what, we can do this too (I like to think maybe they wandered into a tent where Snapped Ankles or Circle were playing at a festival in Melbourne - but this is pure fantasy). It's not that simple. For a start obviously this isn't live, so there is a complicated editing process going on here. And decisions about where to place the sections, how long each goes on, how they bleed into each other. And here is the nub: these men, who've done this together for decades, start the piece aggressively, even if it is still within their comfort zone. Turn the volume up - don't use this as background music while clicking away at your laptop. Focus on it. There is a deliberate threat and swagger to the constant high-hats, a tension to the looping piano refrain. From the get-go, the opening seconds. It isn't ambient in any sense. They called the album Body. It's a charged piece. Maybe they just looked at the state of the world... And they could have just wept. But instead, after a plateau of sustained tension, they just detonate. For about 15 minutes. And god, it's glorious. But it's not that different to the live Necks experience on a full-on night. With your head close to the speakers. When these waves subside, the glowering quiet of the final 15 minutes isn't totally peaceful either. There are still sporadic drum bursts that seem to be having a converstion ("What the fuck did we do then? What do we do next?"). So The Necks loud and angry - maybe like Low they decided 2018 wasn't quite the year to release a same-as-before album.
But in their long history Body is an essential release.
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