It's a chilly but calm night in New York City as I ventured to an industrial part of the borough of Brooklyn. An old factory turned art collective is the host for one of Australia's best kept secrets--The Necks. The Necks are an improvisational trio that have been on the jazz scene since 1987. They have fortunately or unfortunately only managed cult status in the U.S. due more to the limited availability of their albums but make no mistake, The Necks are a band that subtlety encroach upon your psyche like the first seed you place in the garden to grow that beautiful plant or vegetable.
The Necks start with what feels like a slow burn (because it is). Many of their pieces are in the epic proportion, with quiet first and second movements and delicate swathes of percussion, amplified piano and bass effects which take the listener on deep dream-like journey. This is what we the audience experienced on Wednesday night here in Brooklyn. The Issue Project Room is mainly an old factory loft room with an extremely minimal atmosphere. The audience were hardcore fans and people like myself that had probably just started hearing about them in the last few years. This was only The Necks third trip to the U.S. and Canada on a very brief six city tour and they did not disappoint.
The atmosphere was that akin to waiting for a great classical pianist to come on stage. You could hear conversations about what album each person owned and how they were excited to have the chance to see this band on what is truly a rare occasion.
The night featured two pieces both lasting roughly 45 minutes. The first set began with deep intense interplay between Tony Buck (bass) and Lloyd Swanton (drums) as utilized some mystifying percussion and finger picking to create some other-worldly ambiance. This was all held together by Chris Abrahms' quiet manipulation of the piano. The piece continued a beautiful undulation until Abrahms piano gently guided its audience in for a smooth feather-lite landing. A perfect way to lead the audience into intermission with a hunger for what would come next. The second set opened much as the first but this time exchanges shifted between Abrahms and Swanton with slight chord changes and a tonal quality that only the subconscious might pick up. The second set featured more electricity and something to grab hold too but only slightly. Tonight was a thought-provoking affair.
A night in which minimalism, improvisation and musicianship met with beautiful consequences. There are few bands around who could have pulled something like this off and have the audience walking away in complete awe. This what you want out of a live show--a band that has been together for so long they know each others next movement and an audience that is open and willing to travel with them on every hypnotic note.
An evening of rare beauty and experimentation as well as great testament to musicianship. I highly recommend that you check out some of The Necks music. The new album Silverwater (ReR) is a quiet masterpiece. It's takes some time to digest but once you've been sucked into The Necks vortex I think you will enjoy the trip immensely.