Friday, November 18, 2011

The Necks: Mindset

The Necks (group)
Mindset (ReR; 2011)
Chris Abrahams (piano)
Lloyd Swanton (bass)
Tony Buck (drums)

The Necks have been on the rise the last few years. The recent global tours and wider availability of their music has helped spread the news of one of the worlds best kept secrets. The trio have a very specific and unique blend of minimalism and improvisation that rises above both jazz and experimental music.

Sometimes hard to describe to friends, I try to get them to imagine, Cecil Taylor, Philip Glass, Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins locked in room to see what would evolve. Sometimes you can bring up the E.S.T. comparison but I have started to feel that the Swedish legends were actually only starting to reach the abstract heights The Necks have been creating for decades.

Built on two extended pieces, the new album, Mindset (ReR), continues their original aesthetic of slow building, highly intense, introspective pieces. But this time out there is more purpose and a heavy drive, with melodic and emotional moments that you can grab onto at various periods. The pieces settles into polar opposites - one of intense wrestle of spirit and body, the second an almost minimalist psychedelic journey through Stephen King's closet. 

"Rum Jungle" opens with a long, deep enveloping melody of all instruments at once. It's a wash of sound that become hypnotic and beautiful. Two thirds of the way through the trio turn on the atmospherics. Each instrument no longer sounds like what you think. "Rum Jungle" then rises to clattering conclusion. Like dropping off a cliff.

One of signatures to The Necks music--their ability to manipulate and create soundscapes that you thought weren't possible on these instruments. That becomes apparent on "Daylights." A piece which feels more like nighttime that morning lights. A gentle but encompassing number by which the listener is drawn in Eno or Aphex Twin-esque movements and free form crackles, plucking and other improvised expressions. "Daylights" seems to sit on top of a one note theme laid out beautifully midway through by Abrahmas. Later it does hit a sort of high gear towards the end before freezing to a close.

Mindset is surprisingly one of the shorter Necks albums in history but it still has all the elements of adventure and improvisation that make this trio one of the best forward thinking groups on scene today. Highly Recommended.

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