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A new view from the Necks

The Necks Vertigo 1Because it’s impossible to predict what strategy they will have adopted, the arrival of a new studio album from the Necks is always an event. With Vertigo, the Australian trio maintain the habit.

I loved their previous album, Open, for its transparent beauty. Others, such as AquaticDrive By and Silverwater, I’ve loved for quite different reasons. Vertigo doesn’t resemble any of its predecessors; it’s like going into a familiar house and finding a new room with a window that opens on to a view not seen before.

A single piece of music, 44 minutes in duration, it uses the resources and time at their disposal in Studios 301 in Alexandria, a suburb of Sydney. While their live sets are the product of a mixture of spontaneous urges and the 30-year relationship between the three musicians, the studio albums aim for something different (and yet, in its essence, the same).

There are no grooves in Vertigo, or even any pulses, unless you count the slow oscillation of something that sounds like a contrabass theremin, which briefly enters the proceedings at around the 18-minute mark. There are no riffs and nothing that sounds like a tune. There is no obvious drama.

Glimpses of anything that could be called the Necks’ “sound” are infrequent. Early on, Chris Abrahams does some nice things with incomplete descending arpeggios. Tony Buck makes the occasional clattery percussion intervention (and is probably responsible for the bits that sound like a guitar being picked above the bridge). Lloyd Swanton uses his bow to create layers of groaning bass drones just after the half-hour.

But that’s not the point. The sounds are the sounds. The exact source of this scraping or that plinking is immaterial: the assembly is what matters, and that’s something of which they are masters. The sonorities and textures slide into view and drift away, like the weather on a long road trip. It’s probably not the album you’d give someone as their first Necks record, but it couldn’t be by anyone else.

* Vertigo is released in the UK on the ReR Megacorp label. The photograph is by Holimage.

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3 Comments Post a comment
  1. This is a great blog. Keep up the good work Richard. When you have a spare dozen years, maybe you could make an inventory of your record collection and put it up here. Although it might attract burglars.

    September 9, 2015
  2. I’m sitting about 400m from 301 Studios now Richard, & moreover, know the distributor of The Necks in AUS, & he doesn’t have this record!

    Thanks for the ‘heads up’!

    September 9, 2015
  3. Michael #

    Hi Richard,
    Received this very promptly from the good folk at ReR and been listening to it this week. Fairly dense stuff, without the – to my mind, at least – gorgeous patience and fragility of Open. I’m hoping, and expecting, it to reveal its full pleasures with repeated listenings. Interesting to read your early take on it.

    September 10, 2015

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