...a delightfully dreamy, drifting piece that rewards repeated listens and encourages...
Jon Lusk 2007
This extraordinary Australian trio have just entered their third decade, and Townsville, a live 53-minute recording, is a fine example of what you might expect at one of their totally improvised gigs. Superficially, they are a traditional jazz trio (piano, double bass, drums) yet their unclassifiable music falls somewhere between jazz, ambient, minimalism and the avant garde. Likewise, the usual problems that beset live albums (irritating audience participation routines, had-to-be-there levels of excitedness, poor sound
quality) simply don't apply; this is every bit as engaging as any of their studio efforts. The Necks' last studio album Chemist (2006) moved away from a long-established format of single hour-long pieces (with a suite of three twenty-minute tracks) so Townsville marks a return to familiar territory.
What's initially most notable is the lack of any regular metre from drummer Tony Buck. Completely ditching drums (possibly except for a subtle sounding of the 'kick') he spends the entire duration tapping out silvery cymbal patterns as steady but irregular as falling rain drops – something suggested by Emma Walker's lovely cover painting – and fondling a few tinkly percussive items.
It's bass player Lloyd Swanton who actually initiates the piece with a few hesitant plucked notes, but before long, he’s worrying the strings with his bow, or creating great shuddering smears of sound suggestive of distant thunder. Just trying to work out how he makes such noises is part of the wonderful mystery of this music. At first, it might seem as though pianist Chris Abrahams dominates, with dense, trilling clusters of notes cascading from both hands throughout. However, on closer listening, you can hear the creative ebb and flow (and the effect strongly evokes tidal forces, waves surging up and down a beach) shifting between the players in startlingly organic and democratic cadences.
They all seem to reach an intense crescendo around 48 minutes in, as an Abrahams motif suggests an exotic bird call…or something. Oddly, the closest thing I can compare this to is the work of another Australian – Paul Schütze's ''Throat Full Of Stars'' from the 1995 album Apart.
Blue Peter would suggest making up your own visuals anew each time, changing them according to mood; Townsville is a delightfully dreamy, drifting piece that rewards repeated listens and encourages the imagination to run riot.
You’ve read this far; you deserve it.