The Necks Silverwater Review

Album. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

The trio are positioned at the cutting edge of Australian music.

Jon Lusk 2009

The Necks are among the world’s most consistently great exponents of improvised music. While their last album Townesville (2007) was an inspired example of what they do onstage, Silverwater (named after one of Sydney’s industrial suburbs, synonymous with its jail) returns them to the studio, and finds them on typically fine form.

Although they created it spontaneously, much of the appeal of this single 67-minute piece lies in the way individual parts have been edited into and out of the mix as it unfolds in an ever-changing series of overlapping tableaux. The music pulses and flows with all the chaotic, natural logic of passing weather systems. It isn’t always easy listening, largely as a result of Tony Buck’s drums and percussion, which may at times try the nerves. Silverwater is the kind of album you might put on at the end, rather than the middle of a dinner party, perhaps as an incentive for recalcitrant guests to leave.

The trio’s arrangement of piano (Chris Abrahams), drums (Buck) and double bass (Lloyd Swanton) still forms the basic musical template. But Silverwater has a greater variety of sounds – many beautiful and intriguing, others more unsettling – than most of its makers’ recent albums. There are sumptuous gongs, a loitering organ, twitchy, low-key electronica, waves of electric guitar ambience, the clattering sound of the anklung (a tuned bamboo rattle used in Indonesian traditional music) and even some whistling. 

To take one inspired sequence as an example, at around 17 minutes in, against a rising four-note bass motif and some rather shamanic tom rolls, you suddenly notice the introduction of a gently tapped cymbal. A short while later, what sounds like some sort of night insect (but could be a synthesised effect) appears, followed by shimmering keyboard… and so it goes on.

The last third of the album is unusually quiet, but listen closely and you can hear a funk rhythm section pounding away in the room next door to the studio… or is it coming through the walls of your flat? Aural hallucinations abound. Perhaps the most surprising thing about The Necks is how obscure and unique they remain, at the cutting edge of Australian music.

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