We rarely get to discuss improvised music, and The Necks are potentially the best act to have ever done it.
Outside of Lonnie Hollie and Marc Ribillet, The Necks are one of a handful of acts that spring to mind regarding improvised recordings and performance. Sure, there are the jam bands (Phish, Dead & Co.), but they don’t go in dry to both the studio and the stage in the same fashion these guys do. The Necks have been doing so for over 30 years and have arguably mastered it in the process.
The trio of Lloyd Swanton (Bass), Tony Buck (Drums) and Chris Abrahams (Piano) have remained one of the best-kept secrets of the musical world in recent memory. From support slots to Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, collaborating with Swans, inspiring Paul Kelly on his recording of the ‘Lantana’ soundtrack via their 1989 debut (‘Sex’) to being regarded as one of Brian Eno’s favourite acts, they have all the acclaim and regard of some of the greatest musicians of all time. There are also crossovers between Midnight Oil, Tropical Fuck Storm, Dirty Three, The Church, The Triffids & Laughing Clowns. All of which are also some of the greatest Australian bands of all time.
And that’s what makes them the anomaly. They have no hits, no lyrics and no chart toppers. With each performance, the group aim to produce one piece of music averaging anywhere from 20-40 minutes. On ‘Mindset’ (2011), this comes in the form of two twenty-minute pieces ‘Rum Jungle’ & ‘Daylights’. On other efforts such as ‘Body’ (2018), this translates to one extended piece at nearly an hour, and in their most recent effort, ‘Travel’ (2023), it’s four-twenty minute pieces.
To describe the music is somewhere between ambient, jazz and post-rock. It’s dynamic and pulls from many sources, but always moves forward and evolves at an enchanting pace. It’s a beast regardless of tone. Whether that’s anxiety-provoking, calming or anything outside or in-between.
It’s something truly transcendent. And that applies to their cosmic live shows or their beautiful studio work, the results are consistent throughout their discography. They’re an essential act of the 20th century and remain something wholly original. In this day and age where there is a visible reappraisal of Bowie and a resurgence of Jazz, we argue that The Necks deserve some new attention as they defy both time in space with their longevity and their work.
‘Mindset’ is available in the Store now.
Note: The Necks are touring AUS capital cities in the coming weeks. They have some of the best performances we have ever seen. Go see them.