Wild Mercury Sound

The Necks: "Silverwater"

John Mulvey

When writing about The Necks, it’s easy to end up with more of a timetable than a review. Their pieces traditionally last for around an hour (“Silverwater” stretches to 67 minutes), and are slowly evolving improvisations where the Australian instrumental trio intuitively manoeuvre round each other, subtly adjusting their themes as they go.

“Silverwater”, then, begins with a tremulous organ hum and some chimes. At six minutes, a disconcerting percussive rattle arrives. At seven and a half, piano and drum rolls. Ten: double bass. Thirteen: a brief and characteristically minimal drum solo. Fourteen and a half: the bass returns, with a repeating four-notes, and the piece begins to focus. Seventeen: cymbal.

Around 18 minutes in, the organ’s back, and the beginning of a sequence of trademark, pensive piano flurries from Chris Abrahams. Here, there’s a sense that The Necks have found the melodic heart of the piece, though sometimes with their improvisations the preliminaries can last indefinitely, aligning the band with ambient music as much as jazz (I’ve written about them a couple of times previously: about a Dalston live show; and their last album, the live “Townsville”).

“Silverwater”, though, is something of a departure, with substantially more overdubs than usual. The sound remains spacious and minimal, but Abrahams’ various keyboards are meticulously layered, and at 29 minutes the drummer, Tony Buck, also adds a janglingly propulsive guitar line, which flags up the band’s vaguely post-rocking air. Tortoise is maybe the closest analogue there, an idea compounded when a second guitar line is introduced after 36 minutes, a diffident, laidback one reminiscent of Jeff Parker.

Anyway, about 41 minutes in, the melodic passage dissolves into insectoid digital noise and percussive rattle, before Lloyd Swanton’s double bass returns too. Forty-six minutes: the guitar returns, somewhat disconsolately, in the midst of unusually dynamic jazz workouts. The last of these ebbs away at 48 and a half minutes, leaving the synth to provide a Riley-ish loop of uneasy, ebbing ambience.

Then, gradually intensifying waves of organ from 53 minutes, and at 57 minutes a stunned reprise of the guitar sound last heard around 29, which pushes “Silverwater” towards its sultry resolution. Maybe they should take a further leaf out of Morton Feldman's book, and keep it rolling for another hour ot two more next time?


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