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The Necks: Silverwater

The Necks: Silverwater

Release Date:2010

By Michael Byrne | Posted 1/13/2010

Patience, friend, and an extremely open mind will let you in. You can listen to the Necks and be pleased; it is very often pretty, unobtrusive music. At the same time, the Aussie trio is one of the most difficult bands around and one of the most transgressive. Over 20-plus years, the Necks have indulged in repetitive radically long-form music that has little to do with other long-form music, from avant-garde to classical to improv. Silverwater, the band's 15th release, is one song and 67 minutes long, surgically precise--though improv-produced, amazingly--and unfolding at the speed of, well, surgery.

Calling this jazz is a stretch--though the Necks are, generally, simple bass, piano, and drums--but it's a good jumping-off point; meaty stand-up bass aside, the Necks know how to lock into a groove, and not let go to pathological levels. Their 1989 debut, Sex, was a small jazz figure repeated and repeated, shifted slightly every time--like working a piece of wet clay on a pottery wheel.

It's difficult to know whether the Necks are progressing on Silverwater, or just mussing around with a new palette. The piece opens with an organ drone, wavering and slowly shifting in pitch, before building up with percussion that sounds like singing glass and reverberating electronic thrums. Then, it finds its pulse, easing back into the Necks' slow-building cycles like a wayward pet sniffing its way home. Around 45 minutes in, something happens, though, and it's just rolling hand drums and percussive clatter. It ends with guitar buzz, and a gentle trailing piano. That's barely the start, of course, and the difficulty comes in parsing the thing as a whole--as it is with the Necks themselves, one wonders if their starting equation is just too big.

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