THE NECKS @ The Rechabite gets 8.5/10

The Necks @ The Rechabite

Thursday, February 20, 2020


The Necks are often categorised as jazz minimalists and experimentalists. All of which is fair, but their improvisational deconstructions and gradual builds are more post-rock than most so-called post-rock bands, working their way through epic pieces towards thrilling climaxes.

The second of two nights at The Rechabite for Perth Festival saw us stuck on the balcony behind some poles to start with – fortunately a bit of reorganisation had us downstairs at the back where the view was less haphazard. The Rechabite was otherwise a perfect and intimate venue for this sort of performance. It relied less on lighting and production and more on closely watching the three members of the band conjure their magic in sync. The fact you could hear a pin drop meant the squeaky doors and stools were unfortunate, but over more than two hours, if you couldn’t find a good spot to watch from you probably weren’t trying hard enough.

Chris Abrahams kicked off the first of two pieces with some jazzy trills on his Yamaha grand, the tension raising when Lloyd Swanton’s double bass started a monotonous single note bowing action, slowly building it into several notes simultaneously.

With incredible feel, all three members took care to stay at the same volume, and just watching them listening for one another was a wonder to behold in itself. Some unconventional playing and improvisations such as drummer Tony Buck dragging the bottom of a drumstick along surface of his tom to create an unusual whooshing sound, made this the more experimental piece.

After a long, hypnotic and satisfying build, it ended similarly to how it started, with jazzy piano fills and single staccato bass notes, before we found out that the lone mic on stage was simply for Swanton to introduce the band and spruik their merch for the between sets interval.

This first set made one thing clearly evident: The Necks aren’t getting any more impatient with age, and if anything it’s the opposite as they settle deeper into grooves than ever before.

The second set started very differently, however, with cascading piano chords, before bowed bass notes like a cello led us into what was immediately a more compelling and driving improvisation.

After putting the bow away for some double bass finger plucking, it soon returned for some staccato bowing from Swanton, sounding much like 80s synth stabs. Against the gentle, piano led improv, the double bass’ pitch made it a lead instrument, creating a repetitive melody.

Thirty minutes in, Buck’s drumming rose to a peak reminiscent of Jim White in his Dirty Three guise, leading and lifting the others in unison. Mid crescendo Abrahams went deeper, moving back to the centre of the keys, and the three reached the night’s most powerful moment.

Finally it started to slow, and while there was no second rise to match the first, the coda was all experimental percussion and jittery swells that momentarily felt like they’d jump out again, before reverting back to its minimal origins.

For anyone who found the first piece’s climax too subtle, this was The Necks at their absolute finest in a cacophonous symphony: piano, bass, drums. 


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