The Necks are:
- Chris Abrahams - piano
- Lloyd Swanton - bass
- Tony Buck - drums
- Sex (1989)
- Next (1990)
- Aquatic (1994)
- Silent Night (2CD, 1996)
- Piano Bass Drums (1998)
- The Boys OST (1998)
- Hanging Gardens (1999)
- Aether (2001)
- Athenaeum, Homebush, Quay & Raab (4CD, 2002)
The music of The Necks is impossible to pigeon hole. Usually when people say that some band is impossible to pigeonhole, they at least have a general idea what room the pigeonholes are in. This is not so with the Necks. They are their own genre; not quite jazz, not quite minimalist music, not quite post-rock, but somewhere in between. Post-rock is rock musicians getting bored with the confines of their genre and exploring new territories; perhaps the best thing to call The Necks would be post-jazz.
The members of The Necks are all established and respected jazz musicians. Chris Abrahams, whose distinctive piano sound gives The Necks much of their flavour, originally came to prominence with 80s jazz quartet The Benders, which also featured Swanton and Louis Burdett of You Sound Like Louis Burdett fame. He has also played as a session musician with independent-minded rock bands like The Whitlams, Crow, The Church, Clouds, Midnight Oil and The Triffids. He has also had side-projects like The Hunting Party and Melanie Oxley & Chris Abrahams. Lloyd Swanton has his own successful and long-lasting band (The Catholics), produces albums and has appeared on over 60 albums. Tony Buck is also ridiculously overqualified, having played with Branford Marsalis, with a long list of side-projects and feats of his own.
So, what do they play? If you can imagine the Miles Davis of In A Silent Way improvising on a minimalist piece by Philip Glass, you're probably half-way there. The Necks are probably one of the few bands out there (at least, one of the few popular bands) that have never played the same song twice. Their music is entirely and completely improvised. It probably isn't entirely inaccurate to say that their songs are slightly longer than your average pop song. For example, their latest release, Athenaeum, Homebush, Quay & Raab, has only four tracks. This is a 4 CD set. The average length of a piece by the Necks is probably about 50 minutes.
The minimalist element of their music is what enables them to stretch their music out that far; they repeat ostinatos and riffs over and over again, ever so gradually altering them. Some people find this incredibly boring, other people (eg, me) find their stuff hypnotic and entrancing. I find them to be great study music; I can half-listen at times, and then pay attention and discover that the music has completely changed from what it was when I was last paying attention.
Very few pianists can play a simple three note riff over and over again with as much style, feeling and variation as Chris Abrahams. A friend is currently borrowing my copy of Piano Bass Drums (probably my favourite, a live performance), and commented on how he liked the way Abrahams was using a delay pedal on the piano. Abrahams was not using a delay pedal. He was just playing with such accuracy and mastery that it he could make it sound like he was.
I would most highly recommend Sex
and Piano Bass Drums