It shimmers and drones, and it never seems to end.
Necks’ latest outing, Vertigo, posits that a 40-plus minute track can still seem lean, despite an array of the composition’s sections unloosing stuff as unrelated as sci-fi whirring and a batch of key-plunking that sounds like it might emanate from underwater.
For the last quarter century, the Australian trio—ostensibly set up like a small jazz combo; keys, bass and drums—has worked around the edges of improvisation, courting just about any genre it sees fit to incorporate; a bit of noise, some instances of minimalism, whatever else is handy. During that stretch of time, Necks has moved to rough up some of the jazzier ideas it toyed with on 1989’s Sex and 1994’s Aquatic, a title perhaps better suited to the mood on Vertigo.
Those earliest entries frequently looked to dogged repetition or the punishing of a single motif to propel the band toward the exploration of some unknown musical locale. Today, the veteran ensemble instead might seek to augment Chris Abrahams’ piano with electric keys, add some overwhelming bowed bass from Lloyd Swanton or have Tony Buck pull back and only intermittently slap at a cymbal for a few bars to find that open space.
The broadening palette developed by the trio over the past few decades is perhaps what enabled some severely disturbing thudding and feedback to crop up about 33 minutes into the proceedings. And it all sounds more ominous than Necks’ last effort, the slow developing and endlessly relaxed Open. But none of the Necks’ 18 studio albums throws off an overly contented vibe—just a contemplative air. So, if whatever the trio’s thinking on and trying to relate to listeners takes another 25 years to suss out, it probably would be to the audience’s benefit.