"An arbitrary succession of more or less irritating sounds"

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Fleetness of foot

The Necks, St George's Bristol, May 28

Especially from a distance, they don't look much - three unassuming blokes, dressed functionally, indisputably middle-aged. Their Antipodean unfussiness extends to the rhythm section amiably joining the rest of us for a drink in the interval. 

But this is deceptive, all the same. Even in the way they position themselves on stage - two of them sat laterally to the audience, one with his back to the others -the fierceness of The Necks' focus is instantly apparent. The first note transmits their epic dedication across this converted church. 

From there, two long sets see the trio show off their fleetness of foot. This agility is especially striking in a beautifully shaped first half that pulls a shimmering lyrical climax out of a soupy murk that turns billowing & nautical, with dark shivers & shrieks from a bowed bass. 

Though the pay-off is less perfect, the second half is pretty remarkable too. A huge, primal bass figure augmented at first with the simplest hi-hat pulse & eventually taking in clanking bells, insistent drums & waves of cymbal. Meanwhile, the ceaseless piano sprays out glistening trills, plays droplets like tears, crashes ominously & vamps almost jauntily. 

& then, quite suddenly, the end: a slightly terse acknowledgement, perhaps, that it didn't quite come off this time (though the past hour was dense with peaks). 

Here's an LMYE-curated & hacked extract from a 2006 performance for Australia's ABC TV. Its lack of bass-driven rhythmic surge is untypical, but the characteristic Necks vastness, intricacy & interplay (of mood as well as texture) are all on fairly magnificent show. 

The Necks> ABC TV Extract (LMYE hack) [NB: lo-res; full performance here]

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