Let's talk about Necks, baby (ahem). Or rather, let's talk about Abrahams, Buck & Swanton.
When they’re not being the planet-bestriding, genre-destroying The Necks, do the trio's members, er, pull their necks in? Unequivocally, unsurprisingly not. Solo or in collaboration with non-Necks both prominent (Fennesz, Steinbruechel) & less so, they remain out there – sometimes further out than in their Necking, for that matter.
Only Swanton’s amiable world music-tinged catholics seem like a distinct step away from The Necks' intensity (would really like to hear his purer jazz with the Bernie McGann trio & quartet, though).
Of the other two, these ears get most from Abrahams in his non-Neck guise. His Play Scar is clearly one of this year’s key albums. Hear its opening track, the notably moving, wryly subversive vamp There He Reclined, via Spotify. Stream the dual-hinged jewel Jellycrown, with its abrupt change of attack (like Keith Jarrett kidnapped by art terrorists in mid-flow & shipped off to an early Philip Glass re-education camp), below.
Play Scar’s ambition, its challenges, its scrupulousness, its discomfort with its own beauty all demand garlands (try these & these, courtesy of mapsadaisical & The Milk Factory).
Abrahams’ earlier Thrown & Oceanic Feeling-Like (both on Room40 too, the latter with Mike Cooper) are outstanding too. Hear the rolling, counterpointing Remembrancer – late vaporous squirts & Casiotone buzzes somehow sharpening, not undercutting its lush, Necks-ish romanticism - & an extract from the exquisite, bucolic Sunset No2 duet with Cooper below.
That's not even to mention his excellent Pedal piano duo with Simon James Philips - audio (two more tracks in the sidebar), also here, here & here.
Buck’s extra-curricular work is similarly ambitious. Earlier this year he unleashed his own serious contender in the album of the year stakes, the dense, endearingly noisy Knoxville with Fennesz & David Daniell. Below, an edit of their Antonia (yes, the same one pretty widely circulated a couple of months back, but it’s still a fine piece…).
As well as underscoring how vital the venerable Thrill Jockey, like kranky, still is after all these years, it also reminds us – as Necks listeners hardly need reminding, but that doesn’t make it less true – of his huge part in shaping & driving The Necks. More of his recent taste for clanking temple bells & gongs would have added much to the FDB sound, though.
Buck's collaborative promiscuity probably extends the furthest & widest of the three. Can’t hope to capture it all here, but another of its evident highlights is Hear with Hannes Strobl & Toshimaru Nakamura. The clicky, loping extract from Piece 2 below is from the friendlier end of their often demanding spectrum.
& then, because there's seemingly always more along the edge of The Necks, there's Hammeriver, which both Abrahams & Buck play in - alongside Clare Cooper & a cast of thousands (well, four others - one an Autistic Daughter - anyway...).
More of all three's solo & collaborative work (mainly earlier stuff, with samples - includes Abrahams' sparkling Glow).
Oh, & a couple of delicious Neck bites (live in Sydney this February & a film outtake from all the way back in 1989 - hat-tip to @room40uk) to finish...
NB: group photos by holimage.
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