Album: The Necks

Townsville (RER)
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The Independent Culture

Improvised music is akin to a stand-up comedian riffing on suggestions from the audience: there's the same risk of disaster, offset by the increased likelihood of generating new material. But the absence of the safety net of laughter can be critical: much improvised music fails to get beyond random scrapes, toots and taps. So how have Australian trio The Necks spent 20 years improvising with such diverse successes, ranging from the bricolage of tiny electronic tones in last year's "Buoyant" to the subtly syncopated funk groove of 2004's chill-out classic Drive By? Mostly by being unusually alert to each other's contributions, sharing a sense of direction, and allowing an ambience to crystallise at its own pace – characteristics in plentiful display on the hour-long live performance that combines furtive flurries of shivering bowed bass, quiet cymbal and hi-hat work that shifts from the merest sibillant shimmer to something akin to a boiling kettle, and piano progressions in the Keith Jarrett manner. Teetering perpetually on the edge of creation, the result is a sort of rhapsodic minimalism, as magical in its own way as a ping-pong ball pirouetting on a jet of air.

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