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The Necks: Body (Northern Spy)

Review of the drone-happy Australian piano trio's 20th album

Cover of Body by the Necks
Cover of Body by the Necks

Before a live performance, the Necks never discuss anything about the music they will create spontaneously. In fact, all three of them begin the set standing still, waiting to see who will break the silence and begin the music. In the recording studio, the rules change a bit. Even so, it comes as a bit of a surprise that Body, the Australian trio’s 20th album, begins with the band in the midst of a groove. Bassist Lloyd Swanton hits a low note, letting it decay over Tony Buck’s steady 4/4 beat before repeating it again. Chris Abrahams rapidly strikes the piano keys, creating simple melodies that fall somewhere between a haunting film-noir soundtrack and the ambience created by Pink Floyd. Some might hear it as an overlong introduction, but longtime followers of the piano trio will recognize the trance the group is trying to create. Clearly the Necks don’t rush through an idea.

After the first section gradually comes to a close, a few ambient minutes go by until, at minute 24, the trio launches into a loud one-chord riff. Unlike any jazz group, they sound closer to indie-rock bands such as Yo La Tengo or Stereolab, which have been known to sustain energy for extended periods while playing drones like this. Since the Necks aren’t opposed to overdubs, drummer Buck adds some guitar squalls that add texture to the background. This section lasts 15 minutes, none of which is wasted. The final portion of Body might seem relatively anticlimactic, a free assortment of piano fragments and cymbal crashes serving as a comedown after all that heaviness. Still, it’s hard to walk away from the music until it’s done.

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