Listening to a recording by the Australian trio The Necks is akin to over- hearing a conversation between two giant sequoia trees. While humans might not perceive the growth and movement of the trees, mom and pop Sequoiadendron giganteum might comment, “Little Billy sure has sprouted up these past 400 years, he’s outgrown all his school clothes, again!”
Open is the 17th album by pianist Chris Abrahams, drummer Tony Buck and bassist Lloyd Swanton. The band returns to their modus operandi, like their initial 1989 recording Sex (Private Music, 1995). Playing one long meditative piece (68 minutes), the trio utilizes slight and subtle changes, plus a pulse that could only be described as sequoia dance music. Not quite minimalism, nor ambient, the stillness they perfect is best described as smoldered improvisation.
After releasing the busy (by their standards) Mindset (ReR, 2011), this disc follows a stillness, albeit one with touches of electronics, electric guitar, and maybe a dulcimer. Opening with the ringing of a dulcimer (or is that the piano’s insides?) the slow unraveling of sound begins. Wind chimes are rung as if the direction the band might take is left up to atmospheric pressure. However, after 25 years together, The Necks’ music could never be describes as serendipitous.
Separately, each player can be found in the company of major players of creative music. Chris Abrahams collaborated with Alessandro Bosetti, Jason Kahn, and Burkhard Beins. Tony Buck plays in Trophies (with Bosetti), and with the likes of Otomo Yoshihide, Aki Takase, Axel Dorner, Christian Fennesz, and John Butcher. Swanton’s bass can be heard in The Catholics, and with Jim O’Rourke and Michiyo Yagi.
In trio is where they produce nonpareil music.
Their unhurried approach is spread thick into this ponderous music. The sounds are easy to get lost in: surprise comes in the form of cymbal work, the odd bass riff and the twinkling of piano keys. The sounds are only perceived once you submit yourself to the lifestyle of old growth trees.
By MARK CORROTO