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coverpic flag Australia - Full Moon 120 - 07/11/06

The Necks
Chemist
Fish of Milk

There I was, sitting at the kitchen table, sipping a mug of chamomile tea, idly flicking through the new edition of The Wire magazine and listening to the new album by The Necks. Track three, "Abillera", came around. I sat through the gorgeous intro, a double bass solo - this is jazz, after all - then listened in wonder as The Necks unfurled an ebbing loop that reminded me of My Bloody Valentine. Several minutes into the track, Tony Buck's drums kick in - within seconds I was on my feet, dancing around the room like a loony. I haven't danced like that since my early twenties - pure joy.

Ah, The Necks. If you've not heard any of their music before, you're in for a treat. One caveat: be patient. In addition to seeing one of their mesmerising live performances, I'd only heard Sex (1989) and Hanging Gardens (1999) amongst the dozen or so albums they've released over the past couple of decades before I picked up this new release. However, Chemist is easily the best music I've heard from this revered Sydney trio.

Most of The Necks' releases on CD simply consist of one track, gradually evolving over the course of an hour. Somehow it manages to not be boring: the piano and organ (Chris Abrahams), bass (Lloyd Swanton) and drums (Tony Buck) all change in subtle ways, making the listening experience fascinating and gripping. On Chemist, rather than a single hour-long piece of music, the lucky listener gets three twenty-minute pieces, each of which is excellent in isolation, but they work beautifully together as an hour-long, three-act epic.

The first song, "Fatal", makes it clear that this is a different Necks release when you realise that there's an electric guitar in the mix. There's no credit for another player on the sleeve, so I can only assume that either Abrahams, Buck or Swanton has picked up the six string to add those ominous, clanging chords and textural scribblings over the top of the drum and bass locked groove, organ stabs, and piano flourishes. It's a very rich, noir piece that gets better with each listen, details shining on the surface the more you immerse yourself in the groove.

"Buoyant" is a much more ambient track, beginning with electronic twitterings. Buck starts up a tapped cymbal, and then simple bass and piano figures hang in the spaces between the sounds. An organ starts up, then some guitar harmonics. Eventually, after about 13 minutes, Buck kicks off one of his winning drum patterns, carrying the song to its long, gradually dissolving outro. All of the elements are very simply deployed to maximum effect. When you start to break their music down into its component parts it's quite amazing how they manage to maintain you rapt attention for twenty minutes at a stretch. Essentially, "Buoyant" acts as a much more spacious piece between the other two more intense tracks.

The aforementioned final track, "Abillera" is the best single piece of music I've yet heard from The Necks. This is partly because it's pretty shoegazey - and I love shoegaze - with lots of disorientating drones, backwards loops and heavily effected guitar. It's a heavenly, joyful piece of music that completely blisses me out, and if it's any indication of a future direction for The Necks - live performances with guitars perhaps? - they're going to become my new favourite band, no question.

If you're looking for a hugely enjoyable instrumental release that rewards with repeat listens, this is it. The best album by The Necks, and that's saying something. Highly recommended.

Copyright © 2006 Tim Clarke e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Necks article/review: The Corner Hotel, Melbourne, AUS, 13.1.05.

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