Release Date: Feb 10, 2017
Record label: Ideologic Organ
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
The Necks have never been much for tracklists. With some early and not always impressive exceptions near the dawn of the group's almost three-decade career, the improvisational Australian trio has preferred to go the distance in one, perhaps two extended takes. For an hour or so at a time, restless drummer Tony Buck, patient bassist Lloyd Swanton, and soulful pianist and organist Chris Abrahams would slip into sound worlds of their own design and slowly morph, as if on an evolutionary timeline.
Much like their peers the Ex or the Dead C, Australian three-piece the Necks have managed to amass a fervent following within certain circles in their home country while remaining virtually anonymous in North America. Although Unfold, the band's 19th full-length, probably won't win them many new fans, the avant-garde lifers have proven just how frequently and reliably they're able to pump out their own brand of thoughtful, genre-pushing experimental jazz. Over four sprawling tracks, each ranging between 15 and 20 minutes, the trio manage to keep their ideas fresh and focused.
The Necks formed in 1987, five years after CD players became commercially available. Specialising in a unique form of improvisational jazz that excites fans of post-rock textures, ambient soundscapes and measured minimalism, their past albums have often comprised of one slowly unwinding single-track composition making near full use of the CD's generous running time. Here, the Australian trio appear to have realised that the glory days of the CD are finally over and the vinyl revival is worth embracing.
There's something delightful at seeing iTunes classifying the Necks as belonging to an "Unknown Genre." One could certainly make the case that they've created one of their own, so steadily have they explored dreamy long-form music-making built on gradualism. With Unfold, though — telling title if ever there was one — we hear the Australian trio going deeper into some changes they've been exploring over their last several releases. Unlike the epic, hour-plus voyages they're largely known for, Unfold consists of four taut (by their standards) performances that take pretty different approaches to the same landscape.
Australian trio The Necks exist in a nebulous, spectral realm at the crossroads between free improv, jazz and a deconstructed form of rock'n'roll that is most remarkable because, like their neighbours (of hundreds of miles away in New Zealand) The Dead C, they do so in a way that is instantly identifiable and constantly questing for new ideas. Over their last few albums, such as Open and Vertigo (both essential listening), they've taken their concept to radical heights on album-length tracks that progress in minute detail and with surprising twists and turns throughout. On the aptly-named Unfold, however, they've gone in a different direction, coming up with four side-long pieces instead of the now-traditional one.