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Monday, September 7, 2020

The Necks - Three (Northern Spy, 2020) ****

By Stephen Griffith

Other reviewers have accurately and effectively described The Necks music here, here, and here so there's no point in reinventing a well constructed wheel. The only anecdote that illustrates their broad appeal, even for a “cult band”, is they're one of the few groups my wife has responded positively to in the car on a road trip to the point of asking who they are and did I have anything else by them, which puts them in unique company. They're the quintessential sui generis group refusing to be pigeonholed into any convenient category. When I asked one of my buddies if he liked them he told me he'd spot listened to some of their recordings and wasn't interested. I told him they're not a spot listen kind of group, that you have to experience how they morph things over time into something different almost imperceptibly until the listener is left wondering how that happened.

Which isn't to say they're incapable of surprising their ardent fans even after 26 releases (according to Discogs, excluding singles and EPs, compilations, DVDs and promo releases). The opening cut of Three, “Bloom”, has an atypical electric drum pattern by Tony Buck that is rattlingly propulsive without having a real beat, underlaid by Lloyd Swanton’s popping bass sounding like a single rhythmic unit. Add cymbal splashes plus a persistent high hat and it's a hectically aggressive supersaturated soundscape that doesn't relent for over 21 unsettling minutes that seem strangely brief at the conclusion. Over this Chris Abrahams plays calming piano figures that seem oddly fitting as organ, synth and guitar filagrees make sporadic coloring appearances.

The second selection, “Lovelock”, is a spacious tribute to Damien Lovelock, longtime frontman of The Celibate Rifles, that would sound at home on an updated Tabula Rasa by Arvo Pärt in terms of being hauntingly austere. Processed drum rolls, tympanic and snare, sporadically appear along with tinkling bells along with shimmering piano notes and single note bass string staccato thrums as a sense of loss permeates the performance.

The final piece, “Further”, is more familiar territory for the band as Buck and Swanton start a loping rhythm to which Abrahams adds an effectively simple five note motif which gradually changes into something different, enhanced by descending smears of notes along the way before subtly giving way to the organ. Prior releases have employed this type of approach in album length cuts so Three gives the listener that number of multifaceted gems to enjoy and explore. Maybe even spot listeners might get snagged.