(Fish of Milk)
This is like opening the door on a gig already underway: an instant groove of sparse bass (Lloyd Swanton), cymbal-bell and an intermittent backbeat (Tony Buck). Over this snake unpredictable rivulets of piano (Chris Abrahams) that sink into the groove like water into sand, occasionally thickened by half-heard Hammond organ. About a third of the way into the studio improvisation’s 57 minutes, the groove unravels to wafting organ and gentle piano, with only the bass offering propulsion, eventually joined by Buck’s strummed acoustic guitar.
Structurally it’s the calm before a storm of startlingly ferocious rock, overlaid with electric guitar. The Necks have lurched into this territory before, but never with quite this rawness – or duration. Some will be entranced, and some will find the energy dispersing into tedium – but exactly as I felt that potential they cut it dead: stripped the music back to tinkling bells, gongs and hypnotic piano. No slowly evolving transitions here: these are more like jump-cuts. Three decades on the Necks still find ways to reinvent themselves. Fans should also hear Ben Marston and Hugh Barrett’s beautiful album of trumpet/piano improvisations, Unfound Places.