The Necks: Capstone Theatre, Liverpool

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The Necks at The Capstone Theatre

The Necks at The Capstone Theatre

Australian experimental jazz trio The Necks play Liverpool’s Capstone Theatre, Getintothis’ Peter Guy is wrapped up in their repetition.

When Prince sang, ‘there’s joy in repetition‘, we’re pretty sure he wasn’t listening to The Necks.

While the Minnesota musical magician would no doubt have been enraptured by the Sydney trio’s synergy his was a repetition perhaps more aligned to the the body and the bedroom – than the cerebral minimalist ambience applied by this set of players.

For The Necks fall into that particular category reserved for greatest cult bands you’ve possibly heard of, yet probably not actually heard. However, to hear them, and if you’re lucky, witness them in the flesh, is a truly special thing. And repetition is their specialist subject.

Formed in 1987, and as is customary to their live performances, the trio comprising Chris Abrahams on piano, Tony Buck on drums and Lloyd Swanton on double bass play two pieces roughly an hour in length as the two thirds full Capstone Theatre watch in complete silence.

What unfolds is contrastingly violent yet meditative. Hypnotic yet at times frustrating. But always fascinating.

Buck begins the opening piece reaching underneath his kick drum and somehow creating a quietly foreboding rumble akin to John WilliamsJaws theme while layering it with bells, chimes and what sounds like the twittering of birdsong. Swanton and Abrahams join in soon after and there begins a 30 minute ambient workout which centres around the latter’s deft piano strokes.

Alternating between thickly plucked bass strings and textured bow strokes, Swanton builds up the tension while Abrahams acts almost akin to a lead guitar; his fingers dancing around the ivory and always returning to a similar motif, building repetition upon repetition upon repetition.

The trance-inducing state is broken for a mini interval before they return upping the ante with a more propulsive and severe piece which recalls in parts Blaxploitation funk, furious krautrock and the post-rock of Do Make Say Think.

The Necks

The Necks

The next 20 minutes acts as a three-way rhythm royal rumble as double bass vies for position with some seriously dexterous piano playing and percussion we’ve not witnessed in some time. It’s a triumph in itself that Buck‘s left hand doesn’t fall off his wrist such is the outrageous stamina and precision tapping he produces during the second 30 minute work out.

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If there’s a criticism, the continual return to a centre-piece motif contained in both parts can sometimes lead to the mind wandering. However, perhaps that is the point. Perhaps we’re supposed to drift, and let this super-charged meditation ease us into another plain altogether.

A particularly malevolent finale sees Swanton dance up his bass neck before they close in unison to stunning effect. A genuine one-off.

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