(L to R): Tony Buck, Lloyd Swanton, Chris Abrahams
At the Corner Hotel, Melbourne, February 2010
|Origin||Sydney, New South Wales, Australia|
The Necks are an experimental, jazz trio formed in 1987 by founding mainstays Chris Abrahams on piano and Hammond organ, Tony Buck on drums, percussion and electric guitar, and Lloyd Swanton on bass guitar and double bass. They play improvisational pieces of up to an hour in length that explore the development and demise of repeating musical figures. Their studio album, Vertigo, was named in SPIN magazine as "one of the top 20 avant albums of 2015."
The Necks were formed in 1987 in Sydney by founding mainstays Chris Abrahams on piano and Hammond organ, Tony Buck on drums, percussion and electric guitar, and Lloyd Swanton on bass guitar and double bass. In 1983 Abrahams (ex-Laughing Clowns) on keyboards and Swanton on bass guitar were founders of the Benders, a jazz group, with Dale Barlow and Jason Morphett on saxophones, and Louis Burdett on drums; which disbanded in 1985.
Abrahams had formed the Sparklers in 1985, a dance pop band, with Bill Bilson on drums (ex-Sunnyboys), Gerard Corben on guitar (ex-Lime Spiders), Ernie Finch on guitar, Melanie Oxley on lead vocals (ex-Sweet Nothing), and her older brother Peter Oxley on bass guitar (ex-Sunnyboys). Abrahams left in 1987 before that group's first album, Persuasion (October 1988). Buck had been a member of a number of groups: Great White Noise (1983), Women and Children First, Tango Bravo and Pardon Me Boys; prior to forming the Necks. In 1986 Swanton had been a member of Dynamic Hepnotics.
According to Australian musicologist, Ian McFarlane, the Necks "issued several albums of abstract, improvised, jazzy mood music." François Couture of AllMusic described how they "usually start playing a very basic melodic and rhythmic figure, and then keep going at it for an hour, gradually introducing microscopic changes and variations. Some critics have compared them to Krautrock groups like Can and Faust. Others find similarities in the works of minimalist composers like LaMonte Young, Tony Conrad, even Philip Glass."
The group issued their debut album, Sex on the Spiral Scratch label in 1989. It consists of a single track of the same name, which is just under an hour long. Couture noticed that "The difference between Sex and the many other CDs they would record afterwards is the purity: The trio's hypnotic repetitive piece relies only on piano, bass, and drums; no electronics, extra keyboards, samples, or lengthy introduction."
Aside from their work within the group each member has undertaken side projects, recording session work or touring band musician. Abrahams formed an ongoing duo with Melanie Oxley (1989–2003), which has released four "moody, emotive soul/pop albums" from Welcome to Violet (October 1992) to Blood Oranges (April 2003). All three have worked for Stephen Cummings, both collectively and individuatlly.
Geoff Winston of London Jazz News described how "Each performance by [the Necks] begins with a blank page which one of the trio will start to fill in to commence the journey, an uninterrupted set of around forty to sixty minutes. There are no rules, no agreements about who will take that lead and about how the discourse will evolve. The only criteria that apply are those of their own impeccably high standards." Typically a live performance will begin very quietly with one of the musicians playing a simple figure. One by one, the other two will join with their own contributions–all three players independent yet intertwined. As the 'piece' builds through subtle micro-changes, the interaction of their instruments creates layers of harmonics and prismatic washes of sound that lead some to apply the genre label 'trance jazz'. Their live performances can be challenging for those expecting a conventional musical experience.
The Quietus' Kate Hennessy found that "any Necks' show is a make or break experience. Some find it cathartic, others buckle and ever the twain shall chafe in the washout. The trio's routine is to play two improvised sets using just piano, double bass and drums: one set relatively calm; the other dispensing sound of escalating intensity for a long hour. Jazz by name but not by nature – if jazz denotes songs that spark at intervals into fine displays of musicianship and tricky timing, after which one claps, drinks, and feels pretty good about the world and the talent in it. No, The Necks plunge listeners to the kinds of violent psychological depths few other bands can achieve at all, let alone all acoustically."
Their soundtrack for The Boys (1998) was nominated for ARIA Best Soundtrack Album, AFI Best Musical Score and Australian Guild of Screen Composers Award. They have also recorded soundtracks for What's The Deal? (1997) and In the Mind of the Architect (three one-hour ABC-TV documentaries, 2000).
- Sex (Spiral Scratch, 1989)
- Next (Spiral Scratch, 1990)
- Aquatic (Fish of Milk/Shock, 1994)
- Silent Night (Fish of Milk/Shock, 1996)
- Hanging Gardens (Fish of Milk/Shock.ReR Megacorp,1999)
- Aether (Fish of Milk/Shock/ReR Megacorp, 2001)
- Drive By (Fish of Milk/Shock/ReR Megacorp, 2003)
- Mosquito/See Through (Fish of Milk/ReR Megacorp, 2004)
- Chemist (Fish of Milk/Shock?ReR Megacorp, 2006)
- Silverwater (Fish of Milk/ReR Megacorp, 2009)
- Strade Trasparenti (Staubgold/2011)
- Mindset (Fish of Milk/ReR Megacorp, 2011)
- Open (Fish of Milk/ReR Megacorp, 2013)
- Vertigo (Fish of Milk/ReR Megacorp, 2015) – a single disc-length track of the same name. Their second album to be released on vinyl.
- Piano Bass Drums (Fish of Milk/Shock, 1998)
- Athenaeum, Homebush, Quay & Raab (Fish of Milk/Shock, 2002)
- Photosynthetic (Long Arms, 2003)
- Townsville (Fish of Milk/ReR Megacorp, 2007) live album, recorded on 15 February 2007 live in concert at the Riverway Arts Centre in Thuringowa City, Northern Queensland.
- The Boys (original soundtrack) (Wild Sound/MDS, 1998)
- "Royal Family" on Beyond El Rocco (Vox, 1993) – soundtrack to Kevin Lucas' documentary on Australian Jazz
Awards and nominations
|2005||"Drive By" (Lloyd Swanton, Christopher Abrahams, Anthony Buck)||Most Performed Jazz Work||Won|
|2006||Mosquito (Swanton, Abrahams, Buck)||Most Performed Jazz Work||Won|
- McFarlane, Ian (1999). "Encyclopedia entry for 'Chris Abrahams'". Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-072-1. Archived from the original on 3 August 2004.
- The Necks related entries at Australian Rock Database:
- The Necks (1987–present): Holmgren, Magnus. "The Necks". Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 19 March 2004. Retrieved 23 June 2016.
- Chris Abrahams: Holmgren, Magnus. "Chris Abrahams". Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 14 March 2002. Retrieved 23 June 2016.
- The Sparklers: Holmgren, Magnus. "The Sparklers". Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 14 March 2002. Retrieved 23 June 2016.
- Stephen Cummings: Holmgren, Magnus. "Stephen Cummings". Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 1 March 2002. Retrieved 23 June 2016.
- Dynamic Hepnotics: Holmgren, Magnus. "Dynamic Hepnotics". Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 22 October 2013. Retrieved 23 June 2016.
- Couture, François. "The Necks | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 June 2016.
- Couture, François. "Sex – The Necks | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 June 2016.
- Winston, Geoff (14 April 2016). "Review: The Necks and James McVinnie at Union Chapel, N1". London Jazz News. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
- Hennessy, Kate (29 December 2014). "Features | Anniversary | 25 Years On: The Necks' Sex Revisited by Kate Hennessy". The Quietus. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
- "ARIA Awards". Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Retrieved 16 Nov 2015.
- Amazon.com: Townsville: Music: Necks
- The Necks – Townsville
- "APRA History". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 6 May 2010.
- "2005 Winners – APRA Music Awards". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 17 May 2010.
- "2006 Winners – APRA Music Awards". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 6 May 2010.
- The Necks home page
- The Necks on Set – 25-minute performance for ABC television in 2006. Includes MP3 and streams.
- The Necks performing at The Factory, Sydney in March 2008