The Necks

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The Necks
The Necks 2016.jpg
Background information
OriginSydney, New South Wales, Australia
Years active1987 (1987)–present
Associated acts

The Necks are an Australian 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 double LP studio album Unfold was named by Rolling Stone as "one of the top 20 avant albums of 2017."[1]


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.[2][3] 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.[2][3]

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 Finckh on guitar, Melanie Oxley on lead vocals (ex-Sweet Nothing), and her older brother Peter Oxley on bass guitar (ex-Sunnyboys).[2][3] Abrahams left in 1987 before that group's first album, Persuasion (October 1988).[2][3] 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.[3] In 1986 Swanton had been a member of Dynamic Hepnotics.[3]

According to Australian musicologist, Ian McFarlane, the Necks "issued several albums of abstract, improvised, jazzy mood music."[2] 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."[4] The band has been described as "offending (successfully) against tradition for the past quarter of a century, [doing so] mostly by occupying the spaces between accepted positions and obstinately refusing to obey genre rules".[5]

The group issued their debut album, Sex on the Spiral Scratch label in 1989.[2][6] It consists of a single track of the same name, which is just under an hour long.[6] 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."[6]

Aside from their work within the group each member has undertaken side projects, recording session work or as a touring band musician.[2][3] 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).[2][3] All three have worked for Stephen Cummings, both collectively and individually.[3]

Live performance[edit]

Buck, Swanton and Abrahams performing in Aarhus, Denmark, November 2015

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."[7] 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."[8]


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).


The band won two ARIA awards for the albums Drive By (2003) and Chemist (2006).[9]

The Necks received the inaugural Richard Gill Award for Distinguished Services to Australian Music at the 2019 Art Music Awards.[10][11]


Studio albums[edit]

  • 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)
  • Mindset (Fish of Milk/ReR Megacorp, 2011)
  • Open (Fish of Milk/ReR Megacorp, 2013)
  • Vertigo (Fish of Milk/ReR Megacorp, 2015)
  • Unfold (Ideologic Organ, 2017)
  • Body (Fish of Milk/Northern Spy, 2018)[12]
  • Three (Fish of Milk/Northern Spy/ReR Megacorp, 2020)

Live albums[edit]

Soundtrack albums[edit]

Other appearances[edit]

  • "Royal Family" on Beyond El Rocco (Vox, 1993) – soundtrack to Kevin Lucas' documentary on Australian Jazz
  • Drift project by Underworld (2018 - 2019) - appear on "A Very Silent Way", "Appleshine Continuum" and "Altitude Dub Continuum"
  • Leaving Meaning by Swans (Young God & Mute, 2019) - appear on the songs "Leaving Meaning" and "The Nub"

Awards and nominations[edit]

APRA Awards[edit]

The APRA Awards are presented annually from 1982 by the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA).[15]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2005 "Drive By" (Lloyd Swanton, Christopher Abrahams, Anthony Buck) Most Performed Jazz Work[16] Won
2006 "Chemist" (Swanton, Abrahams, Buck) Most Performed Jazz Work[17] Won


  1. ^ Weingarten, Christopher R. (2 January 2018). "20 Best Avant Albums of 2017". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 21 September 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h 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.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i 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.
  4. ^ Couture, François. "The Necks | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 June 2016.
  5. ^ Biron, D. 2013. Are The Necks the Best Band in the World? The Conversation, 13 December.
  6. ^ a b c Couture, François. "Sex – The Necks | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 June 2016.
  7. ^ Winston, Geoff (14 April 2016). "Review: The Necks and James McVinnie at Union Chapel, N1". London Jazz News. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  8. ^ Hennessy, Kate (29 December 2014). "Features | Anniversary | 25 Years On: The Necks' Sex Revisited by Kate Hennessy". The Quietus. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  9. ^ "ARIA Awards". Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  10. ^ Sydney trio The Necks to receive prestigious honour at Art Music Awards, The Industry Observer, accessed January 28, 2019
  11. ^ 2019 Distinguished Services Award to The Necks, Resonate magazine, accessed January 28, 2019
  12. ^ "The Necks crane their necks and announce their necks album, "Body"". Retrieved 21 September 2018.
  13. ^ "Townsville". 25 September 2007. Retrieved 21 September 2018 – via Amazon.
  14. ^ "The Necks – Townsville". Archived from the original on 25 October 2007. Retrieved 21 September 2018.
  15. ^ "APRA History". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 6 May 2010.
  16. ^ "2005 Winners – APRA Music Awards". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 17 May 2010.
  17. ^ "2006 Winners – APRA Music Awards". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 6 May 2010.

External links[edit]