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Live Review: The Necks

5 June 2017 | 11:50 am | Matt MacMaster

"The group let things bloom and spread, like ink in water."

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Minimalist jazz trio The Necks are masters of building something out of nothing — what that something is, is irrelevant. They plant seeds and let things grow, naturally, whether it be a piano motif or a bass line. The group let things bloom and spread, like ink in water, until the piece simply stops.

Their Vivid performance did not buck their established trend. They played two sets, both constantly in slow-motion flux, and both going nowhere, satisfied instead to explore tiny seismic shifts and subtleties until they exhausted their ideas. There was no grand plan, nor was there any point at which ideas coalesced and formed themes or bridges to other ideas. For some, it may be an exercise in patience, but for others, it was a dramatic display of tension and release, all fuelled by an intense sense of curiosity and trust on behalf of the players.

Tony Buck scraped sticks and cymbals over the skin of his floor tom, creating strange waves of shuddering pulses. Lloyd Swanton tapped and plucked the entire length of his double bass, searching for something, testing its potential. Chris Abrahams lithely found and established individual themes on his piano and locked them in loops until they frayed and were finally replaced with a new one. The individual shifts broke the tension, and a new period of improvisation would begin again, sometimes atonal, sometimes quite beautiful. Energy ebbed and flowed, and the interrelationships between instruments often featured shifts in power or dominance.

For those not equipped to dive into the technicality of the performance, there was still a lot to engage with. It was a visceral experience as much as an intellectual one. The abstract nature of the performance required more from the audience, but the rewards were there.

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