Hanging Gardens

COMPOSERS: The Necks
LABELS: Recommended
ALBUM TITLE: The Necks
PERFORMER: Chris Abrahams (p, org, key), Lloyd Swanton (b), Tony Buck (d, perc)
CATALOGUE NO: RERNECKS 1

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Today, much jazz of interest now comes from beyond American shores. And yes, at around the 100-year point in jazz’s evolution, conjuring new spirits out of old spells is a difficult mojo to work – we all know that. But people are doing it – a case in point is the Necks, an Australian piano/keyboard trio that’s developed an enormous cult following, generating album sales in their thousands with little or no publicity.

This is the group’s sixth album and quite possibly its finest, a single 60-minute spontaneous improvisation that unfolds from a germ of a melodic motif inverted, placed in retrograde, embellished, extended, extemporised and developed through ambient sound washes, shifting rhythms and psychedelic mood swings.

The effect is analogous (although not similar) to the French composer Vincent d’Indy’s Istar variations depicting an Assyrian goddess of the same name passing through seven gates, divesting some garments at each. When she passes through the seventh the transformation is complete, she is naked.

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At the end of 60 minutes, the Necks may have passed through more gates than Istar, but the effect at the final gate is just as attention-grabbing. Riveting stuff whose logic only properly coalesces when you log on for the whole trip. Stuart Nicholson