The Necks Poll

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There's a Necks thread where Jess said you only really need 2 (unspecified) albums by The Necks. Which is a specifically wrong statement that points to a generally correct proposition about what the group are and do (basically, this point applies to any artist, band or group that is its own genre - you only ~need~ to hear a certain amount to understand the formal rules that govern the space in play, though this can break down on close examination of the edges).

I suppose this poll is about which you would need if you needed only 1, but also about what I consider to be the yawning differences between these pieces - if you have to choose between Hanging Gardens and Aether, say, what do you base that decision on?

Poll Results

Drive By 6
Sex 5
Silverwater 3
Aether 3
Hanging Gardens 2
Athenaeum, Homebush, Quay & Raab 2
Vertigo 1
Open 1
Mindset 1
Townsville 0
Chemist 0
Mosquito / See Through 0
Photosynthetic 0
Next 0
Piano Bass Drums 0
The Boys 0
Silent Night 0
Aquatic 0

Tim F, Saturday, 9 April 2016 23:31 (two years ago) Permalink

having just seen them a week ago really brought home (to me anyway) how much their aesthetic has changed, and I think Drive-By is perhaps the point at which it starts to change. That's my pick anyhow, because I'm more partial to drone and groove and melodic repetition than however you'd describe what something like Vertigo is up to (which i also love).

ryan, Saturday, 9 April 2016 23:37 (two years ago) Permalink

seeing them live really shows how much restraint goes into what they're doing now. I dont think Tony Buck gave his drumkit a good twack for the entire show. he was tinkering, brushing, and just about everything else though.

ryan, Saturday, 9 April 2016 23:40 (two years ago) Permalink

Disclosure: of the above choices, I have not heard Next, A, H, Q & R, Photosynthetic, M / S or Townsville.

My favourites from which I will have to choose are probably Sex, Aquatic, Hanging Gardens and Drive By, which I suppose provides the most consistent framing of a certain through-line vision - In A Silent Way meets Future Days, the balance tilting from the former to the latter over the course of the 4 albums. Chemist too, though that is probably slightly in Drive By's shadow a bit (the same applies to Silent Night vis a vis Sex, I think).

But I could also see a very good case for the jazz tremors of Piano Bass Drums, the Laraaji shimmers of Aether or the Talk Talk on oxycontin of Open. The Boys makes awesome late night driving music a la Bohren & Der Club of Gore. And lots of people seem to think that Silverwater (more droning and "exploratory") is best.

I also really like Vertigo too but haven't sat with it enough to decide where it sits in the above. To me it seems to be a partial return to Piano Bass Drums but filtered through the restraint of Open

Tim F, Saturday, 9 April 2016 23:43 (two years ago) Permalink

In A Silent Way meets Future Days

ha, yes, this nails it.

ryan, Saturday, 9 April 2016 23:44 (two years ago) Permalink

Chemist was my first (I initially came to them from a 'post rock' perspective, rather than jazz) and until recently my favourite. I really think Silverwater is the best now, though.

Steve Reich In The Afternoon (Against The 80s), Sunday, 10 April 2016 11:17 (two years ago) Permalink

They are all so good and essential that I find myself incapable of discriminating for one of them over another. If there could be only one I would probably go for Sex over all the others though because it has never waned with me. It is not often musicians can make something as remarkable on a debut lp, it has some rare-earth quality to it that I can't articulate. For something that is seemingly made of quite simple musical parts it still never feels over-familiar - if that makes any sense at all.

calzino, Sunday, 10 April 2016 12:22 (two years ago) Permalink

It's a difficult record to wear out.

I think it's often the transitions between passages that can become overly familiar, and The Necks are very good at cloaking transitions (or just stretching them out to infinity which amounts to the same thing).

Tim F, Sunday, 10 April 2016 13:53 (two years ago) Permalink

to be fair, tim, i think i started that thread when i was like 23 and also an idiot.

i think have to go with aether here. sex remains a nostalgic favorite. my dad ordered an import copy after hearing an excerpt on npr in the late 80s/early 90s. at the time it sounded so otherworldly to me. now it just sounds immensely comforting, every time.

a basset hound (strongo hulkington's ghost dad), Monday, 11 April 2016 21:04 (two years ago) Permalink

as for why i have to go with aether, my listening has just leaned more toward ambient-style music in the past few years, and i'm not sure if i've ever heard an "ambient" album (played by live humans in presumably real time) with that much beauty and poise.

a basset hound (strongo hulkington's ghost dad), Monday, 11 April 2016 21:07 (two years ago) Permalink

Jess I just assumed you were making a rhetorical point which I kinda agreed with. Perhaps I should have said "literally misleading" rather than "specifically wrong".

Tim F, Monday, 11 April 2016 22:07 (two years ago) Permalink

oh i was just playing. also that necks thread (if it's the one i'm thinking of) is up there with the all-time worst ilx thread titles, so any ribbing is wholly deserved.

a basset hound (strongo hulkington's ghost dad), Monday, 11 April 2016 22:16 (two years ago) Permalink

The irony of course being that Hanging Gardens and Aether (which were consecutive I think) sound like the work of two different bands really.

Tim F, Monday, 11 April 2016 22:18 (two years ago) Permalink

the necks are so great. and yeah, after hearing a few of their releases, you might be like "oh i get it" but one of the pleasures for me is uncovering the (sometimes very subtle, sometime obvious) differences in each one. Tim, I like what you said about them being "very good at cloaking transitions" -- i sort of think that their music is actually *all* transitions if that makes any sense (I'm not sure it does). I guess it just feels like the music is always in a state of becoming, hanging in some beautiful limbo.

tylerw, Monday, 11 April 2016 22:22 (two years ago) Permalink

I think they get better with every album, more or less, and voted Silverwater because I find it to be the most rewarding, most densely textured and colorful of their albums -- these being important qualities for me in music that is drone oriented and improvised. It perhaps gets farther out there than all the others :)

However, in retrospect, and in view of the question posed by the poll, asking for only one absolutely essential summing-up album, the live box Athenaeum, Homebush, Quay & Raab is definitely THE ONE. The Necks are, after all, first and foremost, a live group. Their M.O. is 100% improv, every performance a unique experience for all involved, audience and performers alike. Substitute Piano, Bass, Drums if the album being only one disc/performance is what one is looking for (I think 4 discs is better though, comparing the performances is extremely illuminating!!!)

Poise is a perfect word for Aether!!! It is my secret favorite, secret mostly because I always forget it exists -- the thing being THAT aethereal. And just plain magical. It is their most delicate, gentle, tasteful, graceful and, dare I say, Satie-esque, even, what with its light as air pretty surface shimmer undercut by very distant clouds of melancholy!

liam fennell, Tuesday, 12 April 2016 13:28 (two years ago) Permalink

i have taken many a beautifully disorienting afternoon nap to Aether.

ryan, Tuesday, 12 April 2016 13:51 (two years ago) Permalink

Neckheads should check out this recording of the Big Ears set from a few weeks ago:

tylerw, Tuesday, 12 April 2016 14:21 (two years ago) Permalink

Wow, thanks a million TylerW!

liam fennell, Tuesday, 12 April 2016 17:46 (two years ago) Permalink

Incidentally, I have a small collection of full set live bootlegs. 5 shows, three from 2009, a 2011 and a 2013, and would be happy to share them if anyone is interested. They were all ripped from live radio sets that were only online for a few days each... which is kind of a shame as they're all excellent performances and cd quality sound!

liam fennell, Tuesday, 12 April 2016 17:56 (two years ago) Permalink

i would be interested, yes!
the wfmu sets from a few years back (still available on the free music archive, i think) are totally great too.

tylerw, Tuesday, 12 April 2016 18:00 (two years ago) Permalink

ReR Megacorp is currently selling four Necks albums on sale for £5 each (must buy a minimum of four CDs from their big list - see link): Chemist, Aether, Mosquito/See Through (2 for price of 1), and Townsville. Free shipping to Europe and the Americas!
I should also point out that the exchange rate (pounds to $$) is currently at its most favorable in years. So, £5 is around $7. Did I mention free shipping? Plus, the sale list has CDs from Henry Cow, This Heat, Faust, Sun Ra, News from Babel, Ground Zero, etc. etc.

ernestp, Thursday, 14 April 2016 00:20 (two years ago) Permalink

That is an insane deal. I set aside a hundred bucks for RSD to buy a few things I sorta want, but now I think I'll spend it at ReR. There are quite a few good Sun Ra albums here, and Bob Drake's The Skull Mailbox is pretty wild, too. I wish I knew more about what Fred Frith albums are good (ditto Jon Rose, Chris Cutler, etc)

And yes, buying at least 3 Necks CDs I don't have

Wimmels, Thursday, 14 April 2016 02:08 (two years ago) Permalink

If I really like Open, which should I pick up next?

lute bro (brimstead), Thursday, 14 April 2016 04:39 (two years ago) Permalink

sounds like Aether might be up my alley.

lute bro (brimstead), Thursday, 14 April 2016 04:40 (two years ago) Permalink

what else should one who is into The Necks / minimalist droney shit pick up from that sale, if one were so inclined

a serious and fascinating fartist (Simon H.), Thursday, 14 April 2016 05:02 (two years ago) Permalink

faust's "ravvivando" gets a bad rep as a bad faust album, but as angular drone rock goes, it's probably better than anything circle or loop ever recorded. the selection of things on offer seems to vary but faust's 71 minutes & bbc sessions are worth a punt, my pick of the bob drake's would be "13 songs & a thing" & "little black train", cm von hasswolff's "rays of beauty" is elegant uncomplicated drones without schlocky edits. you've got sun ra's disco 3000, the i.s.o CD (OK you can DL that for free from the alcohol bandcamp page, but...), first AMM, bernard fort's "fractals" is essential. as much as i like some frith, the friths on offer aren't really my bag. teh VRILs are fun if you like proggy surf instrumentals.

massaman gai, Thursday, 14 April 2016 06:41 (two years ago) Permalink

Ground Zero's Consume Red is essential - one long sax drone piece that collapses into a huge noise blow out

Chicamaw (Ward Fowler), Thursday, 14 April 2016 08:05 (two years ago) Permalink

Thanks, btw, to ernestp for alerting me to this sale - pretty easy to find four discs from that list

Chicamaw (Ward Fowler), Thursday, 14 April 2016 08:35 (two years ago) Permalink

I've voted for Drive By, as it was my way in and still the one I've played the most - and I've played it a lot. From there I went back and bought Aether and Hanging Gardens, downloaded PBD (never got round / been able to buy a CD), and then I've bought most of the subsequent albums as they've come out. Really love Chemist and Open. Never really connected with Mindset; I thought it sounded as if the music was distressed at being squeezed into a vinyl-satisfying shape. I've literally just bought a CD of Sex 30 seconds ago because of this thread. Saw them live about 4 years ago and they were wonderful; it was probably closest to Open of the albums I've heard.

Hey Bob (Scik Mouthy), Thursday, 14 April 2016 13:23 (two years ago) Permalink

"Ground Zero's Consume Red is essential"

Well recommended WF, it's a reet stunner is that.

calzino, Thursday, 14 April 2016 14:56 (two years ago) Permalink

My god the build in the last twenty minutes of Aether is just immense.

Tim F, Sunday, 17 April 2016 01:08 (two years ago) Permalink

Thanks tylerw! And yeah those live sets (three of them, anyway)'re still up on the Free Music Archive, and I'd prob vote for the Night One/Set Two one if I could, they're all good but that one's particularly lovely.

albvivertine, Sunday, 17 April 2016 03:31 (two years ago) Permalink

Automatic thread bump. This poll is closing tomorrow.

System, Friday, 22 April 2016 00:01 (two years ago) Permalink

voted for open, though i haven't heard every record on the list. open is just something i could easily listen to every day and not get bored by.

_kfb, Friday, 22 April 2016 10:43 (two years ago) Permalink

ordered all of the Necks stuff available from that sale upthread. And the Ground Zero album. cheers!

a serious and fascinating fartist (Simon H.), Friday, 22 April 2016 11:11 (two years ago) Permalink

Automatic thread bump. This poll's results are now in.

System, Saturday, 23 April 2016 00:01 (two years ago) Permalink

Townsville 0
Chemist 0

These surprised me a little

Wimmels, Saturday, 23 April 2016 14:25 (two years ago) Permalink

Chemist is great but I can't see anyone picking it ahead of Drive By or Hanging Gardens; so I think it suffered "second favourite" syndrome.

Hey Bob (Scik Mouthy), Saturday, 23 April 2016 20:43 (two years ago) Permalink

Does The Boys soundtrack much of a profile outside of Australia? I wonder if that might be their most familiar to the general public in their homeland, even if they don't recognise it by name. Seems to be eternally popular as 'menacing' incidental music in the TV industry.

Maximum big surprise! (Nag! Nag! Nag!), Sunday, 24 April 2016 00:05 (two years ago) Permalink

"HAVE much of a profile"

Maximum big surprise! (Nag! Nag! Nag!), Sunday, 24 April 2016 00:06 (two years ago) Permalink

The relatively low result for Hanging Gardens surprised me slightly more. I ultimately voted for Drive By but I considered voting for Hanging Gardens in recognition of the singularity of its sound and its commanding sense of focus. It's like if Laika had heard Insides' Clear Skin and decided to make their own epic instrumental drifting version of what they do.

Whereas Drive By at least feels slightly more precedented, you could imagine 'O'Rang coming up with something similar maybe.

Tim F, Sunday, 24 April 2016 00:12 (two years ago) Permalink

CD of Sex arrived last night (hand-addressed by, going by the email I had, Lloyd Swanton). Don't think I ever listened to it before, even when I downloaded loads of their back catalogue back in 2004.

Hey Bob (Scik Mouthy), Tuesday, 26 April 2016 13:17 (two years ago) Permalink

Hanging Gardens feels pretty precedented by In a Silent Way

Chicamaw (Ward Fowler), Tuesday, 26 April 2016 13:21 (two years ago) Permalink

Not rhythmically, I don't think: Hanging Gardens feels very post-drum & bass to me.

Tim F, Tuesday, 26 April 2016 13:38 (two years ago) Permalink

Yeah, I've always thought of HG as being a post-drum&bass thing too. In A Silent Way is kind of a precedent to their whole aesthetic, but not HG specifically.

Is The Boys good?

Can't find a CD of Piano Bass Drums anywhere which is making me sad.

Hey Bob (Scik Mouthy), Tuesday, 26 April 2016 14:42 (two years ago) Permalink

kudos to ernestp for linking the rer sale which I've just splurged out on

love aether so much it oddly put me off getting anything else. I used to sleep to it all the time. but now I've relented

ogmor, Tuesday, 26 April 2016 21:29 (two years ago) Permalink

three months pass...

Silverwater would be good to run to.

map, Monday, 1 August 2016 02:46 (two years ago) Permalink

four weeks pass...

And Townsville is underrated

until the next, delayed, glaciation (map), Wednesday, 31 August 2016 03:01 (two years ago) Permalink

Townsville is WAY underrated. The live material in general is!

I lump the live albums/sets together in my mind, I def can't tell any of them apart from just hearing them, even though they are in fact all significantly different and way familiar from years of listening. They're a group that in the final analysis does variations on a kind of infinite theme, IMO.

I never did buy The Boys it's the only one that remains a mystery to me. Kinda neat if to know it functions well as incidental music!

liam fennell, Wednesday, 31 August 2016 13:12 (two years ago) Permalink

Not sure if this fits here but anyone heard the Still album? They're Berlin based and feature Chris Abrahams on piano and a bunch of other international improv musicians. There's a ghost of the Necks in their sound, but there isn't the same sense of build and momentum - more of a spacious, almost Bohren/desert blues feel to them. Intriguing. Not a massive amount of detail on them, but the album is out on Bronze Rat: (it's on Spotify, too).

Sunn O))) Brother Where Art Thou? (Chinaski), Sunday, 4 September 2016 13:58 (two years ago) Permalink

This is gorgeous:

Reminds me of an acoustic Earth circa Bees Made Honey...

Sunn O))) Brother Where Art Thou? (Chinaski), Sunday, 4 September 2016 14:07 (two years ago) Permalink

I've been in love with that album by The Still since I first heard it. Spent a few night drives listening to it, and it's perfect for that. Some Bohren in there, definitely, but also some Dirty Three, to my ears. Just beautiful, slowly unfolding jams. Definitely one of my favorite albums of the year. Surprised more people aren't talking about it (actually, no I'm not!).

Wimmels, Sunday, 4 September 2016 14:14 (two years ago) Permalink

'the still' is great, ty guys

ogmor, Sunday, 4 September 2016 23:00 (two years ago) Permalink

one year passes...

listened to Townsville on a sunrise commute this morning, was pretty much a religious experience

tylerw, Tuesday, 10 October 2017 15:16 (eleven months ago) Permalink

nice!! how to live :)

weird woman in a bar (La Lechera), Tuesday, 10 October 2017 16:30 (eleven months ago) Permalink

four months pass...

If I had to pick one dud in this virtually dud-free discography, it'd be the one I am currently listening to--Mindset--which I remember liking but is doing NADA for me right now. It just doesn't really develop in that seamless way many of the others do. It sort of starts, continues, and then ends, with little variation or dynamics. And the first of the two pieces sounds like some of those clattery and clangy early 90s UK 'improv / noise' CDRs I used to buy and listen to once

I also didn't love Unfold, but I need to give it another listen. I don't think the shorter form works as well for these guys

Paul Ponzi, Friday, 2 March 2018 21:59 (six months ago) Permalink

one month passes...

We should repoll this so I can vote Hanging Gardens.

WilliamC, Tuesday, 1 May 2018 17:18 (four months ago) Permalink

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