Patterns of panic: The Necks play the Rosemount
I couldn’t think of anything more terrifying than playing a delicate set of acoustic jazzy music to room full of mostly black overcoat-clad, chin stroking, forty-something, ultra-discerning listeners. But for The Necks, that is the thesis for their completely improvised performances.
Over the course of the last three decades, the Sydney-formed trio have earned their stripes playing live. Even if they not been entirely accepted into the circles of jazz, avant-garde, or experimental music, a crowd of Perthites murmuring excitedly into their wineglasses were happy to welcome The Necks to The Rosemount’s main room.
It was an alien experience being seated in the main room listening to the dull thud of the outside DJ set bleed through the walls. But any whispers of concern over the outside noise having the potential to interfere with the show were quickly dismissed as soon as the deep rumblings of double bass filled the room. If The Necks give themselves any parameters to work within, it would appear that many of their sets start with Lloyd Swanston playing a very simple figure on bass, which becomes the backbone of the performance. In the case of their first set, it was driven by what sounded like bottle tops being shaken inside a paper bag, although it was hard to tell without seeing exactly how the percussionist was doing.
It is important to note that the members aren’t afraid to wait for inspiration. I couldn’t help but think Chris Abrahams, perched on his piano stool, had the look of a despondent patient waiting in a grim medical centre. But the patience is warranted as no member is too timid to spearhead the next direction of the set, giving the space required for each subsequent member to listen and react accordingly to each small shift.
Despite sharing much of the same instrumentation as a traditional jazz trio (read; upright bass, piano and drum kit) the group doesn’t really subscribe to any of the notions that have come to define jazz as a genre. Rather, they build their improvisations around repetitive and slowing evolving musical figures that are reminiscent of kraut rock or perhaps post-rock. Although there is no following traditional conventions of build and release dynamic, the duration of their second set built in intensity over the course of the two bar musical pattern they were playing. It made for really uneasy listening, and hearing it played for forty-five minutes felt like a panic attack. With all of us on the edge of our seats we were perfectly placed for a standing ovation, which broke the viscerally evocative set with the gratitude it deserved.