The Necks – Travel

Posted: 14 February 2023 in Albums
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Northern Spy – 24th February 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

The Necks are never dull: an act that can be depended upon to deliver something different, which is no small feat for a band who’ve been going for more than thirty years. Travel sees them revisit the fundamental methodologies of Unfold, released in 2017 on Stephen O’Malley’s Ideologic Organ label. Admittedly, it’s not an album I’ve revisited all that many times since I wrote about it, but then, that’s true of many records I’ve appreciated. Some of it’s a time thing, but some of it’s an instrumental / jazz thing. I prefer to engage in the moment – and then the moment passes, and I too move on.

Where this album different from the majority of their others is that the format was integral to the form of the content, as the accompanying blurb points out, proving ‘four sub-20-minute pieces – instead of the typical 60+ minute arc for which the band is known – along with an obfuscated track list which leaves play order to the listener’s hand.’

Travel isn’t quite a straight live improv set, but does, they feel, come closest to recreating the live experience, and was recorded – save for some light overdubs and post- production – primarily live. And it’s very much oriented towards slow grooves and rhythmic repetitions. It’s hazy, mellow, almost sultry.

Side one is occupied by the twenty-one-minute ‘Signal’, built around a repetitive bass cycle and some rolling piano that brings with it a classical element, and, propelled by some busy hand drumming which transports the composition some way from what one would ordinarily expect off jazz-orientated works and into the realms of ‘world’ music (a term I try to avoid, with its connotations of western superiority and self-centredness, but sometimes short-cuts are necessary).

On side two, ‘Forming’, which again stretches languorously past the twenty-minute mark, is led by ripping piano, underpinned by some crunching bass stutters and rumbling groans. It’s jazzy in a psychedelic, Doorsy sort of a way. In this sense, it feels more like an extended mid-song workout than a piece in its own right, but it’s both pleasant and tense at the same time as it builds to a crescendo that never fully materialises.

‘Imprinting’, the album’s shortest cut at just over seventeen minutes, brings the multi-layered percussion to a more prominent position, and clanks and trembles along with almost hesitant-sounding keys and twanging strings drift in and out. It’s also perhaps the most overtly ‘jazz’ piece on the album, although it feels stretched out, the pieces pulled apart and as three instruments drift along together on a steady way, the sensation is quite hypnotic.

Organs always create a sense of grand scale and space, and the heavy drone and trill of ‘Bloodstream’ is utterly mesmerising. The piano is soft and ripples along atop the sustained mid-range drone as ethereal notes drift in and out. Part,

The album feels like a moment in time, somehow transient, and yet also something more. Travel may not really go anywhere, but it very much captures a mood – which is, for the most part, whatever mood you project onto it.

AA

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