There is always this feeling of being amid a quiet storm when one experiences an album by The Necks. The experimental jazz band from Australia has proven record after record how their long form compositions can invoke serenity and chaos at the same time. This free flowing quality by which the trio can unravel its music, highlights an eccentric craftsmanship, where the maniacal can be found in the subtle, and tranquility is placed at the center of disorder. It is not uncommon for jazz music to have that effect. Improvisation aids in the perception of ataxia, while the smooth playing and instrumentation aid in the soothing feeling that the style can transmit. But it is a quality that is acquired over time and practice.
This is an act that has been going on for a long time now, and as happens with bands that retain a steady line-up, not only has the trio mastered their grasp on the style, but they know the ins and outs of each other's playing. That is essential in any kind of music, leading to a chemistry between members that will lift the entire endeavor, but it is particularly important when you have an experimental jazz band, and your music is based on improvisation. This is a quality that really shines when one experiences The Necks live, but it also aids the compositional angle, especially when setting out for long, intoxicating journeys through abstract jazz motifs.
Unfold is slightly different from the previous records of The Necks (with the exception of Next and Chemist,) in that it contains four tracks, deviating from the usual hour long compositions of the past. At first that might appear as another illusion, a separation of one long song in the four different sides of the vinyl, but there is more than that in the band's attempt. Not only this is not a long track split into sections, as here we have four different and distinct investigations of experimental goodness, but The Necks do not provide the order the sides should be played in, granting the listener the freedom to choose what path to follow.
Through the morphology of Unfold, a variety of sonic tropes is presented, and no matter the order they are played at, the four different chambers should always be visited. “Rise” is one of the tracks that follows the more “standard” path for The Necks, or what most people would expect from them, in the jazz structures and the high quality improvisation. Similarly, “Timepiece” has by far the most loose structure, with the piano and keys vibrating through the endless veil of percussion and drones, uncovering sometimes sweet, sometimes completely unbalanced melodies.
The tracks where the trio deviates from the “norm” are “Overhear” and “Blue Mountain.” The case of the first is temptingly provocative, mainly for introducing the organ, which is able to morph the sound surrounding it, driving a psychotropic injection straight to the spine of the track, while the rhythm section dives into a recital of krautrock majesty, adding a touch of repetition to intensify the process, leading to a powerful rendition that applies free jazz outwards, dragging closer adjacent experimental domains. In similar fashion, The Necks visit “Blue Mountain” making their way into a glorious, jazz-induced post-rock track. This is an oversimplification, but the path that The Necks follow in terms of structure, progression and build-up, is inherent in the core of this song, originates from a post-rock mindset, following a process of initial construction, and increasingly expanding the dynamics until arriving at a peak. Following that principle and starting from the roots, the trio keeps building, layer upon layer, to dramatic effect, with the track erupting in a thunderous outbreak, providing what is arguably the most powerful moment of the record.
When it comes to expectations, The Necks have definitely come through. This band is special, and the fact that they had to move a bit further out their comfort zone, producing four tracks instead of their usual single piece, and still be experimental, continuing to push their sound, surpassing boundaries, might appear breathtaking. But in retrospect it should have simply been expected.
8.9 / 10
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