The Necks is an experimental jazz band from Australia, which has been outputting record after record since their inception back in the '80s. Following the release of their previous full-length, Open, this trio of excellent musicians embarked on a journey towards their next release, Vertigo. Where Open features a more minimalistic mindset, Vertigo is a cinematic piece placed against a dim and shimmering background. The band has stated that they were tampering with the idea of having a drone from start to finish in Vertigo, on top of and through which their ideas and concepts could flourish. Of course, as they mention, they ended up in a very different place from whatever the initial notion had been. That statement alone sums up what The Necks are all about, and that is the art of improvisation. The ability to set out for a sonic journey and as you travel through all these soundscapes and settings, the end goal, the destination of your trip mutates and evolves, becoming in the process something completely different.
However, the starting point of having a strong drone presence is still present in the final version of Vertigo. The record itself starts in the manner that The Necks described, with a big drone coming it constructing an unfriendly, yet at the same time cool atmosphere. From that point on this drone keeps up with the track, becoming at times more delicate with a bit of a sweeter tonality and at other moments very imposing. For instance about thirty minutes in Vertigo the drone achieves a warmer quality with which the band experiments. Soon enough however, it gets more menacing with a more piercing quality, with its sound expanded by sound effects making everything appear hazy. That minimalistic side also closes the album, reaching a zenith, constantly evolving and expanding. More drones are thrown in Vertigo as well, originating some times from the bass with a deeper sound, or from the piano and keys in order to change up the style more radically.
Vertigo might still be minimalistic in its core, but the band does let out a more chaotic style of improvisation on a number of occasions. These bursts of chaos and energy are usually short in duration but they have an imminent effect. The start of the track features the first taste of this state of mind with the piano initiating that haze and the drums soon joining in. At other times it is the percussion that acts as the point of origin for the next outbreak, and then the piano joining in with a more rapid style and the bass with its ecstatic playing. These bursts come in circles, with all the instruments participating, coming in at the same time or asynchronously, feeling the music and space before making the next move. The final descent into that disorder is particularly impressive with strange percussive elements coming in, the bass on a more minimalistic approach and the keys sparsely contributing. The result is just intriguing, with this intoxicating explosion of sounds becoming captivating from the get go.
The amazing aspect of The Necks is how they are able to collide these two worlds. How on one end of the spectrum they can retain their minimalistic outlook and on the other come in with these more powerful, intense and unpredictable parts. At times they are able to somehow even merge those sides together. Parts in the record suddenly find all three musicians on full improv mode and at the same time the end result being amazingly minimalistic and massively expansive. Only The Necks can come up with parts like that. The way in which the percussion fills the space, the erratic rhythm along with the inclusion of bizarre percussive elements, no doubt some of them home-made, are really adding to the soundscapes of Vertigo. The variety of sounds that they are able to produce is just tremendous in the case of the percussive parts. Strange cymbal sounds coming in, the drums merging together with the sound effects at parts, or the panning of percussion through the speakers are just some of their sonic explorations in the album.
Most importantly though, it all comes down to the feeling that Vertigo transmits. The album itself starts on a more relaxed and laid back tone, with the piano though focused on a more manic vision. That diversity between the minimalistic background and the pandemonium from the piano is an intricate part of The Necks. The more welcoming side of Vertigo is still present as the album still unfolds with the first bursts of chaos and energy making an appearance quite soon. There is even a switch towards the more melodic, with a much sweeter part. The melodies of The Necks are reaching an almost celestial level, becoming smoother within the turmoil caused by the percussion and the drone growls. The manner by which two piano parts are able to co-exist, one unleashing chaos and disorder, while the other brings in melody and harmony is absolutely stunning. A similar variation is found halfway in Vertigo with The Necks appearing on one hand balanced, while on the other seemingly angst-ridden. The keys are somehow dissonant but also soothing, making it very difficult for the listener to settle on one emotion.
Yet, there is the case where Vertigo stays very true to its name. Parts of the album feel like they are dictated by a great instability and loss of balance, which works incredibly. That can appear with an increase in tension, as the keys come to the forefront and are pushing the boundaries with each passing note, as exhilaration rises. A lot of that process takes place at the background but that does not mean that it does not resonate through the halls ofVertigo. That drunken quality reappears in a number of occasion, throwing a veil over the music. The disorientation is absolutely thrilling, and spirals through the duration of this record.
It is a truly unique experience listening to any album by The Necks. Their works since the beginning have been filled with their distinctive approach to post-jazz. Compared to Open, Vertigo is less minimalistic and it does follow down a more cinematic path. However the dreamlike sceneries are still present, with the smoky appearance of the band lucid and at the same time obscure. Vertigo is dominated by this paradox. Minimalistic but also expansive, with a strong dose of melancholy, but also filled with energy. It is up to the listener to seek and find all the information that The Necks store in their music.
9.5 / 10
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