THE NECKS are one of the great cult bands of Australia.
Chris Abrahams (piano), Tony Buck (drums), and Lloyd Swanton (bass) conjure a chemistry together that defies description in orthodox terms.
Featuring lengthy pieces which slowly unravel in the most mesmerising fashion, frequently underpinned by an insistent deep groove, the eighteen albums by The Necks stand up to re-listening time and time again.
The deceptive simplicity of their music throws forth new charms on each hearing. Not entirely avant-garde, nor minimalist, nor ambient, nor jazz, the music of The Necks is possibly unique in the world today.
Chris was born in Oamaru, New Zealand but grew up in Sydney, Australia.
He became very active in the Sydney jazz scene in the early eighties playing with modern jazz groups including Mark Simmonds’ Freeboppers and The Keys Music Orchestra. With Lloyd Swanton he formed the 60’s modern jazz-influenced The Benders in 1982. During its day, the band released three albums – E, False Laughter and Distance.
In 1984 Chris recorded and released his first solo piano album – Piano, followed in 1986 by Walk.
In 1985 Chris became a founding member of the Sydney indie rock band The Sparklers. As a result of this, Chris began working regularly with the singer and songwriter Melanie Oxley. Chris collaborated with Melanie, writing songs and producing albums, throughout the nineties. There are five releases with her: Resisting Calm (1990), Welcome to Violet (1992), Coal (1994), Jerusalem Bay (1998) and Blood Oranges (2003).
Chris released a third solo piano album, Glow, in 2001. This was followed in 2003 by Streaming, and then Thrown (2004), Play Scar (2010) and Memory Night (2013).
Chris has collaborated, in both recording and performance, with many contemporary improvising musicians including Burkhard Beins, Mike Cooper and Anthony Pateras. He performs regularly in the improvising music scenes both in Australia and Europe.
Born in Sydney in 1962, Tony is regarded as one of Australia’s most creative and adventurous exports, with vast experience across the globe. He has been involved in a highly diverse array of projects. Apart from The Necks, he is probably best known as leader of hardcore/impro band PERIL.
Early in his musical life, after having graduated from the New South Wales Conservatorium of Music, he became very involved in the jazz scene in Australia, often touring with visiting international artists such as Vincent Herring, Clifford Jordan, Mickey Tucker, Branford Marsalis and Ernie Watts, as well as Australians Mark Simmonds, Paul Grabowsky, The catholics, Sandy Evans and Dale Barlow.
Following time spent in Japan, where he formed PERIL with Otomo Yoshihide and Kato Hideki, Tony moved to Europe, and has involved himself in many projects there, including the development of new “virtual” MIDI controllers at STEIM in Amsterdam.
Tony has played, toured or recorded with, among others, Jon Rose, Nicolas Collins, Tenko, John Zorn, Tom Cora, Phil Minton, Haino, Switchbox, The Machine for Making Sense, Ne Zhdall, The EX, Peter Brotzmann, Hans Reichel, The Little Red Spiders, Subrito Roy Chowdury, Clifford Jordan, Kletka Red, Han Bennink, Shelley Hirsch, Wayne Horvitz, Palinckx, and Ground Zero.
Described by Billboard Magazine as “an outstanding and imaginative Australian bassist and composer”, Lloyd Swanton was born into a large and musical family in Sydney in 1960.
His long-running group, The catholics, has released eight albums, all produced and predominantly composed by him, with three receiving ARIA Award nominations. Their album Simple was nominated for the German Deutsche Schallplattenkritik Award.
His 12-part suite Ambon, drawing from his uncle Stuart’s secret diary kept whilst a prisoner of war in World War II, had its premiere in 2015, and is now released as a double CD.
Overseas exposure in nearly 40 countries with numerous groups includes countless performances throughout Europe, Canada, the USA, Mexico, India, Cuba, New Zealand, Taiwan, South Korea, Russia, Indonesia, Thailand and Japan.
For fourteen years, Lloyd Swanton hosted Mixed Marriage, a very popular radio program which examined crossings of jazz with other musical styles, on Eastside Radio in Sydney.
In his spare time, Lloyd is an avid follower of Australian Football, and a keen collector of Australian Aboriginal art, ice crushers, modernist ceramics, and books on Fellini. He is also gathering historical information on his distant ancestor Theodore Deck, a leading name in 19th Century French ceramics.
“Absolutely riveting…how three musicians can sound like eighteen is a mystery… extraordinary magical sounds emerged from the ensemble…the way The Necks do this with acoustic instruments is nothing short of miraculous” FINANCIAL TIMES (UK)
“At around the 100-year point in jazz’s evolution, conjuring new spirits out of old spells is a difficult mojo to work. But people are doing it – a case in point is The Necks” JAZZ TIMES (USA)
“I think the new music I would find it hardest to do without, fifty years after Kind of Blue, is that produced by The Necks… A piano trio, but not like any other piano trio you have heard… There is a great deal of joy in The Necks’ music, and it is the more rewarding for being hard-won… Kind of Blue’s legacy is apparent in the ease with which The Necks exploit the spaces that were opened up for them all those years ago: spaces in harmony, rhythm and melody, but also spaces in the mind” RICHARD WILLIAMS – THE BLUE MOMENT: MILES DAVIS’ KIND OF BLUE AND THE REMAKING OF MODERN MUSIC
“…Entirely new and entirely now…They produce a post-jazz, post-rock, post-everything sonic experience that has few parallels or rivals. They may teach us to listen in a new way, but they communicate a fierce energy and warmth at the same time. Their music is a thrilling, emotional journey into the unknown. Like seeing a world in a grain of sand, The Necks permit us to hear a whole new world of music in a sliver of sound” THE GUARDIAN (UK)
(Pure Scenius) “This was selfless art, with the participants always servants of the musical thread… Australia’s inventors of acoustic, jazz-inflected minimalism, The Necks. Beforehand there seemed a danger of the Necks’ unique and complete conception being ravaged by any interlopers. But Eno was astute enough to suggest musical contexts in which The Necks could do what they do – and arguably be the music’s linchpin – while being embellished with flawless empathy” SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
“One of the greatest bands in the world” NEW YORK TIMES
“(The Necks) draw your attention to the music instead of the means: you never get the idea that they’re playing for an hour to prove that they can do it, or to showcase a glut of ideas, but simply to give you the pleasure of focusing on music in extreme detail” PITCHFORK
“It is a fairly safe bet to say that no other group in the world sounds quite like The Necks…extraordinary empathy and discipline” THE TIMES (UK)
“Over and over I was caught up in the constant repetition of tonal figures, found myself focussing on the tiniest alterations, without noticing that I had been surrounded by a completely new motif… Like a pearl necklace, threaded together piece by piece, only becoming a piece of jewelry when the end of the string is reached” WESER KURIER (BREMEN, GERMANY)
“Tonal, accessible, and yet profoundly challenging… The Necks are singular… Yielding things no one else does” THE WIRE
“The three have developed their own unique, unmistakable language. The Necks are, above all, masters of dynamics. One only ever really understands the changes in hindsight” NEUR ZURCHER ZEITUNG (ZURICH, SWITZERLAND)
“A performance by The Necks is a kind of religious experience” THE AUSTRALIAN
“Ecstacy in slow motion… magically euphoric… The Necks’ appearance was less a traditional concert than a fascinating opportunity to participate in the pulsating genesis of organic tones and sounds” WESER KURIER (BREMEN, GERMANY)
“The Necks slow the world down… A unique musical experience” BIRMINGHAM POST (UK)
“As ever The Necks have been a remarkable sound-bathing experience, a contemporary jazz band from a Tibetan monastery that’s not jazz, really, and not from Tibet either. It is what it is and, I suspect, mostly what you are yourself. Spooky.” – VENUE, (UK), BRISTOL CONCERT REVIEW
“Like a vast sound-mass suspended in vibrating, seething stillness, its colour and luminosity changing slowly” – TELEGRAPH, (UK), FIVE STAR REVIEW OF LONDON CONCERT
“The way that The Necks build a piece – bit by bit – and then deconstruct it in a live setting, is something I urge everyone to experience if they get the chance. It’s unexplainable, it’s unclassifiable and it’s unattainable unless you’re them. Tony, Lloyd and Chris; there are no words” – LOST AT E MINOR, REVIEW OF NEWCASTLE (AUSTRALIA) CONCERT.
“After more than 20 years of playing together, the Necks have honed their art to the point where their concerts are like collective meditations, executed with a Zen-like discipline that paradoxically engenders an extraordinary amount of freedom.” – THE AGE, FOUR STAR REVIEW OF MELBOURNE CONCERT
“Anyone of a mind to study the mysterious methods of the cult Australian all-improv trio The Necks would need to adopt a football manager’s approach – poring over hours of video to work out how pianist Chris Abrahams, bassist Lloyd Swanton, and drummer Tony Buck keep on unpredictably passing the ball and finding each other in space. Their unpremeditated art has a remarkably inclusive appeal ” – THE GUARDIAN, (UK), FOUR STAR REVIEW OF LONDON CONCERT
“The music developing from here in ever widening ripples, shuttling complexities, generating a trance-like energy that had me on the edge of my seat and all my nerves tingling. The Necks held us, for that 45 or 50 minutes, as they journeyed out on their wayward, crisscrossing tracks, finding their way back finally to the point of departure. What a privilege to be there in those moments when something new and unrepeatable is being created.” – HILAIRE BLOG
“Critics either have a field day, or a hard time categorising their music….Perhaps the ultimate accolade is that no other band has attempted to emulate their sound – where would they even know to begin?” – TANK MAGAZINE (UK)
“On this night, one of the first in the new Roulette, ghost sounds engaged in a call and response, channelled by the band through the three innocent instruments (piano, bass, and drums) that acted as their mediums. ” – WFMU (NEW JERSEY) REVIEW OF NEW YORK CONCERT
“The Necks are less a band than they are some gateway to another universe. I’ve seen them probably half a dozen times and each time they leave me feeling slightly exhausted and disorientated. Maybe a bit like Yuri Gagarin felt on touchdown. I’ve tried writing about them before and failed miserably, so I won’t attempt it again, other than to say they were f**king wonderful.” – HOW MUCH IS THE FISH? BLOG, REVIEW OF CONCERT AT HOLYWELL MUSIC ROOM, OXFORD
“I love the space you all capture to carry us through time” – A FAN
“No other performing unit can reach into a remotely similar sonic area…almost as if their music is disembodied from conventional human touch, arriving from some unknown abstract source” – NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD
“A magic act masquerading as a piano trio, this Australian group delivers long-form improvisations that shift with such patient beauty that it casts a bit of a trance. You’ll seldom spend an hour that passes so quickly — and rewardingly.” – LOS ANGELES TIMES
“To the often spiky disciplines of minimalism, systems music and free improvisation, this remarkable trio bring a satisfying sense of long-form development… Ascetic in outline, but suffused with a warm humanity, their pieces are studded with minor epiphanies on the way to a larger sense of emotional fulfilment.” – RICHARD WILLIAMS, THE GUARDIAN
“(The Necks) are sometimes categorised as a jazz trio – which is fine as long as this is immediately qualified by adding that they’ve completely re-conceived the idea of the jazz trio” – GEOFF DYER, WORKING THE ROOM