Thursday, October 15, 2009
Bill Evans and Terry Riley. It was most definitely based in the "jazz" idiom, but the lengths of the songs and the ability of the group to make its music drone made them one of a kind. Things changed by 1999 w/ Hanging Gardens. The band brought in more and more electronics to the mix, near "rock" beats to give it a pulse and things got a whole lot more "cosmic". In essence they got better. And better. The studio albums released since then: Aether, Drive-By, Mosquito/See Through and 2006's The Chemist - not mentioning the also-fantastic live albums - have been some of the greatest continuous run of releases by any recent and/or contemporary band I can think of. Lately I've become yet again re-obsessed w/ Pharoah Sanders' and Don Cherry's work from the mid '60s to the mid '70s, and I sit in awe of album upon album of greatness: Tauhid/Karma/Deaf, Dumb & Blind/Jewels Of Thought/ Black Unity/Thembi/Village Of The Pharoahs/Wisdom Through Music/Live At The East/Elevation, etc. And Cherry? Start w/ the Blue Note LPs, head on through the BYG albums, the Penderecki collaboration, the mindblowing psychedelic ethno-epics he recorded and released in Sweden and finish it up w/ Brown Rice from '75 (or the Codona LPs on ECM). The point? That's a whole lot of great music, a body of work to sink yer teeth into, and The Necks are in the same basket. Always moving forward, following their own muse and never repeating themselves. Silverwater is one 67-minute track. Unlike Aether or Drive-By or Hanging Gardens, it doesn't simply follow the same motif throughout, but twists and turns, giving you a bit of everything. In essence, it sounds like 5 different songs tacked onto each other, though it's undoubtedly one epic opus and not a pastiche of smaller ideas. The band still sound like an uncategorizable combination of Bitches Brew, Can and Steve Reich, and its their unique synthesis of these sounds which makes them so special. Think Pharoah 'n' Don ca. '65-'75, or Miles ca. '69-'75: great musical leaps into the abyss, great chunks of documented sound which still sound brilliant 30-40 years later. If you heard Jewels Of Thought or Orient or Big Fun on their own, you might be scrabbling for context, wondering what the music is trying to do: also a whole lot of fun. Throw them in w/ the dozen surrounding records and it makes perfect sense. The Necks sound a little like all of the above themselves, and similarly their albums work perfectly - one after the other - as if they're part of a bigger picture. 30-40 years time you'll be saying the same thing: what a body of work.