Back when this was released – a double album from The Necks arriving early 2017 I was so excited I blogged in anticipation and then forgot to actually review the album. It happens. And yes, I know there’s already another new (brand new!) Necks album – and ahead of that I was already working back through everything in the catalogue anyway. So I wanted to put some thoughts down about this – before taking on the new album (which might be one of their very best).
Unfold is an album based around a concept – the concept is around the delivery: a double album – four individual tracks, one piece of side-long music for each half of each record, and though the pieces are named (Rise, Overhear, Blue Mountain, Timepiece) they are not labelled, so you can create whatever experience you like, pick different sides for different times, have an hour long album-experience, a 30-minute one or a 15-minute, hear the album different ways each time…
But if you’re on the files rather than vinyl it does line them up in the order I listed them above, so we’ll talk about the tracks as they appear:
Rise at 15:34 is the shortest track on this double-sprawl. Classic tinkering from The Necks, the delicate drops of piano interrupted by scattershot free percussion and deep growls from bowed bass, a shimmering synth line hovering over. The intensity builds so that Tony Buck’s arms start to develop the pulse of the piece – as a snapshot it’s classic Necks, or at the least a version of; Chris Abrahams’ piano stretching out to fill the spaces but still leaving plenty of space in return. Lloyd Swanton probing and pushing and pulling and finding the corners of the tune always.
Overhear starts with percussion being the dominant force again – electric keyboard sounds almost “prog” as it searches out new space over the shakers and cymbals. Swirls and whirls of keyboard become the dominant sound – it’s cacophony, nearly chaotic and it’s just over 16 minutes before we reach our destination. Which is the next track I guess, whichever way you look at it…
Blue Mountain is a shade under 21 minutes and the most contemplative piece here, a press-roll on the snare sits under the keys and grumbling bass. The drums roll and crash but are – purposely – buried; like an underwater Elvin Jones, as electric keys give way to acoustic piano. The swell of this tune is ominous – moving from quietest to loudest.
Timepiece is just under 22 minutes and it begins mid-tune, nocturnal, crepuscular at the least, the drumming is exploratory, the thrum of bass is what carries this piece.
I get the feeling with Unfold – and I do like it, a lot – that these pieces were put together over time, built from the parts of leftovers, created to fit the concept of double-album grab-bag. A pick-a-path record.
As with The Necks’ other vinyl excursion (the single-LP, Mindset) it’s less about the finished piece, more about the conception, the creation, the mood and myth combining.
And that’s just fine.
There are better Necks records – and for me it’s always about their single-track albums, from 1989’s Sex through to this year’s phenomenal Body.
But I like these deviations along the way too.
Which is why I thought, finally, to write about this album also.
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