FRACTURED AIR

The universe is making music all the time

Posts Tagged ‘The Necks

Guest Mixtape: B. Fleischmann

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B. Fleischmann, the longest-tenured solo artist on Berlin-based label Morr Music, returns with indie-spirited, electronica-enhanced moments of bliss on his new album “Stop Making Fans”: Recorded with a little help from friends including vocalist Gloria Amesbauer, Markus Schneider (guitars), and Valentin Duit (drums), it’s a two-part reflection on artistic self-reliance vs. fame-seeking conformism, another deeply personal, utterly idiosyncratic album by the Indietronic trailblazer.

The infectious single ‘Here Comes The A Train’ is the perfect opener with its dazzling beats and emotive vocal delivery. On the hypnotic chorus refrain, the Vienna-based producer laments  “a hundred times I’ve been told my rhymes are too old”; the lead single is a deeply poignant indie gem. Warm indie fuzz is wonderfully fused with indie tronic beats on ‘We’ve Heard The Talking Heads Talking’, creating an irresistible indie pop gem with swirls of psychedelia. ‘Stop Making Fans’ represents another fresh and dynamic sound world of innovative beats and intricately woven pop hooks. Lo-fi electronic pop odysseys lie at every turn: the sun drenched pop bliss of ‘There Is A Head’ (with crystalline guitar passages) and the glorious duet with Gloria Amesbauer (who guests on several tracks) on the pristine indietronic sphere ‘It’s Not Enough’. The album closer reveals perhaps the pinnacle of Fleischmann’s latest solo work as the timeless spirit of Neu! is beautifully etched across the sprawling krautrock canvas of ‘Endless Stunner’ (a fitting title indeed).

 

We are delighted to present to you a special guest mix compiled by B. Fleischmann, entitled ‘Glances‘:

 

B. Fleischmann – “Glances” (Fractured Air Guest Mix)

01  William Basinski – “Melancholia I” (Temporary Residence)
02  The Necks – “Blue Mountain” (Idealogic Organ)
03  Neu! – “Hallogallo” (Gronland Records)
04  Delia Gonzales – “Hidden Song” (DFA)
05  Free The Robots – “Wandering Gypsy” (Alpha Pup Records)
06  Schlammpeitziger – “What’s Fruit” (Pingipung)
07  Driftmachine – “Call Mr. Moriba” (Umor-Rex)
08  Kammerflimmer Kollektief – “Jinx” (Staubgold)
09  Restless Leg Syndrome – “Here For Good” (Duzz Down San)
10  Julia Holter – “Silhouette” (Domino)
11  You + Your D. Metal Friend – “Sonnier 6” (Alien Transistor)

‘Stop Making Fans’ is out now on Morr Music.

www.bfleischmann.com

www.morrmusic.com

Chosen One: Sophie Hutchings

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Interview with Sophie Hutchings.

“…repetition engenders a freeing effect without expectations or obligations in what you the listener feels or thinks. That’s all I ever want from music.”

—Sophie Hutchings.

Words: Mark Carry

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Sophie Hutchings is a pianist and composer from Sydney. Since 2010’s debut ‘Becalmed’ LP, the gifted Australian composer has developed her unique style of textured ambience and neo-classical bliss. Hutchings has released three instrumental works to date, ‘Becalmed’, ‘Night Sky’ and ‘White Light’, receiving fine recognition internationally for elegant and beautiful music compared to the likes of Nils Frahm, Max Richter, Peter Broderick and Dustin O’Hallloran.

Wide Asleep’ begins with a gentle pulsating drone amidst a soft whisper uttering “I think I can see.” ‘Dream Gate’ serves the fitting opening piece to Hutchings’ deeply moving and revelatory latest work: the repeated mantra heralds the vivid sense of discovery that beautifully infiltrates the human space. The achingly beautiful piano melody feels at once familiar and mysteriously unknown: a towering modern-classical exploration ascends into one’s subconscious and inner-most self. A searching quality permeates throughout the record as larger realms of sound and feeling is masterfully attained by the gifted Sydney-based composer.

The added instrumentation of opera vocal samples further heightens the blissful transcendence that shares the cosmic spirit of Alice Coltrane and Laraaji’s empowering, celestial works. The graceful, fleeting waves of harmonies and piano motifs of ‘Falling’ holds a gentle resonance upon the listener akin to the infinite ocean waves. During the final section, the slowed-down tempo of strings blends effortlessly with Hutchings’ deeply poignant piano motifs, forming one cohesive whole of stunning beauty. Towards the low sun.

One of ‘Wide Asleep’s great hallmarks is the sheer multitude of sublime moments distilled within one single piece. For example, the companion pieces of ‘Memory I’ and ‘Memory II’ unfolds a vast haven of soul-stirring rapture: the mesmeric choral harmonies of ‘Memory II’ continually build, serving the record’s life-affirming crescendo. Like a river finding its sea, the musical undercurrent of embracing patterns, warm textures of ‘Wide Asleep runs deep and ventures further into the cosmos than ever before.

‘Wide Asleep’ is out now on Preservation.

http://www.sophiehutchings.com/

https://www.facebook.com/SophieHutchingsMusic/

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Interview with Sophie Hutchings.

 

Congratulations Sophie on your formidable new body of work, ‘Wide Asleep’. Following on from your rich tapestry of recorded output, ‘Wide Asleep’ feels like the crowning jewel of your storied career thus far.  As ever, a deep musical undercurrent permeates throughout these particular recordings that drags the listener deep into the musical patterns, textures and shapes like ripples cast by the ocean. Please discuss the making of the new record – and more particularly the writing of these compositions – and indeed the particular space or moment(s) in time these piano compositions flickered into glittering life?

Sophie Hutchings: I love your beautiful description of ‘Wide Asleep’. Thank you so much. There is quite a lot of undercurrents that permeate throughout. True!

Writing for me is always a very vague and unconscious process. So, actual visible moments I find more a challenge to reflect on or recall. I usually connect with my pieces in retrospect.

Wide Asleep was a volcano waiting to happen so the writing process was a bit of a musical purge and happened quite quickly. I had a definite vision of how I wanted this album to be from beginning to end. The previous albums unfolded as I went along whereas with “Wide Asleep” I had an overall vision from the start and I worked on achieving getting to that end point. I wrote the bare bones of the pieces in a sort of hasty fashion and then basically worked on structuring the other musical layers thereafter.

The process was a little like being seasick; once the tidal wave settled, I felt a sense of reprieve. (As in I got all the piano pieces written and demoed). I then wrote out the string, vocal and soundscapes in small waves. There was a lot of melodies circulating around in my head throughout the journey of Wide Asleep. Sometimes it would be whilst in bed so I’d get up and record the melody so as not to let it slip away, which happens. Other times it was just through focused playing and composing over many cups of tea by day, red wine by night allowing itself to form.

We recorded a lot of the piano and strings live. I added the textural soundscape elements and vocal harmonies after that at one my favourite local studios (Oceanic studios). It has a very warm and homey atmosphere. One of its unique aspects is a huge window that looks out onto a typically Australian bush setting. I love that. So, I just faced upwards looking out to the scenery and practiced my vocals and we hit the record button…

The added elements of divine opera vocal samples further heighten the ambient dimension of ‘Wide Asleep”s sonic landscape. For example, the opener ‘Dream Gate’ and hypnotic pulses of ‘Falling’ contains such sublime vocal passages that meld so effortlessly with the piano instrumentation. Can you talk me through the various instrumentation you have utilized on the new record, Sophie and indeed any challenges or difficulties posed by the layering of new elements to a particular composition?

SH: I’ve always enjoyed the dreamy ethereal side of music. One that you can’t quite pinpoint yet evokes a certain feeling. I wanted to take that element a little further with the use of harmonies and implement older sounding instruments like the Harpsichord and bells. A little bit of drone. I also utilised an opera vocal sound from one of my keyboards to create a repetitive hypnotic pulse in “Falling”. I felt those sort of subtleties lifted the pieces just slightly and have them waiver or hover for a moment in time. I really liked the idea of using vocal harmonies more so as a form of instrumentation and felt it would suit the theme of the album so I wrote some voicings out on piano and worked on transposing that into my vocal harmonies.

The vocal harmonies were looming from the onset so it felt right, without them unduly taking over. They are an added essence. It’s almost a way of coming up for air before plunging into the unknown again.

I must say the closing section of ‘Falling’ in which the vocal harmony motif returns for the last time, signals one of the record’s most captivating moments…I would love for you to discuss the importance of repetition in your music, and in turn, how you ‘see’ or visualize music? I always feel that a certain gravitational pull or hold on the listener occurs through repetition inside music.

SH: I am a massive fan of repetition in music. Repetition fastens the mind into a gentle trance where you can let go and not feel affected by your surroundings or time itself. In a society where time demands so much of us, repetition engenders a freeing effect without expectations or obligations in what you the listener feels or thinks. That’s all I ever want from music.

I don’t visualise music as such. In a way with the early stages of writing, I think my mind goes into shut down mode which is why I find it difficult to remember exact moments of writing. If I do see music, it always comes in a very hazy dimension and will slowly evolve into its own likeness from there which is what happened with Wide Asleep. It started to take on a theme of its own as the album grew, evoking those intangible gateways between sleep and wakefulness.  Those moments where what actually feels real isn’t…. Perhaps sneaking in that other worldly element.

Has your compositional approach changed or altered in any way from previous records such as ‘Night Sky’ or ‘Becalmed’? ‘Wide Asleep’ was produced by yourself, solely. I am very interested in this stage of the music-making process and what transitions or developments these compositions undertook during this stage?

SH: The early concepts or ideas always seem to have a similar pattern of approach. With the previous albums, I tended to write more as I went along. Wide Asleep was determined from the beginning. The full vision was in the forefront of my mind and I trusted myself to attain that end goal. With Wide Asleep I had this inward sense of urgency…  I found that sense of urgency a challenge to contend with as the production took a little longer however you always learn and gain new experiences each time.

Collaboration is another vital part to the process, and your close friends Tim Whitten (engineer), Peter Hollo (cello) and Jay Kong (violin) bring so much to the table, as always. I just love how such a deep communication – almost innate – exists between these different voices that forms one cohesive whole of utter transcendence. Can you recount your memories of recording with these guests and the headspace you all must inhabit when these parts all come together?

SH: Having worked with Peter and Jay for a while now is a real asset. It has become very instinctive. The musical chemistry between us is something that is very easily communicated. Jay and Peter have a very sensitive approach to understanding the way I write music and make it very easy for me when we all sit down together to map out the process and contemplate their parts. Occasionally I have a weird way of putting my melodies together but they’ve become accustomed to it! I love them so much for that.

Tim being a long-standing family friend has observed my pattern of composing from a young age and has watched it grow and wholeheartedly supported my style and process. I can have a tendency to be quite timid with my approach. This time around I had tunnel vision which took Tim a while to get his head around but once he did he knew and understood where I wanted to be and we worked as a team to get there. He’s very intuitive when mixing instrumental music which I guess is why bands like The Necks continually go back to him as do I.

The euphoric crescendo of ‘Memory II’ with its gorgeous choral refrain and mesmerising piano lines serves one of many defining moments. These two compositions, ‘Memory I’ and ‘Memory II’ are obviously very significant and are the heart to part B. The sequencing of the record I feel works wonderfully and the layering and aesthetics of the two parts – A & B – creates such a moving and powerful journey.  I wonder are any of these pieces borne from old melodies you have had in the vaults, so to speak?  

SH: I always have unfinished pieces sitting in vaults! Sometimes I randomly revisit them. There’s quite a few demos waiting to be woken from their slumber sitting on hard drives…

In this case Memory I was half written and I ran into a wall with it so to speak. It didn’t move for a little while so I left it alone, then one night I sat down with it and it germinated and took off so it was either going to be one really long piece or could be consumed in two parts which I think works with the astral vocals taking over from the darkish coloured middle eastern tonality of the strings. It picks it up and sweeps it into another dream state territory though still in the same key so the journey has a connection to its former memory and goes back to that in the outro of Memory I..  It’s like a Memory that expands and travels, then gets revisited ….

Can you shed some light on the influences or inspirations you feel found their way into the ‘Wide Asleep’ sound world, Sophie?

SH: I was listening to a lot of old Gamelan music, Indian Classical Raga and Jazz which is nothing like Wide Asleep but subconsciously things can infiltrate the subconscious. It’s the way our being then formulates that expression.  Different music can still relate to each other. It can be like the sentiments of Indie Rock vs the music of Opera. They can evoke a similar feeling. Perhaps it works the same? I grew up listening to extreme polar opposites in styles of music. One side of the house was Jazz and the other Indie rock. It was a war of the worlds between my Dad and my older Brothers. From a young age though I was writing the kind of music I write now. I’m still not sure where that comes from. At times it frustrated me that I attempted changing it when I was younger but it’s something I’ve recognised comes from within me and I should enjoy embracing it. It’s just another way of me articulating without having to phrase them into words.

Lastly, I must ask you about the beautiful solo piano full-length ‘Drift’. This forms such a perfect sister companion to ‘Wide Asleep’ with its marked intimacy and ethereal quality, a magical spell is cast with each delicate piano note. It feels as if this was created in one sitting, and effectively feels like one large piece. Can you discuss these compositions and how much of a role improvisation played in the inception of ‘Drift’?

SH: These were all layered late night recordings that were half improvised / half composed.  It was a very organic relaxed unpressured approach between the walls of my lounge room using the damper pedal out of convenience but also for its tonally soft tranquil effect… It’s the sleepy sister of Wide Asleep indeed.

‘Wide Asleep’ is out now on Preservation.

http://www.sophiehutchings.com/

https://www.facebook.com/SophieHutchingsMusic/

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November 8, 2016 at 9:37 pm

First Listen: “Wide Asleep” by Sophie Hutchings

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We are delighted to present an exclusive video album teaser and track premiere from the eagerly awaited new solo full length release from Sydney-based pianist and composer Sophie Hutchings. “Wide Asleep” will be released on the Preservation label on 22nd July 2016.

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The Preservation label presents “Wide Asleep”, the third album from Sydneyʼs Sophie Hutchings, which is due for release on 22nd July 2016. “Wide Asleep” is the much-anticipated follow-up to 2012’s much-loved “Night Sky” album. Watch the official video for “Wide Asleep” below:

Listen to the Sophie Hutchings’ track “Memory I”, taken from “Wide Asleep” via Soundcloud below:

 

Sophie Hutchings is a pianist and composer from Sydney. She began teaching herself piano at an early age before any tuition, developing her unique style through countless hours of secret practice. Hutchings has released three instrumental works to date, ‘Becalmed’, ‘Night Sky’ and ‘White Light’, receiving fine recognition internationally for elegant and beautiful music compared to the likes of Nils Frahm, Max Richter, Peter Broderick and Dustin O’Hallloran.

With ‘Wide Asleep’, Hutchings has taken her compositional scope into larger realms of sound and feeling. It is her most searching work, based on ideas on consciousness between sleep and wakefulness. In her most dazzling and poignant pieces to date, Hutchingsʼ piano lines extend with both electricity and elegance, winding through strings, textured ambience and choral voices through beauty and vitality.

Reaching further with her music than ever before, Hutchings is in great company, recording Wide Asleep with Tim Whitten, best known for his nuanced and dynamic work with The Necks.

‘Wide Asleep’ will be released via Preservation on 22nd July 2016.

Pre-order the “Wide Asleep” ltd. edition boutique vinyl & CD at the links below:

 http://preservation.com.au/products/sophie-hutchings-wide-asleep
 https://preservation.bandcamp.com/

 

 

 

Written by admin

June 8, 2016 at 11:01 am

Time Has Told Me: The Necks

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“I often visualise music in terms of light. When I play with the Necks, I always play with my eyes closed. I like to face the stage lights with my eyes closed. I can sense this light through my eyelids, I can also I feel its energy. It seems a perfect analogue to the music, especially when things seem to be really building somewhere.”

—Chris Abrahams, The Necks

Words: Mark Carry

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Described by Financial Times (UK) as “absolutely riveting” and “entirely new and entirely now” by The Guardian, it’s one of life’s great fortunes to have been blessed by such an extraordinary, innovative and richly compelling band, namely Australia’s The Necks. Releasing their debut record, ‘Sex’ back in 1989, the trio of Chris Abrahams (piano), Tony Buck (drums) and Lloyd Swanton (bass) have unleashed a plethora of shape-shifting records – the other-worldly mid-90’s double-album ‘Silent Night’, the band’s string of colossal live records (including 2007’s ‘Townsville’), and the band’s latest crowning jewel of ‘Open’ containing 68 minutes of raw, intense beauty, is to just name a few – whereupon a revelatory experience lies at the pulsing heart of each artistic treasure.

The gradual music of The Necks is borne from improvisation, where a deep musical telepathy is forever forged between each member of the spell-binding trio as a sacred space is ceaselessly explored. Featuring lengthy pieces which slowly unravel in the most mesmerizing fashion, frequently underpinned by an insistent deep groove, the sixteen albums by The Necks stand up to re-listening time and time again. In short, the music of the Australian trio is utterly timeless.

I recall first hearing The Necks in my local record-store one morning in early Spring where a mesmerizing sound of piano notes, drums and hypnotic bass-line flooded the surrounding space. In a short period of time – moments after the stylus hit this unknown (and deeply mysterious) vinyl – returning motifs of piano patterns forged an imprint on the forefront of my mind. Like ocean waves, the crescendo of piano notes formed ripples in the sea.

With each and every subsequent release of The Necks, this magical sense of discovery and awe has always remained.  An intense beauty, tenderness, solace, hope, pain, and longing is carved out on a canvas of enlightening soundscapes. Not entirely avant-garde, nor minimalist, nor ambient, nor jazz, the music of The Necks defies boundaries and constantly pushes the sonic envelope.

http://www.thenecks.com/

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Interview with Chris Abrahams.

[The following are excerpts taken from an interview with Chris Abrahams, the resulting interview here is unedited from the initial interview and is reproduced here all in the words of Chris Abrahams.]

I can really only speak for myself when it comes to the Necks as I think we each have differing opinions as to what the whole thing means. For me, the idea that best describes the Necks’ music and approach to being a band is pretty simple: one thing leads to another.

I met Tony when I was sixteen, at a jam session in the suburb where we both grew up. I met Lloyd about a year later. We all three of us played together a lot, in different combinations, before we formed the Necks. What it was we wanted to do with the group, apart from playing music, was never really overtly considered. For the first ten years of its existence the band played maybe three or four shows a year. Nevertheless, it was incredibly important to us.

The reasons I played music are embedded quite far back in my childhood. My father was very passionate about Jazz – Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman especially. He’d spent time, in the late forties, in the USA and I think the music brought back to him powerful memories of his time there. One pianist whose records he played a lot was Jimmy Yancey. There’s a bar in Berlin called Miss Hecker and they often put Jimmy Yancey on the sound system. The music is very evocative of childhood memories. I remember being about seven and trying to play a simplified version of Five O’clock Blues on the piano.

My teenage years were fairly unexceptional in terms of what I listened to – the Beatles, Frank Zappa, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Hendrix. I tried to play bass guitar in a rock band I formed with some school friends. I had an upright piano in my bedroom,which I played regularly and on which I tried to write songs. The reason why I became a musician as a career choice came about through listening to modern jazz records, which began when I was sixteen or so.

Up until my early twenties, Afro-American modern jazz, mainly from the sixties, was chiefly what I listened to and tried to emulate – particularly the piano players Mal Waldron and McCoy Tyner.

As a young person, apart from African-American modern jazz, I listened to rock music. I think John Cale was quite an influence on my piano playing, particularly in the Velvet Underground. I was a big fan of the Modern Lovers and Nico albums he produced as well. I also listened to a lot of African music –Fela Kuti, Tabu Ley, King Sunny Ade, Salif Keita. Reggae was also big thing – Lee Perry, Gregory Isaacs, Bob Marley, Yellowman, King Tubby. In fact, Tony and I spent an extraordinary week in Jamaica in 1987 where we met Gregory Isaacs and got to see Yellowman and Pinchers performing live at a drive in cinema in downtown Kingston. I also listened to a lot of soul music and played Hammond organ in a soul group led by the great Jackie Orszaczky. I listened to classical music; the Beethoven Sonata cycle played by Alfred Brendel was much listened to as was Pascal Devoyon playing Ravel; John Ogden and Brenda Lucas playing “Visions of the Amen” by Messiaen was also on high rotation.

In my early twenties I became involved with an Indie record label, Hot Records, in Sydney. Through this association I got to meet and play with many young musicians that were in bands. I ended up playing on Laughing Clowns’, Triffids’ and Peter Walsh albums. I lived in Newtown, an inner city suburb which at the time was a bit of a music area and I consequently socialized and played on quite a few other records – records by Crow, Big Heavy Stuff and Love Me amongst others. I also wrote songs with a singer called Melanie Oxley.

I was also involved in the improvised music scene in Sydney. Although not huge in number, there are some incredible improvisers in Australia. In the eighties I played with such people as Jim Denley, Rick Rue, Sherre Deleys, Jamie Fielding and Amanda Stewart. I had the honour of guesting with such groups as Mind Body Split and Machine for Making Sense. There was also the towering figure of Jon Rose, who was very active in the early eighties in Sydney before relocating, for a number of years, to Europe.

Another musician who had a big influence on me was a saxophonist called Mark Simmonds with whom I played in the group, The Freeboppers.

The form of jazz soloing whereby a melody is played and then various soloists display dexterity by improvising over a set of harmonic changes was something I lost interest more or less by my early twenties, possibly because I wasn’t very good at it. I began to think of music not as a display of individual brilliance. I began to see music’s ability to express things more profound than cleverness or hard work.I began, in fact, to see it as something beyond individual expression. Through the Necks I realised that I could be both performer of and listener to the music that we made – and that was an exciting discovery. Maybe we all made that discovery together when we first started playing in the group.

 

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Our approach to making music is not very intellectual. I think its true to say we just play. We’ve been doing it now for thirty years and what we are as a group is a result of us having played together for so long. We’ve developed an identity, a way of doing things, and when we play, a certain music happens.

When we perform live, we never look at each other. Nor do we discuss beforehand what we’re going to play. Some people find this strange, but to me it feels perfectly natural. Our music can’t rely on rehearsal or signals from a bandleader – it has to rely solely on the playing of music, without a preordained teleology. That’s not to say are music lacks direction – far from it. I think there’s a compelling teleology, it’s just that this seems to be there innately. Scores, words or signals would be distracting from our goal.

I think our music requires stamina and relaxation to make. I love the feel of playing the piano, the sense of my fingers pressing down on the keys. I find this to be expressive in itself. In the early days sometimes I’d find myself barely hanging on and struggling with fatigue. Nowadays that doesn’t happen so much. I like sitting very still when I play, I like the sense of focus and relaxation. I like to think that the things I do in the Necks I could do for hours and hours.

I don’t like to think about where I’m going during a performance. I don’t want people to listen to me making decisions. I often find myself carried along in the excitement of the music – its crescendo, it’s ebb and flow – as if I were part of the audience. Sometimes I don’t know what it is I’m playing; there might be a strange melody I hear and I think it’s me playing it. I stop and it keeps going. Sometimes, through the combination of a strange instrument and weird acoustics, I have heard the piano speak words. The same sonic hallucinations that audience members have told us they’ve heard during a performance, we too have heard.

The Necks are site specific. We play and when we gradually start to interact with the acoustic environment, we begin to intuitively shape the music. Every space is different, every instrument is different, and every PA is different. Our music uses these things as structure defining elements.

I often visualise music in terms of light. When I play with the Necks, I always play with my eyes closed. I like to face the stage lights with my eyes closed. I can sense this light through my eyelids, I can also I feel its energy. It seems a perfect analogue to the music, especially when things seem to be really building somewhere.

 

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I think there’s a narrative dimension to what we do. Seemingly, we are repeating small actions over and over – actions that can be melodic, rhythmical and textural –and this has the effect of being mesmerizing. But these units are all slightly different, largely because they are physically played, and thus, over time, the music changes. A Necks’ piece is normally about fifty minutes long and, by allowing one thing to lead to another, where we end up can be vastly different from where we started. Some sort of abstract narrative is told. I am gripped by the hypnotic sameness of the “repetition” and am being pulled along a slowly but profoundly shifting musical terrain.

I try to express emotion through my playing. I try to express the excitement of the music that I’m playing. There’s a circularity to it.

A very big change happened to my approach to the piano when I bought my first sampler – the Kurzweil K2000. Up until that time, I wouldn’t have known what the term “envelope” meant or what an “LFO” was.

Let me backtrack… I never really had a very good piano when I was young. Neither of my parents was a practising musician. However like many parents, they wanted to give myself and my sister the opportunity of having piano tuition, probably expecting it to be a passing phase after which the behemoth would sit largely unplayed in a corner of the house – a sentimental memento of our childhoods. The instrument I got to learn on was a sixty-year-old Richard Lipp and Son upright – an old warhorse that couldn’t be tuned within a semitone of A440. (In its day it would have been a beautiful instrument) It had an inbuilt chorus effect, which no piano tuner was able to tame. (I discovered that by threading a necktie through the strings, the piano sounded more in tune.)I was in no way a child prodigy and by the age of eleven I had in fact given up on formal lessons. But the piano ended up in my bedroom, so I played it. I think possibly the out of tune-ness of the instrument may have pointed me in the direction of a more textural approach to piano playing, without me actually knowing it.

 

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Let me backtrack even further… I can remember the first time I ever played a piano. I would have been about five years old and we, my family, were visiting another family. They had this strange-looking wardrobe thing in one of the rooms. My sister and I lifted the lid on the keys and began to play with them, with me down one end and her at the other. I remember being amazed that the action of pressing a key down could produce such a loud sound. I recall us both being enthralled by the high notes and low notes. With its simple exploration of lightness and darkness, I’ve often thought there was something about that initial meeting with the piano that’s stayed with me.

When I got into sampling and synthesisers, I found that I had a whole lot of new words and concepts that could be applied to the various sound elements I explored on the piano; I could, for instance, understand the sustain pedal as a form of reverb; I saw the una corda pedal as a form of EQ; I saw that these pedals could be used in such a way so as to produce a Low Frequency Modulation effect; by rapid striking of a single string, I could overload its vibration and cause a distortion effect; and I became aware that as the string struggles towards stasis, the pitch produced gets higher with the concomitant frequency increase. All these ideas were directly a result of my self-guided explorations into the physics of sound production that the sampler opened up for me.

I made two solo piano records in the mid eighties and then didn’t make another one till “Glow” in 2003. My approach to Glow was one of developing pieces over a period of time, booking a studio and then doing take after take of each piece until I got something I liked. My next solo album “Streaming” had different approach. I chose to work with performance techniques that eschewed the idea of “mistakes” or difference in the quality of performances. Here the pieces were longer. I’m quite proud of the track “Christmas Island” on Streaming. It’s a piece that involved placing my hands above the keyboard so that they readily played a tonal “mode” and moving my fingers so as to brush against the keys. Although I had control over the note range, how many of the notes would “sound” was to a large extent unknown. The piece is therefore personally expressive but very much uncontrolled, left to chance – an authorial stance I most prefer.

Since “Streaming” in 2005, I haven’t released a solo piano record. However I’ve finished four solo albums on the Room 40 label – “Thrown”, “Play Scar”, Memory Night”, and soon to be released “Fluid to The Influence”. These have elements of piano solo on them, but are much more electro acoustic in content.

The Necks are two different entities. On the one hand there is the live Necks, which is nearly always acoustic piano, acoustic bass and drums/percussion. On the other hand there’s the “studio” version of the group, which uses anything – guitars, synths, organs, samplers, field recordings, electric bass – even other musicians.

With the live Necks, we don’t really ever discuss what we are about to play. Intuitively our pieces last for around fifty minutes – this was a time frame we hit upon within months of forming the group. I have the feeling it’s a natural human length of time. I feel extremely safe on stage with the Necks, I am never nervous or stressed. Although there is a strong identity to the music we play, I don’t feel I have to consciously force myself to play that way. It’s as if it’s impossible to play any other way; impossible to do something that’s not “the Necks” – even not playing sounds like the Necks. Somehow we all know when the piece is over. I don’t know whether this is telepathy or music, I suspect it’s the latter. I think we’ve been doing this one thing for so long that we can communicate with each other through music. The fact that it’s incredibly enjoyable helps too.

 

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We all met when we were still teenagers. I met Lloyd during my brief attempt at attending the NSW Conservatorium of Music. We shared a similar sense of humour and quickly formed a group – a jazz quartet called The Benders comprising piano, bass, drums and saxophone. The group stayed together for five years and we released three albums. I think playing in this quartet was responsible for me developing technique on the piano. The drummer, Andrew Gander, taught me a lot about time and tempo. It ended in 1986.

Tony and I met while I was still at high school. It was at a jam session in the suburb we grew up in. I played in various groups in the early eighties with him. He had his own group, Sketches, that I played in and he sometimes played with the Benders.

There was also a musical collective called “The Keys Music Association” which organised concerts and festivals. All three of us were a part of this and played in various groupings. I guess, like in most scenes, in Sydney everybody played with everybody else.

In 1986, some months after the Benders finished, Lloyd rang me with the idea of forming a trio. We both thought of Tony. We began “rehearsing” in a room in the compounds of Sydney University and straightaway hit upon something that felt new to us. We actually had no intention of rushing into playing gigs – in fact we enjoyed the idea of performing stress free in front of no audience, well away from the “industry” of music making. We wanted to free ourselves from the desire to play music that we thought people would be impressed by.

Previously I had toyed with the idea of playing music where there was no “soloing” as such; where the ambience remained static and non dynamic. The early Necks’ sessions took these ideas to a far more meditative stage. I felt a relaxation hitherto unexperienced; a contentment in letting things unfold of their own volition. Possibly this is merely the crossing over that every musician/artist has to make in order to become a mature artist – the relinquishing of the self, the using of a skill to create a third-party “thing” that’s not just the representation of individual desires. I think we all discovered this together then, whilst playing music in that room, but I can really only speak for myself.

Silent Night ranks up there with my personal favourite Necks’ recordings. I like the doom quality it exudes and it’s unrelenting feel – Lloyd’s bass playing and Tony’s drumming swing! Conceptually it was a breakthrough for us. We used samples of movie soundtracks – bits of sound design and snippets of half-heard dialog – to create an abstract narrative. It feels like there’s a film there, but what’s being projected is black. It was the album that got us the invitation to write the music for “The Boys” – an Australian film about abject male violence. For a while there our music would crop up regularly behind television reports about horrific crimes.

 

—Chris Abrahams, in conversation November 2015

 


 

http://www.thenecks.com/

 

 

 

 

Written by markcarry

November 21, 2015 at 3:23 pm

Mixtape: ‘Do Not Wait For Better Times’ [A Fractured Air Mix]

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donotwaitforbettertimes

‘Do Not Wait For Better Times’ [A Fractured Air Mix]

To listen on Mixcloud:

http://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/do-not-wait-for-better-times-a-fractured-air-mix/

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Tracklisting:

01. The Peep Show ‘Do Not Wait For Better Times’ [Tenth Planet]
02. The Moles ‘Lonely Hearts Get What They Deserve’ [Fire]
03. Craig Leon ‘Nommo’ [RVNG Intl]
04. K. Leimer ‘Lonely Boy’ [RVNG Intl]
05. Sharon Van Etten ‘Break Me’ [Jagjaguwar]
06. Emerald Web ‘Dreamspun’ [Stargate]
07. Mary Lattimore & Jeff Zeigler ‘The White Balloon’ [Thrill Jockey]
08. Amen Dunes ‘Lilac In Hand’ [Sacred Bones]
09. The Necks ‘The Boys III’ [‘The Boys’ OST / Fish Of Milk]
10. Erik K Skodvin ‘Shining, Burning’ [Sonic Pieces]
11. Hildur Guðnadóttir ‘Heyr Himnasmiður’ [Touch]
12. Ela Stiles ‘Anything’ [Fire / Bedroom Suck]
13. Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh ‘what what what’ [Diatribe]
14. Margaret Barry ‘She Moved Through the Fair’ (Long Version) [Rounder]
15. Robbie Basho ‘Leaf in the Wind’ [Gnome Life]

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The copyright in these recordings is the property of the individual artists and/or their respective record labels. If you like the music, please support the artist by buying their records.

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Fractured Air. The universe is making music all the time.

Mixcloud / Facebook / Twitter

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