Australian instrumental trio The Necks made their first NY appearance in six years tonight, playing an hour-long set to a half-full - but thoroughly satisfied - Le Poisson Rouge. From what I've read, these guys are new music stars in their home country, with more than a dozen albums to their credit. They started with shimmering, Terry Riley textures using bells and brushes. Then, a slow build to somewhere between jazz and trance. At peak intensity, it was like the beehive swarm of a Michael Gordon score, with Swanton sawing his bow till his face was contorted in pain. They shifted to 4/4, and suddenly we were in rock mode, driven home by the dramatic stage lights. I felt myself rocking in my chair to the orgiastic wall of sound.
All three musicians are masters at their instruments. Drummer Tony Buck was incredibly precise, tapping out complex rhythms on his high hat and snare. Lloyd Swanton's bass groaned and snarled like a didgeridoo. And pianist Chris Abrahams plucked out complex, repeating chords and lightning trills without breaking a sweat. Were it not for the lack of charts, I never would have believed it was improvised. (More pics below.)