THE NECKS Drive By (ReR)

The Necks are an Australian keyboards/bass/percussion trio, and this, their eighth album, consists of just one 60 minute title track. If that immediately sounds terrifying, rest assured that “Drive By” is a far less stamina sapping experience than other hour-plus pieces such as Brian Eno’s “Neroli”. This is haunting, cyclical music that sounds a lot like Tortoise used to, in their long-gone prime, but also infused by the pulsing likes of Philip Glass, Michael Nyman or Cliff Martinez’s score for Steven Soderbergh’s astonishing remake of “Solaris”. It displays an obvious debt to Eno’s pioneering ambient experiments, of course, but also a less obvious one to Talk Talk’s kaleidoscopic classicism.

This is improvised music where every note seems to be selected and applied with care and forethought. That might make it sound detached and theoretical, yet there’s a Godspeed You Black Emperor! kind of desolation at its centre, a band with whom The Necks share an interest in found sound, using birdsong, children at play and passing trains. Their playing is so fluid that the tempo and rhythm of the piece can turn around on a bass line. This is living, breathing, amorphous music that evolves and shape-shifts sinuously before your very ears. There are no grandstanding solos, but everybody contributes, whether via the organised, restrained percussive clatter or the melancholy keyboard icing. Favoured themes percolate back to the surface of the soup on numerous occasions, like choruses tying the piece together along its mammoth duration. During the closing minutes it morphs into a disciplined cacophony of contradictory time signatures and melodies, yet still hangs perfectly together. A tiny triumph it might be, but for the attentive, open listener “Drive By” is a galaxy of delights.