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Published: 2002/03/20
by Jesse Jarnow

Hanging Gardens – The Necks

ReR LC-02677
At first, I thought that The Necks’ Hanging Gardens ended up in my
hands by accident. I didn’t recognize the imprint (ReR?) and the most I
could discern was that the dudes were from Australia. I don’t know much, or
anything, about Australian pop, but I figured that any band called The Necks
would probably be some kind of power-rock outfit, probably with sweet
harmonies over jagged chords. That’s what I imagined, anyway. It sat in the
pile until the day I was supposed to attend the bachelor party of a friend
of mine who was about to move to Australia. I popped it in. The stereo read
it as one hour-long track. Curious.
An almost ambient pattern lifted out of the speakers — grooving, to some
extent, with a repetitive hi-hat pattern, but most assuredly mellowed the
fuck out. Speed picked up, and soon the band in the middle of a
startless/endless swirl. The ambiance didn’t last long, though the vibe
continued, mostly through subsonic piano notes, subtle basslines, and
fleeting Rhodes parts layered with echo that melted into Hammond swells. The
band is a trio – keyboards, drums, bass – and the track that comprises
Hanging Gardens seems to be a continuous, slowly unfurling,
The approach is minimalist, to the least. There are no sudden changes, no
noises that don’t belong. It is patient music that, from time to time, can
get a little annoying. Everything changes so slowly that for an effect to
really work in this context, it has to be damn good to begin with — a sound
so resonant and right that it can withstand myriad repetitions. In general,
The Necks hold up. The textures are what is on display, and they are dark
and burbling underwater washes. A few things repeat a bit too often: an
insistent hi-hat, and a grungey Leslie effect on the Hammond. In places,
they sound like some of Medeski Martin and Wood on one their spacier, more
tonal excursions.
Somebody once proposed a definition of the avant-garde: something with no
repetition. The logic of this is that something that has no discernible
pattern is impossible to get one’s brain around. because it is impossible to
predict what will happen next. Event A might lead to event B or it could
lead to C, D, or E. In light of this, another definition could be proposed
for avant-garde: something so repetitive that there’s no way to describe it
because it has become so utterly predictable that any changes become
unpredictable. As such Hanging Gardens is jarring to listen to too
The Necks certainly are describable, though, for the most part. They aren’t
quite minimalist enough to cause any major amounts of teeth gnashing. In
fact – based on the gentle coda of alternating silence and sound that is
tacked onto the end of the piece – the band might serve themselves better by
removing even more elements from the mix. Above all, though, Hanging
Gardens retains a consistent vibe and certainly will make for some good
atmospheric listening, though perhaps not much else.

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