Record Reviews


Four years on from their ARIA Award-winning 13th album Chemist*, the nation’s most beloved exploratory jazz trio return with the austere *Silverwater. Named for a bleak, industrial Sydney suburb best known for its correctional facility, the record consists of a single hour-plus track that finds Chris Abrahams, Lloyd Swanton and Tony Buck in a very dark place indeed. As is fairly standard for the group, they start things out softly, with glimmering analogue keyboards that evoke the sci-fi ambience of Klaus Schulze’s solo works.

From there, they proceed to subtly amp up the volume and intensity of the piece, led by Buck’s fluid percussion. About a quarter of the way in, his bandmates step back, allowing him to set up the track’s next section with a succession of circular fills, followed by Swanton’s slowly evolving double bass line. This provides Abrahams with the impetus for Silverwater*?s most deliberately melodic movement, as he echoes Swanton’s bass with admirable (yet not atypical) self-control. This is allowed to run its natural course for another 15 or so minutes, before being drawn (gently, of course) towards a more traditionally-structured jazz motif. Buck’s increased confidence and ability as a guitarist (as showcased on his 2008 solo album *[Project Transmit](/releases/2000199)) shines through here, as he augments Abrahams? understated playing with a few carefully-chosen and gently-bent notes.

Silverwater then glides back towards the near-empty space where it began, once again echoing early-?70s post-krautrock ambience. Buck’s muted electric guitar brings some structure to the drift, leading into the album’s final coda of piano, bass and gently-tapped cymbals.

There’s an overall mood of passiveness to Silverwater* that stands in direct contrast to the more aggressive *Chemist*. This is The Necks at their most reflective, utilising their key tools of minimalism and repetition to create a gently trance-inducing piece of music. Though occasional bursts of intensity serve to stave off monotony, *Silverwater remains a largely subdued affair. That it’s so utterly engaging, and so amenable to repeat listens is testament to the undeniable skill of the musicians involved.