The Necks – Live at Café Oto, Monday 7th November

I had the pleasure of seeing The Necks live in concert last Monday as part of their 30th anniversary tour. For those that don’t know, the Necks are an Australian improvisational jazz trio, consisting of pianist Chris Abrahams, Bassist Lloyd Swanton and Drummer/Percussionist Tony Buck. Their sets (and sometimes albums) are entirely improvised on the spot, so the concert I saw on Monday existed only for the night. Perhaps it’s contrary to the spirit of the evening that I’m attempting to capture some of that experience for you, but if music doesn’t inspire you to think, feel and even write, then what the hell’s it for?


As pockmarked tanks rolled across middleastern deserts, with dusty skies penetrated only by columns of inky black smoke; bodies carried off planes and paraded slowly through towns; with a grinning mannequin in Number 10 and an unhinged ape at 1600 Pennsylvania avenue - it was 2005, and nothing made sense until I heard Reign in Blood, specifically, the opening cut, Angel of Death. With it's angular artwork and essential parental advisory sticker, I'd rushed home clutching one of the many CD rereleases to play it loud. Hearing for the first time the opening bars of Angel of Death may be one of the few genuinely transformative experiences of my life. Sleep's Dopesmoker is transcendent and shamanic, but I was prepared, Pig Destroyer's Prowler in the Yard is ferocious, but that kind of ferocity has to be hardened to, slipped into like an acid bath, on first listen it simply calcifies. I didn't really know about heavy metal, and all at once as the spinning, reeling riff that opens Angel of Death, followed by the guitar squeal that transforms into Tom Araya's tortured scream, the doors of perception weren't so much opened as smashed off their hinges. More than speed, it was meteoric, more than vocals, the screams I'd only ever heard before in apocalyptic war nightmares, but it had rhythm, it had that tone that hammered it into the skull like frozen nails into a coffin's dark wood and at that moment the world, to my fifteen-year-old eyes and ears, started to make more sense. In honour of this occasion, why not dip into Andrew Liles' stunning 30 minutes of Angel of Death to celebrate 30 years since the release of the seminal Reign in Blood, like Holy McGrail's excellent Shake Appeal cover, only more likely to implode the universe.
Written under duress by Steven.

Sub basement

Sub basement.

Increasingly the objectives and processes of the established world mean that journalism, politics, and most vitally, media, no longer address the interests or concerns of ordinary people, favouring spectacle and distraction; and is functionally impotent at summoning the cure for what ails us. Still through every faceless asphalt car park the greenery of weeds eternally springs, and so it is with music, art, film, books and everything else. In Search of Space has served its purpose, and now here's a new feature also named after the first work we cover on it: Sub Basement.

It seems bizarre to say that Saint Vitus, Sleep and Kyuss allowed Sub Basement to happen when Pentagram and their generation of bands sowed the wind of the the nineties hard rock revival whirlwind but in a curious mandala, reflexive snake eating it's tail, infinite returns fashion, without those more modern pretenders, Bobby Leibling would never have been able to successfully reinvent Pentagram, and then release the original seventies recordings. I recall speaking to some bummed-out old rocker at the back of a gig, and he described to me feeling left behind by younger people, who knew more about the seventies rock and roll scene than he ever did, he'd meet people half his age who could spout forth about Blue Cheer and Black Sabbath b-sides, all because the internet had enabled us all to get fully up to date with our heritage. Pentagram may be the ur-text of this concept, largely unheard of unless you frequented late-night rock radio or dingy basement shows in Washington D.C. in the narrow period between 1971 and 1979. The only constant presence in Pentagram is a desire to push the boundaries of Sabbath's eponymous opening track as far as they will stretch without regard for traditional song structure or time signatures, and Bobby Leibling, the man-cum-soul of the group who is aged sixty but resembles a wizened bog mummy snapping it's eyes open in the middle of a twisted Sunn O))) show. Time has not been kind to the Pentagram frontman, but history definitely should.


To say David Bowie was a musician is like saying the Pacific is a bit of water. Today's tragic news, like the news last week of the passing of formerly immortal rock god Lemmy. There is always a shock around these passings, because between them it's easy to update your internal database to fit everything in, either our rock and roll stars are dead already, as it should be, or they continue to live, as it should be. Any disruption of that system reminds us that we're all going, and the only thing that should be is that we all take the trip up to the great gig in the sky. Except Keith Richards, who will wander the ash-filled wasteland looting pharmacies forever.

Written under duress by Steven.
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