Music News

Roy Montgomery

Folks who don't get the aesthetic parallels between, say, costumed (if admittedly rocking) clowns like Paul Revere and the Raiders and Slipknot, or the cultural similarities between of-their-era mainstream metalheads like Grand Funk Railroad and Korn, probably haven't seen any of those excruciating where-are-they-now? features that VH1 banks with regular success. Time is precious, to put it another way, and in the music biz these days, it runs at an accelerated pace, too. In contrast, the indie world's clock often ticks so slowly as to appear suspended in amber, and this is not necessarily a bad thing. Particularly so when it comes to singles: An indie 45 is to be clutched and cherished, spun in the immediate rush of the now, then again in the savory memory-whiff of the later, and lovingly filed for subsequent visitations. (You won't see too many indie records at the weekend swap meet.)

Celebrated Kiwi ax icon Roy Montgomery is well-known to patrons of independent music stores and publications. He's most often recognized for his long-playing CD forays into the atmosphere (including collaborations with the likes of Bardo Pond and Flying Saucer Attack), but the wax column of his discography is impressive enough to suggest the maneuverings of a diligent clone . . . or perhaps from the rarefied environs of an alternate universe in which the man's more private moments -- just guitar, effects box and four-track as companions -- render some of his most affecting and economical compositions perfectly suited to the singles format. Mind you, this is no idle speculation; the nine 45 sleeves pictured in this compilation's booklet are all elaborate commissioned portraits, photographs or sketches, each suitably artful to warrant gallery display, further indicative of Montgomery's dedication to keeping the "art" of singles-making alive.

Eight of those nine 45s (two are technically unreleased artifacts, but all have commissioned artwork) represent material Montgomery recorded while visiting from New Zealand in San Francisco and New York City in '94 and '95, respectively. The remaining one comprises a pair of sides from Montgomery's post-Pin Group combo circa '85, The Shallows. And for the most part, the focus is upon Montgomery's "pop" side, as it were; his deep, resonant vocals on equal footing with his crystalline fretwork whose low-key psychedelia and shimmery blues are deeply haunting, perfectly emotional.

The Shallows tracks have a kind of droney Celtic feel to them, the twin guitars and bass sliding into deeply rhythmic grooves. The San Francisco material seems almost optimistic in tone, celebratory, even (fellow New Zealander Bill Direen adds a nicely textured organ on a couple of tunes), while by the time Montgomery hit the Big Apple his mood apparently had turned slightly darker, on edge, perhaps, from the city's claustrophobic vibe. Generalizations, of course -- and in the end, the details are less important than the resultant impact. Montgomery is a channeler of moods and impressions, his mini-meditations and occasionally restored travelogues suggestive of a nomadic personality who imagines those moods and impressions as aural palettes from which to paint his sonic pictures. Like the 45 sleeves themselves, Montgomery's artistry is worth pausing the clock hands in order to linger and absorb. And without any arched pretension whatsoever, it's as pure an independent music experience as one could ever desire. Hmm, what an idea: VH1 could do worse than to schedule a Montgomery Storytellers episode . . .

(Drunken Fish, P.O. Box 460640, San Francisco, CA 94146)

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Fred Mills