Roy Montgomery

And Now the Rain Sounds Like Life Is Falling Through It

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Perhaps, of all the records New Zealand guitar wizard Roy Montgomery has ever released, this is the one talked about least. Not because of its lack of quality -- it's as good as any of his other material -- but because musically it is also markedly different than his other material. While the swirl and weave of layered and knotted guitars is everywhere -- it's the man's trademark after all -- so are a number of vocal tracks that express sorrow, grief, survival, and transcendence; these are the first vocal tracks Montgomery has issued on a solo record. Also featured here are sparse, haunting piano tracks such as "No, She Never Made It to Japan," which opens the album, and "The Opportunity Passed Us By in Less Than a Minute," as well as open echo effects not hidden by other sounds. There are also more straight "rock" runes on this recording, such as "Down From That Hill and Up to the Pond," where multiple layers of guitars go striding through intricate chord progressions and engage a tape looped lead line and piano, which carry listeners deep into the track and never allow them the courtesy of leaving by a back door. Percussion, as well as found and natural sounds, is employed in the creation of other sound sculptures like the title track. Montgomery's vocals are put to improvisational effect on "Kafka Was Right." Here, his deep, plaintive tone makes sounds like a Jew's harp, while another, higher-pitched voice basically weeps throughout the song as a textural backdrop. Guitars and keyboards make the effect more tenuous; they sound as organic as bells and whistles as they flit through the mix like life fleeting before the eyes of a condemned man. The track "A Little Soundtrack for Epic," for the late Epic Soundtracks, is another grief song, albeit an unconventional one. Progressions of guitar lines enter after a solid backdrop of feedback has been established. The tension between the sweet dark melody line, a drone, and the noise is excruciating but exquisite. The final two tracks, beginning with "Ill at Home," offer views of how wide the experimental streak on Montgomery's back is. Here hushed, indecipherable vocals are sifted through a mix of distorted pianos and guitars at a snail's pace for over 12 minutes, only to have the entire thing completely turn inside out for the two and a half minutes of "In Another Time," which closes the set; simple open-tuned chords are played through one another in a collage that is airy and light as a summer breeze. It shifts the feelings of alienation, grief, and resignation into a space where hope itself is once again possible.

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