More breathtakingly gorgeous gear from Roy Montgomery, "Camera Melancholia" is a sad but hopeful dedication to the New Zealand legend's long-term partner, who died in 2021. Partly made up of Montgomery's customary shimmering guitar material and partly an elegiac, organ-led ode to the afterlife, it's music that deals with loss in a surprisingly unique manner.
Albums about loss are as inevitable as death itself, and Roy Montgomery's funereal excursion is one of the more complex meditations on the subject we've heard in ages. Not sad exactly, it sounds as wistful and beautiful as much of his catalogue, struck through with a hesitation or pause that's undeniably considerate. The album is inspired by and dedicated to Kerry McCarthy, who was Montgomery's partner for two decades, and a professional curator.
Split into two distinct musical parts, the first LP is more familiar and exercises Montgomery's expected reverberating guitar clouds - somewhere between Popol Vuh and Slowdive. Each track is named after an event in the couple's life, and Montgomery appears to pick over their time together with limitless compassion, not wallowing grief. 'A Series of Images From Your Youth' isn't curdled nostalgia, it's memories inflected with deep emotions that can't be unhooked from their intentions.
Similarly, 'Courtship Caught Fleetingly' captures a moment of distant interaction that's familiar but not solemn. It feels like a sequence of happy memories rather than a dour lament, a display of bright hope rather than bleak sadness. And the album's second half - the six-part "Aura of the Afterlife" - might seem more funereal stylistically, but even this is twinged with the happiness you can only comprehend from experiencing love. Montgomery ditches the guitar for organ, but spikes the overwhelming ecclesiastical mood with cosmic uncertainty, offering peace and gratitude but leaving room for interpretation.
He begins with almost clean tones, forcing the listener to situate themselves in a vast cathedral before allowing the sounds to lift us into the heavens. By the third part, the organ has morphed into woozy electronic tones, echoing the same organ sounds but nudging into Edgar Froese territory, and by the fourth, subtle Indian elements - a sustained harmonium-like drone and sitar-esque plucks - consider a different kind of afterlife. When we reach the blurry finale, Montgomery is back on familiar terrain, nodding to early Popol Vuh with smudged, tremolo-heavy organ wobbles that transport us from the church to the forest. It's a holistic view of an afterlife that's completely in line with Montgomery's musical philosophy, and it's as touching as any memorial albums we've ever heard.
A stunning, beautiful album.