Boomkat Product Review:
Expanded reissue of New Zealand guitar pioneer Roy Montgomery’s rare and revered full-length debut, Scenes From The South Island, originally released in 1995 by West Coast experimental / space rock label Drunken Fish, now reissued on on Liz Harris's Yellow Electric label. Recorded on both coasts on a pair of Tascam 4-tracks, the album is alternately wistful, windswept, skeletal, shredded, and strange. Massive RIYl MBV, Loren Connors, Popol Vuh, Grouper!
Newly remastered and cut over 2 x LPs to accommodate an extra side of previously unreleased ‘Hollyford Valley Day’ pieces, Montgomery’s earliest release is necessarily placed back in circulation for those listeners of a certain die-hard, romantic, end-of-the-earth disposition everywhere.
A patent influence on Grouper’s signature, lower case style of droning amp worship and sculpted feedback poems, Roy Montgomery had followed an illustrious musical path taking in roles with legendary Kiwi groups Dadamah and The Pin Group before he finally committed his solo debut with ‘Scenes From The South Islands’ in 1995. By then in his mid 30s, Montgomery brought a real sense of a life lived to his debut LP in a classic, humbling style that has lost none of its capacity to spellbind with his subtle yet heavily evocative, allegorical depictions of the weather and landscape of his native Christchurch in New Zealand’s South Island.
It’s really not hard to hear how his music, and where it came from, would have so strongly resonated with Grouper’s own music and her homeland in the Pacific North West, just perpendicular by a few thousand miles from Montgomery across the ocean. The album’s 10’ ‘Twilight Conversation’ holds some of the most exquisite loner pangs this side of Loren Mazzacane Connors, and for good measure the breathtaking, raging gale panorama of ‘Winding It Out In The High Country’ effectively splits the difference between MBV and Liz Harris at her most tortured.
And what of the new side? Expect a trio of absolutely spine-freezing elegies recorded in Christchurch, 2018 and beautifully marking distance travelled since the other material, thanks to a more reserved grasp of tension, and pointed focus given to its pulsating low end and cinematic, synth-sounding harmonics a la Popol Vuh, rather than sky-clawing, heart-ripping romantic distortion.