You probably haven’t heard of Roy Montgomery, unless you edit the New Zealand Encyclopedia of Musicians or own a copy of the Pin Group’s first single (circa 1981) on then-fledgling Flying Nun Records. He’s logged time in a bunch of other Kiwi bands with which you’re probably not familiar, and has spent the last few years building an impressive catalog of stark, elegant, guitar-centric albums. Oh, and most of the time he’s brilliant.
324 E. 13th Street #7 collects Montgomery’s ultra-rare singles, many of which were recorded on his trusty Tascam Porta One at the titular address. It’s packed with atmospheric moments—dense layers of moody, undulating, glittering guitars, wrapped around each other like DNA strands. Montgomery’s voice, more pervasive here than on his most recent projects, is something of a revelation, alternating rapidly between the smoothly strident nasal assertiveness of a Michael Hutchence-type pop star and the subdued, rumbling melancholia of a less assertive Jim Morrison. The combination of shiny, jangly acoustic rhythms and incisive electric melodies, with Montgomery’s voice layered over the top, sounds surprisingly like mid-eighties goth rock—particularly when drenched with copious reverb. Under these circumstances, the album is a somber affair; Montgomery at his most cheerful and “rocking” wouldn’t be out of place at a funeral. But you’ll be forced to smile—not at the moods the man evokes, but at the amazing, revelatory things the man can do with a guitar. He pulls melodies from the air and makes us wonder why we didn’t see them there in the first place.
Bear in mind that these songs aren’t meant to be heard in quite so sequential a fashion. For best results, pause between each song for as long as it would take to walk across the room to the turntable, either to flip the current single or ready the next one. Inevitably, such a large mass of Montgomery’s work will blur together (helped, undoubtedly, by the reverb), and in order to hear the details, you’ll need to work slowly. For best results, I recommend you ration the disc, listening to only two cuts a day. Imagine each pair of songs is a 7” single purchased with money you dug out of your threadbare sofa or found in the street. Make them your world, and they will become massive.
// Notes from the Road
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