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Roy Montgomery - Inroads

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Artist: Roy Montgomery

Album: Inroads

Label: Rebis

Review date: Mar. 13, 2007

With Inroads, a broad selection of New Zealand guitarist Roy Montgomery’s rare, previously unreleased, and otherwise prohibitively circulated marginalia, years of obsession come on two slices of reflective, reasonably priced plastic. Did you spend the latter ‘90s tracking down Montgomery’s 7” singles, EPs and bootlegs, picking the brain of the drone kingpin behind the Pin Group, Dadamah, Hash Jar Tempo and other cryptic, hypnotic projects? Joke’s on you, jerk. Now, this stuff can be conveniently funneled into two hours of any interested party, including those who spend those days listening to Mystikal.

I don’t mind joking about this because only a humorless elitist would bitch about it. Inroads cheapens Montgomery’s rare work not a whit. Compared to years of attentive vinyl archiving, hearing these complex, expansive instrumentals back to back to back may be a different scene. But, notwithstanding Montgomery’s documented interest in soundtracks, this stuff cannot be heard passively. This isn’t a pair of shiny things to possess; it’s a selection of music to absorb, learn from, take with.

These sides never sizzled as a function of their “underground” status. Compared to his expressly anti-establishment contemporaries such as, for a currently retro-fashionable example, the Dead C – hell, compared to “Sister Ray” – Montgomery’s work sounds out-and-out poppy, or at least unapologetically rocky. This is some heavy, heavy rock music, though. Not always heavy in the fuck-yeah, curl-my-pubes sense, but in the emotional sense, pound for pound. If you’ve ever reflected on how the rainy-day doldrums can inspire such a frightening range of emotions compared to the relative placidity of the commonly defined “peak experience,” behold these rich, lonesome meditations (“Two Trajectory,” “One Trajectory,” “Temple IV (Slight Return)”) and these chilled deconstructions (“Last Days of Mankind,” “Sister Clean,” “For Kerry”). And get into it.

For some of us, an early interest in underground music ignited not just an enthusiasm about “culture,” but also an interest in certain elements of geography. Before all this shit was Googlable, one had to find out about it through zines or word of mouth, and then mail-order it from far-flung landmasses, sometimes coughing up surcharges to get it across various borders. Speaking for myself, playing a piece of limited-run vinyl was interesting, outside of the music, because of the object’s unlikely journey. These people put their darkest intuitions on wax and, through a complex network of stations, trucks and people in blue shorts, got them to a surly, pimply kid in an alien nation, someone who would never come to their shows or meet them in person. It was exciting.

While all that may be on ice now, Montgomery’s music retains an acute awareness of geography. His craggy landscapes are as rich with detail as any of the places that inspired them, whether a Manhattan walk-up, a Guatemalan jungle, or the eerily pastoral villages of his home turf. Whether or not it takes a money order to hear it, these temperamental head-cleaners preserve all the marks and the mystery of their journeys, as sure as if they were coffee stains. As suggested in the uncommonly astute liner notes (by Dusted writer Bill Meyer, as it happens), Montgomery’s art isn’t scorched-earth theatrical; it’s the art of memory, observation and observance. Thus, his music is built for the ages, whatever earth-flattening technology they may yet bring.

By Emerson Dameron

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