Though appearing in teenage combo the Psychedeliks as early as 1971, Roy Montgomery emerged in the early 1980s as the deep-voiced guitarist for the Pin Group, one of New Zealand’s finest under-appreciated post-punk outfits. Though the Pin Group etched their name into New Zealand history as the very first band to be released on Flying Nun with their gritty debut single ‘Ambivalence’, Montgomery literally disappeared from the music world, after the demise of the Pin Group and it’s short-lived successor the Shallows.
After spending a great part of the 1980s traveling the world and discovering other avenues (including following Bill Direen‘s lead into the theatrical arts), it took Peter Stapleton‘s encouragement to bring this talented guitarist back to music, just as he had established a teaching role in Christchurch. Montgomery, Stapleton and Kim Pieters formed Dadamah, a more reserved and fleshed out, textural approach to music which re-invigorated Montgomerys live performing.
Dadamah gave way to Dissolve (a performing duo of Montgomery and Remarkables guitarist Chris Heaphy), and the first immergence of Montgomery solo recordings in the early 1990s. By now Montgomery had established a very distinct approach to playing a recording.
Montgomery spent his most prolific, style-defining period cooped up in a New York apartment. With just his bet-up 4-pickup Teisco guitar and a 4-track recorder, montgomery started producing vast soundscapes. Odes to the New Zealand countryside, and composed as lengthy evolving suites. His Fantasia on a theme by Sandy Bull from the fantastic Harmony of the Spheres boxset is a 20 minute journey filled with huge peaks and lulls – a masterpiece of interwoven guitar.
I would probably best describe Montgomery’s playing as an elegant, shimmering molass of guitar, rich with reverberation and slow-burning melodies. Montgomeries acknowledged masterpieces (such as the sublime Songs from the South Island and True – also with Chris Heaphy) are very evocative, visual works. Often composed completely free of vocals (though not always), Montgomery forms songs as soundscapes to environments, places, and moments in time.
As we rolled further into the 21st century, Montgomery again retreated from the live and recorded music scenes, continuing his role as a university lecturer and raising his young family. Thankfully in 2004 and 2005 he did return for two live performance in New Zealand, playing the Lines of Flight and Southern Oscillations festivals in Dunedin and Castle Hill (in-land from Christchurch). Performing as the Torlesse Supergroup with Nick Guy (formerly of wonderful space dronsters Barnard’s Star), these appearances might be an indication that we can expect future releases from one of New Zealand’s finest reclusive musicians.
Discography (picks in bold)
- ‘Submerged And Colourful’ / ‘Cousinsong’ 7″ Single [1995 Hecuba]
- ‘Long Night’ / ‘Its Cold Outside’ / ‘Film As A Subversive Art’ / ‘German Sister’ Double 7″ Single [1995 SiltbreezeSb58/59]
- Songs From The South Island [1995 Drunken FishDfr-22]
- Temple Iv [1995 KrankyKranky008]
- ‘Zabriskie Point I/Ii’ 7″ Single [1995 Gyttja]
- Goodbye [1995 W/ Flying Saucer Attack VhfVhf26]
- ‘Something Else Again’ / ‘Adrift’ 7″ Single [1995 Roof BoltRb 004]
- ‘Just Melancoly’ / ‘Used To’ 7″ Single [1996 Ajax]
- Two Trajectories 7″ Single [Enraptured]
- ‘Sterling Morrison, Corner 10th and First, 1966’ Split 7″ Single [1996 W/ Loren Connors GyttjaOoze-08]
- Winter Songs 10″ Ep [1997 Roof Bolt]
- ‘Cumulus And Fugue’ Split 7″ Single [1997 W/ Azusa Plane Colorful Clouds For AcousticsCloud 004]
- E.N.D. 7″ Single [1998 Drunken FishDfr-27]
- And Now The Rain Sounds Like Life Is Falling Down Through It [1998 Drunken FishDfr-41]
- ‘London Is Swinging By His Neck’ 7″ Single [1998 W/ Kirk Lake Rocket GirlRgirl3]
- ‘Particle’/’Wave’ 7″ Single [1998 Varispeed01 Varispeed]
- True [1999 W/ Chris Heaphy Kranky]
- 324 E. 13th St. #7 [1999 Compilation Drunken Fish]
- Harmony Of The Spheres [1999 Triple Lp Compilation Split With Various Others Drunken FishDfr-50]
- Allegory Of Hearing [2000 Drunken FishDfr-47]
- Read Less Books Cassingle [2000 W/ Kirk Lake Victory Garden]
- Silver Wheel Of Prayer [2001 Vhf Vhf49]
- Split album with Grouper [2010 Root Strata RSGR004]
- Split LP with Bruce Russell [2012 Grapefruit]