debut of a new project featuring guitarist Roy Montgomery and sonic warlock Nick Guy. the geological allusions in the group's name are apt, and the results are at once familiar and surprising, wedding Roy's melodies and riffs with Nick's rumbling bass frequencies, shuddering beats, textural drones, and finely crafted sonics.
released may 2011.
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"Every instrument contains a theoretical infinity of musical possibilities, but the last 50 years have put a heavy drain on the electric guitar. Straight rock'n'roll ran out of steam by the end of the 1970s; Prog rock chased its own tail until it gave up; punk raged hard but ultimately the centre could not hold. Even today's most 'out' strains of hybridized psych, art-noise, shoegaze, fusion, etc. also feel pretty spread thin when it comes to coaxing contemporary textures out of the old six-string.
Small miracle, then, that Christchurch, New Zealand's Roy Montgomery has carved the patiently circuitous but unique path that he has. Debuting in the recorded realm in 1981 as a member of Velvets/Wire acolytes The Pin Group on the inaugural release on Flying Nun, he spent the next decade and a half slipstreaming from one oddly nuanced project to the next, including NZ art-pop (The Shallows), early 1990s post-rock (Dadamah, Dissolve, collabs with Flying Saucer Attack and Bardo Pond), and even a stint soundtracking experimental theatre productions.
Last year saw Montgomery resurface on an unlikely split LP with Grouper, but his side-long contribution was in fact a reworking of an older raga piece released on the 1996 Drunken Fish compilation Harmony of the Spheres, causing some to wonder if perhaps his well of inspiration had finally run dry. His latest outfit, Torlesse Super Group- a duo comprised of Montgomery and fellow Christchurch sound sculptor Nick Guy- allays these fears, spelunking through an hour's worth of crudely lyrical electric guitar abstractions and hazy feedback vistas that are among his boldest (and weirdest) to date. The album was recorded between 2004-07, but suggests the ideas are still very much flowing.
Opening with the three-part saga, "Erewhon Sentinel Numbers 1-3", the album blasts from ominous, E-bowed arcs of distortion into a shuddering, brainwashed, slow-motion headbanger that rides a monotonous drumbeat across an eight-minute desert of chiming, multitracked electric multitudes. It's a peak moment on the record, and in Montgomery's discography. Naturally it can't all fly that high, and the seemingly deliberately uneven sequencing only emphasizes the weaker tracks. But by and large Guy juxtaposes Montgomery's distinctly hazy guitar strategies with a savvy arsenal of low-end rumble, mechanical grit and negative space electronics."
-Britt Brown, The Wire
Good news for all fans of Roy Montgomery: while he might not be releasing a new solo album anytime soon (perhaps he's too busy developing his academic career), he's still giving signs of musical life – first through a split with Grouper in 2009, now through Torlesse Super Group, a (one-off?) collaboration with Christchurch sonic sculptor Nick Guy. The album is ripe with geological – after all, the group is named after a layer of sedimental rock which forms the foundation for New Zealand. Both the cover and the insert contains fragments of maps and many titles are "geological/-graphical" in nature. This can be seen as a logical progression of Roy Montgomery's evocative, NZ-oriented music from his solo albums.
In order to live up to the album's (and group's) name and imagery the music has to be suitably massive and raw, seismic even. And it is – the opening three part suite "Erewhon Sentinel" is a dark, atmospheric passage in which Guy's pulsing, bass heavy drones almost entirely dominate Montgomery’s guitar, which is reduced to a series of scarce, desperate noises – distant cries for help in the black storm of malevolent sound. Part 2 of the suite reaches the middle ground between Montgomery's angelic style and Guy's throbbing stylings creating an almost trip-hop psychosis of psychedelic guitarwork and slow, steady beat over nearly deafening bass. The rest of the album is closer to Montgomery's usual body of work, employing processed, ambient guitar atmospheres, although with Nick Guy's twist of hissing electronics (or maybe it's just processed guitar?) here or a slow drum beat there, adding important ingredients to the adventurous soup that is Torlesse Super Group. Like 'Evening', which begins quietly and slowly unfolds itself on the way, finally reaching levels of intensity equaling Roy's collab with Bardo Pond as Hash Jar Tempo, or the stoner ambient chug of 'Strata Speak' which brings to mind the later albums by Earth. The CD ends with a 15-minute jam 'Peninsula Piece', which seems to be the most Roy Montgomery-centered track on the whole album. As a matter of fact, it's hard to find any Nick Guy in this track, with the possible exception of an occasional harsh texture. This is the reverse of the beginning of the album, where Guy's drones were drowning out Montgomery's guitar – now Roy drowns Nick's sounds.
The music for the album was recorded between 2004 and 2007. It took four years to finally release a CD containing this collaboration – it's not a bad thing, rather a thing of patience and polishing the album. Three years of recording is an indication that both musicians take their work seriously and are willing to spend a lot of time perfecting their product – and they succeeded. Torlesse Super Group is a raw, sometimes harsh and downright frightening affair, like the mountains themselves – intimidating and dangerous, yet beautiful and inspiring.
-Weed Temple, Aug 1, 2011
Named for the mass of rock which forms New Zealand, on which Roy Montgomery and Nick Guy reside, Torlesse Super Groupis the most recent appearance by Montgomery following his split with Grouper last year; Guy's recorded output is far less prolific, but also far less music-intensive, so the collaboration can be taken as anything but obvious or de rigueur. The album is split into eight instrumentals, starting with the unusual 'Erewhon Sentinel' trilogy – unusual for its association, which doesn't suggest much stylistic similarity amidst the other tracks – a rather cinematic horror of a track from swatches of taped noise swallowed up by a sinister swarming and gaseous didgeridoo drone. Part two kicks out the jam full stop with a gross pollution of blown-out, motoric vibration, recurrent guitar sounds so stepped on that it's all trails, and a languid machined two-step that's even more screwed. This amounts to a matured trip hop ala Portishead and K-X-P, and demonstrating the laurels of both contributors such that an entire album of this would have been itself a welcomed addition (the method is revisited in the even more retrospective 'Strata Speak' which vibes like some Primal Scream B-side). Montgomery, a founder of the Out sound of the 1990s, is welcomed to indulge in a little ecstatic psychedelia; and though a category of his own making, 'Evening' resembles more his admirers in Jackie O Motherfucker for its yellow-hued guitar fuzz, inquisitive bends, and plucky rhythm. This full-banded feel is both the magnifying and disfiguring of Guy's intervention, where blades of guitars spring up at all angles and depths, precipitating sunlight over layers in marching columns snapped to a bare bass kick. 'Torlesse Transect' is the first of two tracks which break the 10-minute mark, and which resemble Montgomery's more familiar, guitar-slinger style for this and other reasons: evoking the familiar neo-westernism of lone steel-stringer meets static welter, the track craftily narrows several modes of guitar liturgy into a soloist's stream quietly backgrounded by rough grained drones and split-second blips; the effect is less geological than it is geomantic, or geomancing, an intimacy with the earth which is hard as tack, and hardly bliss. But at the same time as this is classic Monty, one is left wondering how the division of labor actually fell out across these tracks. Though half the duo is in position of one very good trick, Montgomery's guitar skills don't seem to pony half of the material; indeed some tracks, while very good, feel as if generated by no more than three flicks of his wrist. For some reason, this seems, if not a conservative's complaint to be registered, than a radical's revelation about the nature of this work. At last for both sides, 'Peninsula Piece' draws out its perfect quarter of an hour with a procession of punched chords echoing with even meter, different patches of textures triggered in the spaces of decay. With the guitarist taking lead, the effects man is able to manipulate and structurate the track with whole sounds and treatments which only serve to multiply (often exponentially) the initial sonic idea. The 'Piece' demonstrates well the strengths of this collaboration, and excluding the beat-orientation of half the album, fits in a little of everything into a fine conclusion. On pro-pressed discs with vellum inlays.
-Animal Psi, July 29, 2011
"We've long been fans of New Zealand guitarist Roy Montgomery, his guitar sound so distinctive, able to conjure up whole other worlds with his music, having cut his teeth in legendary groups like Dadamah and Dissolve, it was really as a solo artist where Montgomery finally unleashed his full potential. A sort of reverbed minimalism writ large, Montgomery takes simple melodic phrases, fragments, riffs, even just a few notes, and transforms them into mesmerizing landscapes of sound, hazy and spacey, multitracked expanses of melodic mesmer, his playing fluid and lyrical, all of the edges smoothed out by a battery of deftly employed effects, transforming the guitar into some sort of alien psychedelic sound generator, able to fashion strangely inviting sonic worlds for the listener to explore, and get lost in.
So we were curious to hear this, the oddly named Torlesse Super Group (a reference to some NZ geology apparently), which is (or was, this was actually recorded back in 2004-2007), Montgomery's new group, or duo to be more precise, and finds Montgomery teaming up with Nick Guy, who we had never heard of before, for a strangely haunting, and surprisingly rhythmic bit of hazy, psychedelic, post industrial, dreamlike guitarscapery.
The record opens with the three part, 16 plus minute "Erewhon Sentinel", the first part of which is a super abstract stretch of looped skeletal rhythm, a barely there bit of staggered static, distant melodic swells, twisted flecks of glitchy electronics, eventually a deep low end thrum surfaces, as well as some creepy soundtracky chimes, not to mention some ven creepier bits of distorted crunch, the low end beginning to pulse, all cinematic and a little bit ominous, honestly we would have been happy if this was ALL the record did, but then we would have missed out on part two, which might be our favorite new jam, beginning with more rumbling low end, laced with some cool super distorted melody, the result is very ghostly and otherworldly, and then a beat comes in, a slow, slithery, downtempo skitter, and suddenly this sounds like some post Portishead, post Bowery Electric sort of electronic ambient creep, now THIS definitely could have continued for the rest of the record, hypnotic and low slung, woozy and warped, a sort of subterranean underwater lope, very soundtracky, evokes all sorts of super striking images, rain slicked streets, dark abandoned cities, low lit late night speakeasies. The sound continues to develop, additional melodies, more layers, harmonies, distant lo fi chimes, looped electronic high end squiggles, all drifting on that low thrum and hypnotic shuffle. Part three is something else entirely, sounding like a lo-fi melding of Autechre and Seefeel, a little bit glitchy, but warm and organic, swoonsome and woozy and dreamily looped, wound around some serpentine melodies, and plenty of fuzz and thrum.
Definitely a surprise, if Montgomery is playing guitar over all this, then he's even more of an alchemist than we already thought, cuz nothing here sounds distinctly guitar-like, at least in this opening salvo, all textural and ever shifting timbres, and layered loops, and swirling atmospheres, and propulsive rhythms and dark sonic swirl. It's not until the fourth track, where the guitar finally makes its presence obvious, with Montgomery unfurling a looped bit of repetitive riffage, eventually joined by a super skeletal beat, and then an avalanche of guitars, all buzzy and psychedelic, warm and washed out, creating a heady, hazy sprawl of mesmerizing drone rock shimmer, definitely more reminiscent of past recordings.
The rest of the record plays out in a similar fashion, with Montgomery laying down some spare, sparse guitar, sometimes lacing it with muted feedback, or woozy folky strum, while his partner (we presume) wraps these delicate bits of melody with streaks of glitch, fragmented rhythms, even seeming to add some dub to the sound, letting various elements careen and drift before settling back into their original druggy drift, the sound is super hypnotic, fantastically lysergic and dreamy, the sounds tapping into a psychedelia akin to Spacemen 3, repetitive, cyclical, a core droned out loop, but surrounded by crumbling distortion, sonar like pings, but with Montgomery's melodic reverby strum at its core.
The final track in fact begins with that reverby strum, hear letting a single strum repeat, ring out into the ether, before gradually, various other sounds creep in from the periphery, streaks of pulsing buzz, hushed shimmery swells, it's almost like the dreamiest, prettiest, softest doom ever, which weirdly enough is more like the Montgomery of old than anything else here, it's late night drift off dreamdrone psychedelia, strummy and shimmery, it's not really until about 9 minutes in that some crunch and heft are added to the mix, but subtly, so they don't overwhelm, instead, they just add density, and Montgomery's strummy grows more urgent as well, and added layers of melodic counterpoint and guitar harmonies, only make the sound blossom into something both lush and lovely, crunchy and a little bit dark, before finally fading out into a sweetly melancholic softly psychedelic haze. Gorgeous!"
-Aquarius Records, New Arrivals List #375
1. Erewhon Sentinel Number 1
2. Erewhon Sentinel Number 2
3. Erewhon Sentinel Number 3
6. Torlesse Transect
8. Peninsula Piece