Essential New Music: Roy Montgomery’s “Audiotherapy”

Forty-one years ago, Roy Montgomery and his colleagues in the Pin Group helped launch a specular run of independently made, heard-‘round-the-world music issued by New Zealand’s Flying Nun label. A little more than a year ago, Montgomery commenced observing the anniversary of this event with Island Of Lost Souls, a program of epic guitar instrumentals. Audiotherapy, the fourth and final album in that sequence, feels more like an ellipsis than a full stop. Its six tracks are not nearly so cohesive, pointing instead to both accomplishments past and ideas worth further exploring. 

“Audioramble,” which opens the LP, pits Montgomery’s baritone voice against two other singers in an exchange that goads him to previously unmet levels of vocal expressiveness. On “Occlusione,” the Italian-language spoken word of Maria Eleanora C Mollard draws back and forth over a trudging phalanx of guitars, sounding like a Popol Vuh soundtrack for some Herzog movie wrapped in a bow of Fellini dialogue. “Audiomemory Nightshift” looks back in another direction; its patiently lilting, perfectly reverberant phrases make a case for music to end for all time with the Velvet Underground’s Sterling Morrison sailing back across the Styx, guitar in hand, continually reinterpreting a single line. 

If you get Audiotherapy on vinyl, you might find yourself playing side one more than side two. Not because the flip is bad; it’s just not as good. Two tunes in a row feature Montgomery filling all the available space demarcated by some big, unfussy drum-machine beats with swarms of echoing, six-string flourishes. “Imperfect Intense” reunites him with Emma Johnston, one of the singers on the first track. This time, their exchanges are slightly out of synch, as if to illustrate the lyric’s portrayal of a long-lasting love affair founded on effort and acceptance.

Montgomery is prone to interspersing bursts of activity with long layoffs, but here’s hoping that he doesn’t make us wait too long. An entire record of songs like the ones that bookend Audiotherapy would be marvelous.

—Bill Meyer