Roy Montgomery - Suffuse LP
Despite praise and acclaim throughout his career, Roy Montgomery hates his singing. From his point of view, it’s done out of necessity, when he doesn’t have anyone else around to substitute. So it goes, when you live on the side of a mountain just outside Christchurch, New Zealand’s rehabilitating city center. Roughly one quarter of Montgomery’s epic multi-album 2016 release R M H Q had his singing, and those are his least favorite tracks.
Is it a surprise he jumped when the idea of composing an album for other vocalists came up? The idea began as a series of alternate takes of the material on Tropic Of Anodyne, the tracks with vocals off his last release. That concept morphed into assembling vocalists to sing on new songs, and he conceived instrumental material that would fit each singer. Half of the songs came together, resulting in Suffuse. The album charts a slow progression from those who share similarities with Montgomery’s rumbling vocal technique to those who come at singing differently, with minute contrasts throughout. Haley Fohr (Circuit des Yeux) and Jessica Larrabee (She Keeps Bees) bring the first two tracks, with Larrabee’s low-riding lament complementing Fohr’s stinging vibrato. Katie Von Schleicher’s “Outsider Love Ballad” is a raw expression of emotional loss, while the sisters Clementine and Valentine Nixon (Purple Pilgrims) express that emptiness by stripping away words, weaving their voices together through Montgomery’s elastic webbing. Julianna Barwick adds drive and nuance to the foamy sonic waves of “Sigma Octantis,” as “Landfall” crashes in slow motion chaos over Liz Harris’ (Grouper) multi-tracked layers. Montgomery wrote lyrics for the first three, and left the other three to their leads’ devices.
Regarding Suffuse, Montgomery says, “I continue to find it humbling listening back to the tracks, both for the beauty and intensity of the voices, and for the sheer professionalism. They actually sound like real songs.” These compositions generously embrace their guest leaders, and for the first time in his career, Roy Montgomery has made a cogent artistic argument as to why he shouldn’t be singing these songs himself.