Monday, August 1, 2011

Review: Torlesse Super Group - Torlesse Super Group (Rebis Recordings, 2011)

Good news for all fans of Roy Montgomery: while me 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.