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Album Review
Split 12

Split 12"
by Bruce Russell and Roy Montgomery

Grapfruit Records Club

Review Date
23rd May 2012
Reviewed by
Nich Cunningham

It’s an odd irony that many local bands or musicians, well known here, crave and struggle to achieve international recognition while on the flipside there are New Zealand artists who are better appreciated overseas than they are at home. This release is an excellent example of such phenomena. Thanks to the American label Grapefruit Records Club, we now have this excellent vinyl-only pairing of two of New Zealand’s finest experimental musicians: Roy Montgomery and Bruce Russell.

Arguably the lesser known of the pair, Roy Montgomery nonetheless posses a rich and lengthy musical history. Initially a member of the Pin Group, on Flying Nun in the early 1980’s, he was later in Dadamah before embarking on a solo career that produced a number of fine albums including 1995’s Songs of The South Island. His solo guitar work is typically lo-fi in production and consists of layered drones and chiming guitars. Montgomery’s contribution here Tarkovky Tone Poem is true to form. Lush and beautiful, Montgomery’s music is inviting and peaceful. There is a mesmerizing and meditative quality to his sound that effectively suspends time, recalling the early works of American minimalist composers such as Terry Riley or La Mont Young.

Bruce Russell is well known for his work with the Dead C but has had a strong involvement with local music going back as far as the late 1970’s, including label work as well as music-making. While consist with the theme of homage to dead greats, Russell’s side entitled Mistah Chilton, He Dead has little in common with Big Star. Recorded live in 2009 at the High St Project in Christchurch, the recording has a spaciousness not confined to just the environment it was made in. While naturally abrasive, Russell is on fine form on this occasion and this piece of howling freeform noise is typified as much by its restraint as it is by its excesses – it is dynamic and oddly tuneful. It’s a different world from the one evoked by Montgomery but one possessing a certain rugged beauty that is charming nonetheless.

This really is a good split. If you are already an aficionado of improv/noise music, then this is an excellent pairing; it is quite remarkable how complementary the two sides are, despite the stylistic divergence. If you are merely noise-curious then this could be an excellent inroad. Either way, this is a refreshing reminder of our often-over-looked greats.