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Album Review

True is a soundscape/soundtrack for the New Zealand Free Theatre of Christ Church's production of a play by the same title. The music on the recording is a collaboration between Roy Montgomery and his bandmate in Dissolve, Chris Heaphy, who created a series of tracks related to the performance of the play while working on another project. While what is presented here is relatively little in comparison to what was used in performance, the notion that a film might eventually be made from the play had not passed Montgomery by, and therefore he's issued this soundtrack just in case. Solely, Montgomery recorded half of the music here, using his standard cheap Teisco guitar and a relatively cheap amp. Also in place are a Farfisa organ and a Tascam four-track cassette recorder. The other four tracks feature just guitar duets between him and Heaphy recorded onto the Tascam. Musically, this is very much in keeping with Montgomery's improvisational vocabulary — a limited series of riffs or patterns played endlessly and extrapolated upon just enough to shift a mode through the use of numbered intervals. The effect is hallucinatory. Reverb and the Farfisa create a shimmering backdrop on "Virtually So #1" and "Virtually So #2." Because of the Farfisa's constancy and low place in the mix, it seems like feedback coming through but the guitars are actually quite muted. It's their multitracking that gives them their edge. As the Heaphy part of the soundtrack enters with "Unfathomable #1," the layered effect of the guitars is absolutely architectural. Sonances and frequencies are woven together to create pulse, harmony, dissonance, and resolution. Deep brooding, subharmonic sounds bubble up from the base of the track and engager with shifting tones from silvery washes of high strings buried in the mix. These improvisations — as they go on in "Picnic Time," "Clouding Over," "Certainly," and "Spurious" — don't change in tone appreciably, though everything about them becomes buried under more and more layers of guitar sonics. It's difficult to tell who is playing what because it's all strings, creating and dislocating rhythm and harmony and stretching time into ether. There isn't any "jamming" and the dynamic changes are limited and restrained, making for a muted yet lush color palette and textural labyrinth — though they feel like they could break loose of their tonal moorings at any time. Montgomery himself closes the album — and thus the soundtrack — with "Unfathomable #2." The feeling in this track is like the jungle scene in Apocalypse Now, where Kurtz has yet to be encountered, but his presence is everywhere. Washes of reverb stagger the juxtaposition of plucked strings and strummed chords, creating microtonal hallways of carefully designed sound and more sounds than ever thought possible from a $30 guitar. Long waves of melodic improvisation shift back and forth in the mix that is both airy and dense. Echoes of a Farfisa resemble human voices singing in the distance, and the tension builds to the point where it becomes unbearable and fades through a whispered echo chamber rather than release, and therefore listeners are left to their own devices to find that unwinding from dread for themselves. Brilliant.

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TRUE, Roy Montgomery / Chris Heaphy
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