The magic of New Zealand-born singer and guitarist Roy Montgomery is his fearlessness to explore any sonic territory. He has done so across 40 years of collaborative and solo musical landscape. Island of Lost Souls is the first album of a 4-disc series to honor his extensive career, the future releases due to be issued in increments through to November 2021. With compositions steeped in rich guitar effects, the four extended instrumentals suggest communion and isolation, channeled through four island residents‚Äô musical memorials: Sam Shepard, Adrian Borland, Peter Principle, and Florian Fricke. The ambiance across songs wavers between being majestically sad yet with a power mimicking hope, encouraging remembrance and honor without pain.
I was generally familiar with each person honored, but the musical translations made me curious why Montgomery chose these particular four. If there were indeed such an island, what would make each one a resident? Opening track ‚ÄúCowboy Mouth (For Sam Shepard)‚Äù took me to research Shepard, whose honor seems to stem from both his playboy lifestyle and the elements of his plays, ‚ÄúCowboy Mouth‚Äù being a collaboration with his then-lover Patti Smith, abandoning both lover and play after the opening night. ‚ÄúSoundcheck (For Adrian Borland)‚Äù is a shimmering tribute to the late lead singer of The Sound, who jumped in front of a train at the age of 41 following years of struggle with severe depression. The ache of ‚ÄúSoundcheck‚Äù soars in waves, incorporating sound elements The Sound used in their music, expressing the tragic loss more deeply yet producing a majestic atmosphere that was also Borland‚Äôs life. ‚ÄúUnhalfmuted (For Peter Principle)‚Äù focuses on the late musician and rhythmic pulse of Tuxedomoon, the song‚Äôs title a reference to the band‚Äôs classic debut ‚ÄúHalf-Mute.‚Äù The album leaves the island with ‚ÄúThe Electric Children of Hildegard von Bingen (For Florian Fricke),‚Äù a track that honors Fricke not only as Popol Vuh‚Äôs synthesist but showcasing the spiritual reverence in his work, especially within the band as well as soundtracking the films of his close friend Werner Herzog. The album continues to offer up further tidbits to research, both in sound and titles -- Wikipedia took me down a rabbit hole -- but I'll leave that to the curious listener. Kudos to someone who not only continues to entertain my ears after 40 years, but to grow my mind as well.
Samples can be found here.