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CD Feature/ Will Montgomery [Heribert Friedl]: "Non-Collaboration"

img  Tobias

Without wanting to touch upon the academic discussion on whether there can actually be such a thing as “new music” any more, it would be safe to say that no sound is ever entirely free from context. With multiple artists exploring the same trains of thought and sharing a common pool of instruments, techniques and tools, even the most outlandish, leftfield and wayward experimental emanation today has plenty of antecedents allowing for references, comparisons and associations. Context, on the other hand, should not be confused with the concept of cause and reaction. If the relation between these two can be relaxed to a degree where their functionalities are lost in a two-directional symbiosis, then the act of listening may appear as fresh and unpolluted as a brain constantly on the prey for meaning and structure will allow.

Attaining this state of blurred borders is what Will Montgomery has set out to achieve: “I’m curious about structure: I like my pieces to develop an internal logic through which the question of ‘what happens next’ is uncertain, only making sense to the listener retrospectively”, he wrote as an accompaniment to his musical contribution to Non Visual Objects’ “Extract” book a year ago and what still appeared “an uncertain direction” at the time of his self-released debut “Water Blinks” has now turned into a rewarding angle (the word ‘approach’ would be out of place here) for fruitful sonic explorations.

Without a doubt, the line between chance and minute planning is a fine one on “Non-Collaboration”: Without aiming for recognition or the establishment of long thematic arches, episodes of sound appear from a continuum of gently stirred silence, present their case and then lapse into quietude again. Over the course of the album’s forty minutes, some of them seem to make a masked return on one or two occasions or to enter into a dialogue with other elements, but it is never quite certain whether this is indeed a factual observation or a mere flight of fancy. In comparison to the timbrally developing series of, say, Stockhausen, Montgomery doesn’t seem particularly interested in stringently concretising his materials towards a sonic destination-vector either. Calmly, he strides from one passage to the next, awarding highest importance to bringing out their bare essence.

The outcome is a music of immense serenity (regardless of the playful nature of these juxtapositions), harmonious regularity (despite its anything but symmetrical architecture), cool purity (even though sounds are culled from various sources) and a great sense of wideness, notwithstanding the compactness of its individual tracks and comparatively minimal overall length. Montgomery doesn’t share the fetished love for complete silence which some of his colleagues have turned into an acoustic monstrance and yet when he does make a statement, it is always with utmost delicacy.

Where one piece ends and the next one begins is not a random decision, yet a deeper knowledge about the borderline doesn’t always seem to be entirely essential either. Sounds overlap without necessarily becoming one – temporal parallelity, rather than confluence or combination appears to be Montgomery’s guiding method here. Rhythm still exists, but it has been reduced to a few discreetly brushed strokes of glassy cymbals or patterns of barely audible clicks. Dare to be surprised: The moments that his meticulously processed events seem to metaphorically hint at Marimba, Percussion, Snapper or Vibraphone are few and far between.

Baring this in mind, it must seem consequential that what was originally intended as a duo effort eventually collapsed into something entirely different. Friedl’s Hackbrett improvisations were deemed irreconcilable with Montgomery’s electronic work and yet, as the latter confirms, “their pace and shape have left their mark on these pieces”. They were “absorbed into my music”, like a small sweetwater river flowing into the ocean – the deeper you enter, the less you can still taste it.

Composing means finding paths through time while sailing this ocean. Montgomery has taken a decade to come up with his first solo album and the most important thing he has learned is to trust the listener to find meaning himself, without an artist hitting him on the head with a message. When a befriended composer visited Morton Feldman and scanned the score of a chamber music piece in which the Cello endlessly repeated the same motive for page after page of the score, he incredulously exclaimed: “How do you keep this going, Morty?”, to which Feldman replied: “That is the only sensible question.” It is also the only sensible question with regards to “Non-Collaboration”, an album which no one only faintly interested in Sound Art should miss.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Will Montgomery
Homepage: Heribert Friedl
Homepage: Non Visual Objects Records

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