Roy Montgomery & Emma Johnston
After Nietzsche [LP; DL; Aguirre]

Last year’s Suffuse found Montgomery seeking to work with a selection of vocalists in an endeavor to a) minimize his own vocal contributions, but more so b) to find new ideas and notes within his guitar-based compositions. Where Montgomery once had a metallic sorrow that found beauty in this glorious mess, Suffuse seemed to signal a darkening; a place where Montgomery had seen from a higher precipice but never dared to venture. Yet, with the aid of some of the best female vocalists on this distraught planet, there was since of the veil lifting.

That is until he called to Emma Johnston, who took him by wings and showed him the boiling valley below; a place where life’s mistakes could be set to music. This is the idea behind After Nietzsche. The duo workshop their own spin on Nietzsche’s idea that life without music is folly. Through a progression of four songs, Johnston and Montgomery propose a different theory: life is a mistake set to a soundtrack. Their thesis seems to take over where Suffuse left off, with Johnston being the permanent vocal accompaniment to Montgomery’s increasingly ebon melodies. Yet, there’s still some of the sprightly old Roy — the one who channeled those early 80s Liverpudlian sounds with an optimism that abounded in the echoing rebound of his notes. It’s here where Johnston’s voice plays a role similar to those who beckoned on Suffuse.

Then “And Fuck this Eternal Recurrence, Nietzsche” envelopes all it touches (which, physically is the B-side). Its 21 minutes of ghoulish merriment at the tortured existence of continuous misdeeds and missteps is enraptured by Johnston’s hallowed wails and Montgomery’s dense vocal track (If you were ever wished a Peter Murphy & Kate Bush duet into existence, this is as close an approximation as you’re going to get). The vantage point was grim before, but now it’s downright ghastly. And yet, something about this pairing is buoyant — almost serene. Perhaps its just the weight of reality being lifted (not the veil), but more likely is that art mixing with art is a beautiful happening, and sometimes that beauty can only be seen through a thicket of darkness. Which gets at the heart of After Nietzsche; art is needed for existence, for sustenance, for success. It must also reflect our world through a variety of art forms. Though many would rather take a poptimistic view, they settle for a populist talking point. There is no compromise within After Nietzsche, which makes it the most difficult of Montgomery’s many statements to bear. But you must because we all must carry our share of the burden.

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