GEN KEN MONTGOMERY – Birds + Machines (1980-1989)


Co-founder of Pogus with Al Margolis, Gen Ken Montgomery is often unfairly disregarded when assessing the history of radical music in the last half-century. This collection – another clarification of a unendingly probing creativity – examines works from the decade in which the American composer’s terminology was first met by yours truly, at that time seriously hooked in the unearthing of entrancing materials of post-industrial derivation. But don’t let this piece of news mislead you: Montgomery’s world is not exclusively made of clunking machines and deranged electric circuits, though those colours outweigh everything else in several of the tracks contained herein. The “Subliminal Clutter” triptych or “Treat The Hell Out Of It” might be utilized – played at high volume – to torture war prisoners: a mix of obsessive pulse, strained drills, eviscerated voices and fast-forwarding tapes whose spirit is quite disturbing. This notwithstanding, musical qualities abound both in these and other episodes – the title track or the gorgeously string abrasions-cum-harmonium (???) of “Crema Di Roma”, for instance – so that even the harshness of the less human structures gets somehow sweetened by the combinations of motorized rhythms, misshapen sequencers and inexplicably harmonic layers of distortion that the man is able to produce with rather poor means, typically unstipulated. What’s strange is that the brain acknowledges these aggressively non-belonging clusters as a familiar element: either by giving all your attention or using the record as an environmental complement, there’s no danger of being left disgruntled. People like Montgomery are gifted with a sympathetic inner ear, extracting juices of consequence from what could appear unadorned triviality. It’s the inside logic that wins, electroacoustic junk turned into thought-provoking aural stimulation at the end.

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