As anticipated by the difference between Island of Lost Souls and That Best Forgotten Work, the first two volumes of the four-volume set serialized by Roy Montgomery over 2021, Rhymes of Chance is a fusion state between those two poles. The former hinged on long form post-ambient guitar pieces, eulogies for the beloved dead, while the latter was driven by vocal songs and covers in miniature. The throughline between those two was in their function as odes, one as original music for people who have passed and the second as more standard musical odes to idols and peers still living. This leaves Rhymes of Chance to chart a curious path between them, being the title track longform composition on side A spanning roughly 20 minutes while side B is covered by three beefier cuts spanning from 5 to 9 minutes. All of this music is vocally driven but likewise so too is all of it drenched in the same kind of arthouse reverbed post-ambient sculpture work that marked moreso the first record of this set than the second. This retroactively makes sense of what the vocal music and covers record sought to accomplish, illuminating where melodic and harmonic sensibilities are developed for Montgomery before being reincorporated into his otherwise anti-pop material.
The cathedral sensibility returns in strong form here, guitars chiming and swarming like oil paintings of angels and William Blake engravings. There’s something almost elfin about this music, a playfulness buried amidst the otherwise maudlin sensibility of it. If the previous works are situated more closely within the wordlessness and aimlessness of grief, Rhymes of Chance feels like it emerges from the distance in its wake where loss is ameliorated into the broader chemical compounds of life in the embodied world. These are songs that accept decay and the gradual nature of loss without the melodrama and angst of youth. These are mature positions, ones marked by acceptance as much as grief. The cited influence of Mark Hollis, mastermind of Talk Talk, makes great sense here, especially given his far more spectral and seemingly death-haunted final studio record released under his own name. There was a sorrow buried in the beauty of those later day Talk Talk records that only his solo album seemed to dig up and lay on the surface. Likewise, the peace and tranquility present here betrays a sublimated loss; the songs on first listen are beautiful and evocative wallpaper but over time deepen into tearjerkers.
On the whole, Rhymes of Chance stands up better than its immediate predecessor in That Best Forgotten Work, sitting more comfortably aside Island of Lost Souls as a strong entry in Montgomery’s body of work. It is not just the fact that all of these are originals; freed from interpretation, Montgomery suddenly reveals again his tremendous capacity for sensitivity, letting the accumulating drapery of effected guitars tease out smaller and less concrete but no less real emotional spaces than when he is tasked with transmitting a previously composed piece. The most intriguing lingering element of Rhymes of Chance is simply what comes next. The work of the final volume will serve, as in many such cases like this, to either validate the overall multi-volume set or leave it a blissful meander. Regardless of whether that final record makes sense or furiously overturns these preceding records, however, Rhymes of Chance still sits as an accomplished work of contemporary ambient and New Age guitar work.
Label: Ba Da Bing/Grapefruit
Langdon Hickman is listening to progressive rock and death metal. He currently resides in Virginia with his partner and their two pets.