Release Date: Jan 20, 2009
Record label: Dicristina Stair
Genre(s): Indie, Rock, Experimental
This past summer I saw MV and EE play at Johnny Brenda’s in Philadelphia. The venue was conspicuously baron (maybe 20 heads, including bar staff,) but the mood suffered little from the absence of a crowd. The pseudo-apologetic rote description of poorly attended shows as “intimate” didn’t quite fit this one. Perhaps a simple duo performance, just Valentine’s guitar, Elder’s lap steel and “fucked up E-Bow” (her words,) and both of their voices, would have qualified as such, but with the Bummer Road in tow the pair were perpetually surrounded in a wavering sound cocoon, with the audience on the outside listening in.
Experimentation often leads to failure before success. Such is the case with MV & EE, which has used multiple monikers (Tower Recordings, Medicine Show, the Bummer Road and now the Golden Road) to traverse acid and free-folk, psychedelia and drone. If MV & EE have experienced much failure to this point, the group's interstellar opus, Drone Machine, is the reward that follows the disarray.Drone Trailer opens like a Bardo Pond record rather than a free-folk recording, with a blizzard of fuzz and incomprehension called “Anyway.” The storm clears with “The Hungry Stones,” as acoustic strums, harmonic hums and Matt Valentine’s stoned impression of Neil Young whist about in harmony.
The freak-folk universe has two major poles. One is represented by the Jewelled Antler collective, the San Francisco wing of the operation. The other surrounds Vermont's Matthew Valentine, who rose to a kind of prominence as Tower Recordings, and more recently plays as MV & EE with his partner Erika Elder.Of course, there is plenty more to this freewheeling, loosely defined scene.
Matt Valentine and Erika Elder are MV & EE, and they’ve been kicking out their “lunar ragas” from the woods of Vermont for a while now. Drone Trailer sees a move from Ecstatic Peace to DiCristina and a slightly raised profile, but the group’s as obtusely spectral here, with their mates the Golden Road, as they’ve ever been. These hippie stylings might otherwise mask what must be a pretty rock-solid work ethic—individually and together, Valentine and Elder have been involved with numerous music and otherwise creative efforts through their own label and Elder’s MV & EE Medicine Show.
When listening to the prodigious output of Matt Valentine and Erika Elder, I always end up reaching some fairly simple, yet somehow confusing conclusions, particularly about the MV & EE ‘vibe,’ if you’ll excuse so gauche a term. Simply put, they’re one of the few duos/groups extant who manage to combine a communal, rural take on rock ‘n’ roll with the kind of heavyweight mystique that means you’re never entirely sure what they’re going to drop next. Staying faithful to your art while remaining open to what falls from the sky can make for a rewarding (if at times befuddling) relationship between performers and their audience.