Artist: MV & EE with the Golden Road
Album: Drone Trailer
Label: DiCristina Stair Builders
Review date: Feb. 5, 2009
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.
You’ll also have a pretty different take on MV & EE depending how deeply you’ve been chasing the trip. If you skim their ‘major’ releases (for the DiCristina, Time Lag and Ecstatic Peace labels, amongst others) you’ll get some pretty good indicators as to how their thing’s developing, but burrow down into the sodden earth of their Child Of Microtones CD-Rs and you’ll end up with a more honest – or at least, more rigorous – reflection of the MV & EE totality. And I’m not about to encourage sending anyone broke from chasing limited editions (particularly regarding our current socio-economic impasse), but that expanded context lets MV & EE really flower. (Though the answer to that key question – how many live recordings [now taking on the totemic status of MV & EE’s “Dark Star”] do you need to hear? – is simple: all of ‘em.)
Drone Trailer comes off as one of MV & EE’s richest conciliations of primal rock impulse and agrarian drift – the kind of record that a confused major label would have leaked out into the world in the early 1970s, the last time the underground had any chance of seriously warping the mainstream milieu. There’s something in the whole deal that reminds me of a small clutch of hazed-out solo-record masterpieces – a touch of David Crosby’s If Only I Could Remember My Name here, an unhinged Neil Young on his most maxist folk/grunt form there – and traces of other acts who’ve picked up on that loner/loser mood and moved it along, from Opal (in the slow motion sway of the title track) through J Mascis’s solo navel gazing (“The Hungry Stones”).
It’s MV’s guitar that keeps things moving along. His playing’s a little more reined-in than I’d expect, but there’s something nice in the way he perpetually infers the kind of full temporal-psychic expansion he can reach at his most ‘out’ without really breaking the mold. Valentine’s restraint is a potent device here; there are some beautiful stretches in the title track, where Valentine’s playing tangles with Doc Dunn’s pedal steel, weaving through chord changes that sound like the song taking sharp breaths due to a change of altitude. If you’re looking for a song to add to the Valentine ‘canon,’ to slot alongside “Sky Ain’t High” and “Get Right Church,” then “Drone Trailer” is the latest addition. But it helps that it’s surrounded by great material, like the woozy, unraveled “Weatherhead Hollow,” or the late night ritual of “Huna Cosm.”
Chalk it up to reaping the rewards of single-mindedness and dedication – this one’s a winner. Then hunt down a batch of those live recordings ‘from the taper’s pit.’ They’re a whole other universe unto themselves.
By Jon Dale
Getting mellow in Santiago de Compostela last year: