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MV & EE with the Bummmer Road - Green Blues

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Artist: MV & EE with the Bummmer Road

Album: Green Blues

Label: Ecstatic Peace!

Review date: Dec. 7, 2006

I must confess to temporarily losing contact with the complex universe of Matt Valentine, perhaps our decade’s greatest American vernacular artist, about a year ago: swamped by the (admittedly unrelentingly powerful) wave of solo and duo acoustic guitar CD-Rs he was releasing, I put my hands up in the air and stood back to breathe. Consequently, records such as Green Blues and its predecessor Mother of Thousands, both performed with constant foil Erika Elder and their rural pick-up gang The Bummer Road, hit like a sucker-punch. For one, MV & EE have focused their occasional prolix tendencies while maintaining their fondness for destabilizing psychotropic song forms. Secondly, these records represent a great squaring-off of Valentine’s interests: multi-limbed guitar improvisations; soaring post-Buckley freedom melody, best exemplified by MV’s Space Chanteys album from years back; and loose-arm group-sound that swallows American Primitive threads such as free jazz, early 20th century blues and the rustic melancholy of the Grateful Dead circa American Beauty.

Green Blues is one of the first records released by a newly energized Ecstatic Peace!, Thurston Moore’s imprint, who’ve hooked up an M&D deal with Fontana/Universal. It’s appropriate that Green Blues appears on first blush to be MV & EE’s most coherent recording, the first half of the set tackling C21 campfire songs that nonetheless still carry within their DNA the intensely fucked structural liberties that are part and parcel of Valentine’s song writing. Opener “East Mountain Joint,” floating out on humming mellotron supplied by J Mascis, is a celebratory flash, but it’s tracks like the following “Drive Is That I Love You,” which smear hypnotic acoustic guitar mantras with black-tar electric guitar fuzz as wasted as Royal Trux’s self-titled debut album, that carry the most weight. Most songs on the set are built from simple acoustic guitar, around which collect waves of distortion, floated flute and violin and purring tambura and dulcimer, sediment and grit that pulls the focus out on the aperture. By the closing two songs, “Grassthighs” and “Solar Hill," MV & EE have dropped most of the overt structure and let The Bummer Road fill in the gaps with fractal detail.

MV & EE have been the primary instigators and aesthetic anarchists in the American underground for some time now, and Green Blues is another kick to the solar plexus from the duo and their extended family. Luminous yet dense with foliage, filmed through a haze of smoke and fog, it’s their strongest collection of songs to date.

By Jon Dale

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