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MV + EE - Barn Nova

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Artist: MV + EE

Album: Barn Nova

Label: Ecstatic Peace!

Review date: Oct. 13, 2009


MV + EE - "Feelin' Fine" (Barn Nova)


Since their inception, Matt Valentine and Erika Elder have been consistently grouped and filed away. Each critical analysis since their Ecstatic Peace debut, Green Blues, is sure to parallel MV’s lazy nasal drawl to Neil Young’s, of which MV is unarguably guilty. And though they were initially pigeonholed with the awkward freak-folkers of the early aughts, the increasingly prevalent rock side of their sound has shifted the filing to the retro-psych clans of Black Mountain and Sunburned Hand of the Man. These comparisons aren’t without merit, but as their discography has lengthened, MV & EE are slowly approaching the derivative threshold.

Their third release for Ecstatic Peace, Barn Nova pretty much picks up the progression Gettin’ Gone hinted at. The electrified country ragas are a bit more reigned in and the anyone-can-join-us hippie mentality skewed toward a more exacting band. Pedal guitarist Doc Dunn and Dinosaur Jr. stalwart J Mascis have returned to the fold, while guitarist Mike Smith, percussionist Justin Pizzoferrato and Woodsist mastermind Jeremy Earl have joined the festivities. With eight songs in just over forty minutes, Nova is not exactly a monolith, but it does feature some of the duo’s strongest material.

Barn Nova really finds its groove through the belly of the album, culminating in the eleven-minute “Bedroom Eyes.” The arc begins with “Snapperhead,” a mixture of awkward Valentine-sung verses and a catchy, glistening chorus. It’s a framework better worked by Earl’s Woods outfit, though the hazy psychedelics add a nice depth to the mix. “Summer Magic” continues the descent from the half-baked country tunes into the depths of heavy electric guitar swirls and Sonic Youth-like walls of sound. In fact, as the song progresses, it’s hard not to think of it as a SY jam session with less of an obsession for dissonance and complex chords.

As with the previous Ecstatic Peace albums, the Mascis presence is eventually felt. “Wandering Nomad” is the most prevalent on Barn Nova. Suddenly, the guitars aren’t as much shimmering above as they are crashing into the drums, and the vocals slowly get enveloped into the mix. A big guitar solo confirms the suspicions and the tune concludes with a big fadeout of feedback.

By the time “Bedroom Eyes” saunters in, any hope of proper song-structure is lost. A thick cloud of electric psychedelics is at fault, burying the already forgettable lyrics and letting the guitars take turns modeling the melodic motif. Despite such jam sessions repeatedly taking place -- not only in the MV & EE discography but as well in the redundant world of psychedelic rock -- the band pulls it off well. It’s just enough for the drugs to take effect without letting you completely doze off.

This balance may be MV & EE’s greatest talent, a successfully-crafted sound for the post-millennium hippie. The herb and the everyone’s-an-artist spirit remain, but -- thankfully -- it’s encapsulated in an appreciation for the last 40 years of rebellious music.

By Michael Ardaiolo

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