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MV + EE - Liberty Rose

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Artist: MV + EE

Album: Liberty Rose

Label: Arbitrary Signs

Review date: Sep. 8, 2010

Matt Valentine and Erika Elder are creative people. In the last decade alone, they have recorded more than thirty albums. (Though I would confidently guess that there are many, many more that haven’t found proper cataloguing.) As you very well know, recording an album costs money. Production, distribution and marketing cost more. Luckily, for their more ambitious and successful recorded material, MV & EE have the backing of Ecstatic Peace to spread the love. But the Vermont-based duo writes songs and collaborates at an impressive pace and in a wide variety of styles. While they live an unapologetic retro-hippie lifestyle, Valentine and Elder have been crafty enough with modern technology to get their creativity to the people. These not-quite-as-marketable self-recordings appear as CD-Rs via Child of Microtones with other imprints fronting the bills for limited LP runs. Liberty Rose falls heartily in the latter category with Arbitrary Signs responsible for the vinyl (limited to 99 copies of course).

Only accompanied by steel guitarist Doc Dunn, Valentine and Elder venture down their usual path of desert sky psychedelia. Folk, blues and country foundations are electrified, reverberated and slowed to a barbiturate pace. Unintelligible vocals lazily echo outward and an untroubled harmonica colors the edges. Raga-like modes of melodic progression weave with the twang of the American south and the psych noodling of 70s-era Germany. It’s by no means a new approach for MV & EE, but it’s one that they are well on their way of mastering.

The first side of Liberty Rose features the pair at their back-porch finest. While the introductory “Right to Dry” doesn’t really amount to much more than a bit of psychedelic guitar pleasantries, it does prep you for the wonderfully meandering “Flow My Ray.” Valentine’s mumbled hum of a voice calmly swirls around a mélange of other pleasant melodic noises enhanced by the heavy usage of reverb. Everything is grounded by a poignant harmonica melody that at once sounds searching and homely. Side A concludes with “Crow Jane Environs,” maybe the strongest number of the album. Elder’s lap steel practically coos in the hazy background of Valentine’s unrushed guitar playing. A proggy electric solo is introduced at about the halfway mark, and while it verges on Omar Rodriguez-Lopez territory, it thankfully keeps its cool and stays relaxed.

Side B doesn’t fair quite as well, though the players’ experience keeps it from spiraling too far outside of quality. “Death is My Friend” features Elder’s mournful country vocals pontificating halfassedly about death over a repeating blues riff. “Out in Space” does its title justice by aimlessly noodling in and out of semblance. It brings to mind an Amon Düül II experiment from the mid-70s. The 10-minute “Streams” rounds out the record on a higher note, though still nothing up to par with Side A. The folksy guitar melody is pleasant and the pair’s combined vocals make for an interesting counterpoint, but the track really excels during the effects-drenched second half of the song. Valentine’s solo sounds as if it is indeed fording a stream, peacefully flowing and shimmering softly in the twilight sun.

As a whole, Liberty Rose makes for a solid MV & EE outing. There is not much question why it remains a Child of Microtones release and not an Ecstatic Peace one, but this also offers the duo a little more room to experiment and worry less about pleasing a larger audience. For longtime and devoted fans, you should be pleased.

By Michael Ardaiolo

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