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MV + EE - Country Stash

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Artist: MV + EE

Album: Country Stash

Label: Three Lobed

Review date: May. 19, 2011

It’s so de rigueur to compare MV + EE’s (a.k.a. Matt Valentine and Erika Elder) prolific output to Neil Young’s that I was all set before I even heard this disc to declare a moratorium on the practice. While it’s true that they have appropriated the Crazy Horse sound, with its big-as-Redwoods guitars and stolid, resolutely un-swinging grooves, they owe at least as big a debt to the echo-laden cosmic muddle of Sun Ra’s Arkestra when Bugs Hunter ran the tape deck.

So what do MV + EE do but up the ante? About a minute and a half into “No There, There,” the final tune on Country Stash, Valentine breaks into one of the Horse’s cornerstone tunes, “Down By The River.” “It’s old,” I imagine him saying, “but it’s good.” And he’s right.

But not all under the sun is old when you travel the Golden Road. The duo is prone to teaming up with old friends and fellow travelers wherever they go, and alongside the familiar names (drummer Doc Dunn, harmony singer Jeremy Earl) are two that the couple met in England — Mick Flowers (Vibracathedral Orchestra, Flowers-Corsano Duo) and Andy Ramsay (Stereolab, the High Llamas). Flowers’ presence makes sense; Elder and Valentine have often made room for other guitarists, and while he’s more prone to full-on freaking out, his music is just as oriented towards the summoning of higher powers as theirs. But Ramsay not only plays a heap of percussion and electronics, he produces parts of this record; the exacting perfectionism of his other bands doesn’t seem like a simpatico pairing with MV + EE’s ultra-loose approach. But the way they meet in the middle on “Tea Devil” makes this record stand out in the duo’s bulging discography.

I don’t suppose Ramsay can take all the credit for the cool, libidinal menace in Elder’s singing — she’s been building both chops and authority over time — but I wouldn’t be surprised if he had something to do with her singing in tune this time around. And while the song’s eerie three-way jam between Flowers, Valentine and the singularly named Rongoose probably would have happened whether Ramsay was around or not, I wonder if another knob-twiddler would have had such good instincts about where to keep the mix clean and where to let the synths blow through.

Even when Ramsay isn’t behind the board, this music benefits from a clarity that makes me wonder if the titular treasure-lode isn’t of milder potency than your average 21st century harvest. The duo is still quite happy to ladle on the reverb, but their sauce never overpowers the roast. Even "Country Stash"‘s extended flute-mandolin-guitar duel, with its echoes of the Dead’s “Dark Star,” feels quite purposeful. They don’t get lost, just happy wandering.

By Bill Meyer

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Space Homestead


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