I guess the fashionable buzz around acid-folk or whatever we chose to call it has passed now – in fact it probably passed sometime last year when all the lifestyle hacks got fed up with Devendra Banhart and turned on the (sorely underrated, I’d say) “Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon”.
But away from the fleetingly hyped stuff, you get the impression that business carries on hearteningly as normal in the American psych underground. A case in point is the ecstatic, seething, strung-out new gem from Matt Valentine and Erika Elder, two erudite freaks holed up in Vermont who’ve been ploughing this furrow since, hell, maybe the mid-‘90s.
MV + EE first came onto my radar as part of the pioneering Tower Recordings collective, who were one of the first bands from the Eastern States to start grappling with a murky, dislocated, mystic and lo-fi take on folk. It would take a much more assiduous collector of arcana than me to make sense of their vast back catalogue, not least because plenty of it was released in tiny quantities on homebrewed micro-labels.
The last MV+EE record I heard was last year’s “Getting’ Gone” on Ecstatic Peace, but according to my infallible little Wiki friends, it seems that another four have come out since then. I’m conscious, then, that I may only really be aware of their comparatively mainstream recordings in recent times, a series that possibly began with 2006’s terrific “Green Blues”.
The prevailing vibe here makes for a suitable follow-up to yesterday’s Neil Young love-in, since MV +EE ostensibly make hay with a certain blissed and obliterated index of possibilities that can be found in the great man’s work. “Weatherhead Hollow” is a fantastically strung-out, gaseous jam with some mighty soloing by Matt Valentine in the usual unstable context that has typified most everything I’ve heard that they’ve ever been involved in.
You could just about place MV+EE, in fact, as part of a lineage that starts more or less with Neil (though they’d doubtless privilege some private press obscurities in spite of Valentine’s high, parched and eerily familiar voice), and heads through to Dinosaur Jr. J Mascis has been part of the Golden Road backing band in the past (along with the likes of Samara Lubelski, John Moloney and Chris Corsano), and though he isn’t active on “Drone Trailer” – awesome title, I think – you can feel his spirit heavily in the smeared lurch of the opening “Anyway”.
I can spot, too, affinities with Royal Trux, especially when Elder takes the lead: something like the title track is kin of sort to something off “Twin Infinitives”, albeit fractionally more coherent and with some intoxicatingly spacey pedal steel floating around the dissolute tangle of harmonies and strums.
Like all the previous MV+EE records I’ve heard, there’s something enormously engaging and atmospheric about these loosely-constructed songs: a sense of languid intensity that comes with some of the best hippie jams. A real feel of a band getting it together in the country, I suppose.