Under the acronymic project title MV & EE, Vermont’s prolific duo of Matt Valentine and Erika Elder have released material in seemingly every conceivable format, length, and method. There are limited edition live cassettes, handbound multi-CD “wallets,” and LPs released on established oddities labels like Ecstatic Peace and their own Child of Microtones. But that’s the norm for DIY psych-folk bands like this. Where MV & EE excel on their new LP, Space Homestead, is in finding a balance between longform drones and controlled haunting melody.
The duo’s harmonies on tracks like “Workingman’s Smile” embody their just off-kilter charm. The song rambles on for four and a half minutes, Valentine’s rough falsetto and Elder’s rich, smoky voice lolling out wordy lyrics about how “superceded by a mask of evil, the workingman raises his glass.” Brushed drums, sprawling bass, harmonica, and multiple spacey guitar parts find a united groove despite their continuously altering and seemingly improvised parts. While each part would sound aimless on its own, together, everything makes sense in a floating cloud sort of way.
“Lately I’ve been thinking,” Valentine repeats on “Shit’s Creek”, a telling moment for the band’s demeanor. The keyword for this release (and a large portion of MV & EE’s massive catalog) is reflective. In the middle of honking harmonica, plucking acoustic guitar, and Valentine’s ramblings, what sounds like a thin, deep brass instrument toots out mis-tuned notes, reverbed as if it were just barely echoing out of a well. Valentine’s lyrics here turn to concerned introspection, the brass barely bellowing out concern.
Throughout Space Homestead, Valentine and Elder build interweaving, mantra-like webs of instrumentation that stem from a theme, adding flourishes and differences at every moment. The album sounds like it was written and recorded one lazy day on someone’s back porch, and could perfectly soundtrack such a day. Even in tenser moments (as on the overblown, distorted electric guitar solo nearing the end of “Too Far To See” or the claustrophobic, metallic eeriness in patches of album closer “Porchlight”), there’s always a sense that the looming danger is just that, something looming just far enough away to get a clear, thoughtful look at.
Essential Tracks: “Workingman’s Smile”, “Too Far to See”