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It may seem hard to identify a common thread throughout “Root/Void,” the latest album by MV & EE (the duo Matt Valentine and Erika Elder). From the subtle Indian raga roots that greet the listener in the debut track, “love lemma > herb slang,” to the blues and folk undertones in the subsequent “much obliged,” the Vermont-based experimental duo craft an album from a mosaic of genres and instruments. Yet despite the seemingly overambitious premise of welding raga, blues, folk, rock, and psychedelic electronic music into a cohesive sound, MV & EE deliver an enlightening musical experience.
This fluid mosaic is present in “love lemma > herb slang,” where repetitive flanging and reverbing build upon raga influences to invite the listener to enter the metaphorical void of “Root/Void.” Like most songs on the album, “love lemma > herb slang,” has numerous instruments playing at any given moment, punctuated by multiple electrical guitar solos and the sustained flanging of a sitar. Compared to the others, this track leans more towards an Eastern influence than the other seven. After this opening, the album transitions into a blues ballad in which the singers express their appreciation “for all the things you do.” Even the vocals are copiously reverberated, creating the effect of a chorus singing along.
The most abrupt shift in the album follows with “no $ (shit space – it’s all about the coin ¢ /corn),” where MV & EE adopt a psychedelic electronic experimentalism that stands out from the other tracks not only for the instruments used (synthesizer and keyboard) but also in the lyrics themselves. Whereas the other tracks often refer to love and/or gratitude in a soothing style with dreamy Auto-Tune and vocal reverberations, “no $” is about how the singers “gotta have coin,” with harsh layering of the electrical guitar. If anything, the usage of symbols, lowercase, and abstract language within the song title is indicative of the experimental nature of the track.
The first three aforementioned tracks showcase the album’s greatest diversity in themes, instruments, and genres. The remainder of the album sways towards folk and country music—background birds and crickets chirping in “love is everyone > TOAOB” inhabit the same space as the electric guitar and electronic psychedelic music. If there’s anything constant in this track, it is the repudiation of orthodoxy in music genres as the sounds bleed through. The songs’s titles follow this same pattern of repudiation of orthodox paradigms of contemporary music.
What is consistent throughout the album, however, is its subtle classic rock influence. The repeated use of the electric guitar in solos anchors the eight tracks and allows MV & EE’s to merge different genres seamlessly. As a musical group that weaves genres into what it has described as “free folk,” “jam band” and “lunar ragas,” MV & EE create a kaleidoscope through which to examine the themes of love and money.
The album concludes with “i’m still in love with you love > void,” a track that has an eerily similar beginning to the debut track “love lemma > herb slang.” Thus, the cyclical nature of the album perpetuates the notion of an endless musical void the listener is first invited to experience in the first opening track. However, not much else is similar between them, as “i’m still in love with you love > void” has a country sound that eventually fades into an experimental psychedelic electronic sound similar to that of the third track, “no $.”
Ultimately, MV & EE set out to create an album that further refines their self-described free folk style. The duo manage to further explore the bizarre yet enrapturing intersection of country folk, Indian raga, and psychedelic electronic music. While their distinct sound may confuse first-time listeners unsure what to expect, it delivers an rewarding break from the expectations of what an experimental album can become.
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