MV & EE: Root/Void

MV & EE are Matt Valentine and Erika Elder –a dynamic duo from Vermont whose music is radically multifaceted. Packed with a variety of genres and inspirations, it’s a bit much to take in at first sometimes but can quickly level out. Their newest album, Root/Void is both appropriately modern and somehow still distinct. It’s a special kind of listen.

Root/Void is introspective, ambient, string-laden, and in some respects, absolutely solid. Honest and out of the way –the degree of ambience makes MV & EE’s latest a bit more of a ‘background music’ kind of album, but I’d push the issue that the soundscapes that the duo do build are seriously sweet.

The opening track, “Love Lemma > Herb Slang” is honestly a bit of a hodgepodge and made me raise a seriously skeptical eyebrow. MV & EE take on a bit of an Eastern style –almost raga. The vocals are a painful drone in the distance across a slew of string and percussive instruments. The song is chaotic and a bit of an auditory miasma. Nauseating but trance inducing. After the half way point, the song begins to shape up with more structured melodies –which leads to a proper segue into track two.

“Much Obliged” sets Root/Void straight and makes way for the rest of the album to come together. MV & EE become more coherent in some respects. The string lines take on a folk atmosphere and to some extent those droned out vocals match. It’s smoother and easier to digest. That trance inducing-ness begins to fade in exchange for some more conflicting melodies, but the more clearly distinct lines make the song more listenable.

This sort of back and forth, penta-pendulum swing of; ambient, noise, folk, east, and that garagey-slacker styled punk (primarily in the vocal lines) –it all continues on throughout the album. What was interesting at first becomes both dizzying and predictable. If you spin in a circle a hundred times, you could probably predict that one more spin would make you even dizzier –and in the same way MV & EE’s music works the same. You can listen to one track or all eight and if you push yourself to listen to some more, you can predict that you’ll want to go do the dishes instead.

But you never decide to really hit ‘pause’ or ‘stop’ or ‘mute’ and that’s what makes Root/Void so redeemably great. The music isn’t too intrusive and it has enough good pieces to the whole. I imagine if some divine force decided to listen to the music of Earth, a singular cacophonic orchestra of every band in the universe, Root/Void may be the result. There’s so many tasty morsels so oddly slapped together. Listen with intent and those ears are going to fall off –meditate instead and suddenly you’ll hear something very neat.

I don’t think it was until I heard, “Feel Alright,” that I decided to restart the album and maybe listen a little more carelessly. If Root/Void is meant to be taken seriously, with a head-bob and careful attention, then something is seriously wrong here. On a looser, more relaxed level, there’s some neat choices at hand. “Feel Alright,” feels like a sequel to all those cheery Summer songs. It’s a perfectly chilled out song for chilled out weather. Easily some of the smartest decisions of percussion and guitar use are made in this track, maybe I’m a fool but it might be gold.

MV & EE made some very interesting music for Root/Void. To be honest, I’m not sure this is something to prescribe so much as say, if you’re having trouble with certain symptoms of musical boredom, jadedness, or a need to rearrange your thoughts on what music might be, Root/Void may be a good jumping off point for you. The duo didn’t do anything spectacular nor did they make anything phenomenal but the abstract soundscapes build upon varieties of sound are refreshingly new. It’s nothing too crazy reconfigured into a crazy format. MV & EE’s Root/Void is curious and inspiring.

Rating: 7.5/10