I have already sung the praises of Matt “MV” Valentine elsewhere. For the Google-averse, I can sum it up by saying that MV’s music–both with and without his partner, co-conspirator and constant foil Erika “EE” Elder–has been as crucial a catalyst for my development as a listener as I imagine the Stooges, Big Star, or the Velvets might have been to crate-diggers of a previous generation. Though the influence of MV & EE can clearly be heard throughout various strains of nth wave psychedelia and folk, the duo is rarely name-checked alongside contemporaneous true-originators like Ben Chasny, Jack Rose, or the brothers Bishop, nor evoked in discussions of similarly singular lifer-artists like American Tapes’ John Olson.
MV & EE’s music seamlessly assimilates raga, blues, folk, punk, free improv, drone, and avant garde disciplines while maintaining close, perhaps compulsory, ties to so-called “classic rock” (Canned Heat, the Dead, Dylan, Neil, etc). Their work seems to abide the Muse while ignoring–even as it predicts—subcultural trending (MV was making “guitar soli” albums over a decade ago). In many ways, MV is to free folk–a term he invented, by the way–what Thelonious Monk is to jazz: individualist among individualists, stranger to orthodoxy, and spiritual link to the music’s very essence.
It seems obvious to me that the only logical explanation for the continued obscurity of MV & EE music is that the group are the victims of a deep and diabolical conspiracy. Perhaps MV is, as Steve Aylett wrote of rogue (fictional) science fiction author Jeff Lint, “so far ahead of his time that his existence has had to be disregarded so as not to screw up the continuity.”
I spoke to MV about the great new MV & EE album Alpha Lyrae (the first vinyl release on the duo’s long-running C.O.M. label), his defiantly Utopian approach to gear, and unpopular Neil Young albums.
Wooden Wand: C.O.M. was one of the very first CDR labels, and is also one of the longest-operating, having been established in 1999 following the dissolution of your previous label, Superlux. Alpha Lyrae is the label’s first vinyl release. Why the decision to release vinyl now?
Matt Valentine: It just seemed to align with everything. For once we felt in sync with the times, not ahead or coma slow. We were so deeply involved with all aspects of the album’s creation we figured, why not go all the way? Every note matters, so why not touch as much of it as possible? It feels good. Hopefully that translates. Every sound means something.
Wooden Wand: Alpha Lyrae is my favorite MV and EE ‘high art’ release since Space Homestead. This one reminds me, in spirit, of the Bummer Road / Golden Road era, an era that saw your records become more community-based, despite being recorded with various personnel over vast expanses of terrain. Is this an accurate description?
MV: That’s cool you hear that. In a way, a lotta the “road” crew are on this one, even the Spanish Wolfman! (Spanish Wolfman was a founding member, alongside MV, of both Tower Recordings and Memphis Luxure. –Ed.) Erika and I wanted to have as many of our favorite players as we possibly could on this single LP, even though she and I mostly play everything. P.G. Six was on a bunch of tracks that we working on, but they just didn’t get finished in time.