Good grief! It's one thing to emulate and aspire to the greats but completely another to claim their mantle. MV & EE, whose last disc was reviewed here, and not very positively, are now claiming the virtues of the Grateful Dead and, oh lord hold me back!, Sun Ra. Let's go over this a moment, shall we?
Sun Ra was one of the most daunting musicians to hit Planet Earth. His most outré comps may sound like pure noise, but here's a fact his too many glib admirers don't know: as Downbeat revealed long ago, they were all composed down to the last note. The Arkestra could perfectly perform each, time after time, flawlessly replicated, and Ra knew precisely whenever someone landed on something even slightly off. MV & EE aren't even in the ballpark when it come to that—a gaggle combining equal amounts of slop, guesswork, and interesting ideas with abandon—though they're here working to get there, I'm happy to say, and far more in a vein with the first incarnation of Amon Duul bleeding attractively into its offspring (Amon Duul II) than Garcia and the crew or even the old German freak-out efforts like Eroc's. But Sun Ra? No.
That said, however, Barn Nova is a much better effort than their debut. The band's still working at its compositional chops and showing nicely, achieving a more cohesive spacey-folk plateau, a stonedly hazy zone sometimes carrying echoes of the mellifluous passages in the work Help Yourself, Space Opera, and the occasionally-intergalactic urban cowpokesters were exuding, even a bit of Master's Apprentice. This isn't 'weird folk', it's mellow-space-country-improv-psychedelic folk and may one day soon prove to finally bring that microscopic sub-sub-sub-genre into its own—as the 70s certainly never accomplished that. The prospects show most glaringly in Summer Magic, a cut the old kaput Black Sun Ensemble and Bevis Frond would do well to study now that their amateur day in the sun has been ingloriously but gratefully extinguished, leaving not even an afterthought. MV & EE exert a sophistication not evident in even one cut of those two groups' fairly large output.
Then the contrast of the crashing Wandering Nomad, a collision of Pink Floyd's Nile Song and more soporific extraneous wheatfield beatitudes, provides a sharp narrative backflash to a chaotic mid-West pastorality, a very nice one indeed, not just music but almost graphic art. In it, we hear how the band is falling together like a true group, not the, um, mouthbreathers they appeared to be last time out. Shimmering cascades of noise and music pour forth, drenching ear and mind. A Neil Young / Crazy Horse refrain peals out in Bedroom Eyes but still maintains Magellanic mists and efflorescence. In all, then, philosophical objections to Sun Ra claimancies aside ("Don't rile a critic!" can be my only advice), Barn Nova is an intriguing and satisfying disc, and I'll even go so far as to guess it'll appeal to Silver Sun Pickups fans and such. All MV & EE really needs to polish up next is the vocal element, the rest appears to be gratifyingly taking care of itself.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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