Dusted Reviews

Matt MV Valentine - Glorious Group Therapy

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Matt MV Valentine

Album: Glorious Group Therapy

Label: Ecstatic Yod

Review date: Nov. 18, 2003

Everyone capable of registering the slightest thump of the heartbeat of hip knows that there is a sort of folk revival taking place in the American music underground. Revolving around a handful of bands who are using traditional elements to forge an inventive, new music, the Free Folk movement is one of the most enticing trends to come along in a dog’s age.

Matt MV Valentine, leader of The Tower Recordings, is one of Free Folk’s elder statesmen. After ditching city life for the easy livin’ of the country, MV has set up camp in the forests of southern Vermont. Along with coconspirator Erika Elder, Valentine was the hometown hero of last summer’s Brattleboro Free Folk Festival, which drew two-dozen fellow sonic adventurists such as Sunburned Hand of the Man, Charalambides, Thurston Moore, Son of Earth, Scorces and Jack Rose to the tiny town.

Recently, scribe Byron Coley’s Ecstatic Yod imprint has re-released a cassette-only collection of Valentine’s musical wanderings from sometime in the middle-to-late ’90s. Though recorded during the past handful of years, Glorious Group Therapy leaves little clue as to its inception. The cover, a washed out photograph of Valentine standing in front of a wall of rustic wooden siding, clad in jeans and worn-in button downs, could be the cover of any number of hillbilly or folk LPs from the past three decades. Calmly puffing on a pipe and holding an oversized banjo, he looks as nonchalant as any backwoods picker. Only the psychedelically twisted lettering gives any hint as to what can be found upon the grooves of this particular piece of wax.

“Feel… The Music” starts off side A with the sound of barking dogs, picked six-string and collaborator Tim Barnes’ clattering percussion. As the tune spirals onward, a bass voice adds echoing, wordless chants as a spine-tingling falsetto repeats the title phrase. The percussion grows into a deep, subsonic dub, filling the spaces with a chest-denting whomp. Valentine’s guitar continues to peel off twangy licks, as if unaware of the madness growing around it.

Next up is another lengthy excursion entitled “Cocola’s Chronic Journey”. Here we find guitar melodies skirting each other in a playful interaction. The track is a journey indeed, with the guitars slowly nudging one another, meandering along at a lackadaisical pace, backed by some free-jazz tinkering by Barnes on “chopstick cymbals.” At the end, the piece dissolves into a sheet of flickering drones that waver off into the distance.

Following these two epics is a pair of shorter tracks. “Riverboat Au Go Go” has Valentine in a duet with himself on guitars. The track is a back porch pickin’ beauty that recalls the awe-inspiring lyricism of John Fahey. “Joaquin Antique Riverboat Hizzos” is another delicate wonder, with subtle drumming underpinning a deliciously melancholy tune.

Side B follows the same pattern as the first. Two long cuts begin the side, with four shorter excursions rounding things out. “Moonshine Raga” starts quietly with a whispering, autumnal dance. The players are in no rush, and they let notes hang, allowing percussive hits to dissipate into nothing. After a lengthy wait, Barnes begins to awaken things by settling into a stuttering tabla groove. Valentine follows suit on guitar, raising volume carefully, before letting it slide back to silence.

“Lung Gong” forgoes flirting with volume to settle into a steady, ringing jaunt. Again the ghost of Fahey appears, showing himself in the vibrancy of the notes and captivating control of the song’s dynamic. “I’m Going Down the River”, the only non-original, features sweet slide work and some otherworldly flute atmospherics from Elder.

Valentine continues to showcase his more traditional side on “Oh Papa, Cocola’s On the Jug Again”. Aside from some haunting vocals buried in the mix – maybe Elder’s “space whispers” – the track is yet another example of Valentine’s six-string skills. “Ceremony Without” adds the hovering drone of harmonium to Valentine’s up-tempo guitar figure. The rhythmic breaths of the harmonium bring a warm buzz to the track, rubbing up against the quickly picked guitar and loud, staccato percussion.

Finally, “Psychic 78 Sound”, the album’s strangest track, closes things down. Amidst looped drones, the group creates a multi-layered percussive stomp, that while offsetting at first, quickly coheres into a lulling tribal groove.

Call it what you will, the Free Folk scene has been host to a good deal of the most exciting music that has seen release this past year. Who knows to what tripped-out confines the genre will lead, but Glorious Group Therapy should earn Matt Valentine a solid spot in the scene’s retrospective.

By Ethan Covey

Read More

View all articles by Ethan Covey

Find out more about Ecstatic Yod

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.