Meet Snake Pass & Other Human Conditions
by MV & EE
SK009DD - 2008
This limited edition, heavyweight vinyl document captures an improbable but precious moment in time. Matt Valentine and Erika Elder are prolific mainstays of the psychedelic underground -their releases as MV & EE and with The Bummer Road fuse noise, raga and Americana to trace out misty ley lines and forgotten pathways with languid intensity. Although this live set is far more stripped down than recent Ecstatic Peace records like Green Blues and Getting’ Gone, its wonderfully hushed quality only enhances the otherworldly resonance of their songs. Meet Snake Pass was recorded at the Heeley Institute in Sheffield in 2007, towards the end of a lengthy European tour. Elder and Valentine had given blood, drank deeply of British hospitality and snatched sleep on the strange floors in the days leading up to the show, which accounts for the dazed and fragile mood. But the sound quality -thanks to the recording engineer Ben Nash -is impeccable, and as Elder’s wah-wah intertwines Valentine’s quixotic acoustic arpeggios, the air between the duo is populated by slowly shimmering colours. These spare, drawn-out songs leave plenty of space for such serendipities. Each one stretches mournful folk blues shapes out in the unhurried movement of incantation. Even the familiar lines of Elizabeth Cotten’s “Freight Train” have a revelatory quality when curled into MV & EE’s tentative, baroque shapes. And the best of their own compositions, like the halting, haunting “Tea Devil” -a fragile latticework of serpentine steel-string patterns and lethargic, shamanic percussion -have an almost visionary impact.
Reviewed by Chris Sharp in The Wire magazine