To the right person, Barn Nova will be a truly haunting piece of work.
Andrzej Lukowski 2010
There’s a not inconsiderable chance that Matt Valentine, Erika Elder and whichever permutation of musicians happen to be playing with them at the time may actually constitute the most prolific recording artists of the Noughties. This does seem like a rather bold statement, but at the same it’s hard to think of anyone else who has managed to churn out as many as 30 albums in the last decade.
In any case, there are a lot of MV + EE records out there, and you probably don’t want to end up with the wrong one. Not unless you’re really very fond of raga-folk instrumentals, that is, in which case take your pick. Fortunately the duo’s more song-based records are easy enough to identify, coming out as they do on Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace label, and tending not to have the word ‘raga’ in the title.
Barn Nova is their first such release since 2007’s Gettin’ Gone and mines similarly Neil Young-ish territory. Fortunately Valentine and Elder aren’t too concerned with channelling the over-familiar folk rock of Young’s more popular 70s albums, but, rather, the expansive guitarscapes of his grunge-era renaissance, most specifically the gloriously sloppy Ragged Glory and the cold, distressed noise of Sleeps With Angels.
Even poppy opener Feelin’ Fine feels rather disorientating in the remorseless psychedelic whirl of its pedal steels; a few tracks later and Summer Magic thoroughly belies its title, Valentine eerily whining “summer magic is ending, summer magic is gone” over an ominous tapestry of murky fuzz and piercingly high peals of guitar. The centrepiece Bedroom Eyes is 11 minutes of doom country, bleak twangs and unsettling drones staring glassily at each other.
It has to be said that if you’re not a fan of long, mournful guitar solos (Dinosaur Jr’s J Mascis crops up to add extra firepower) then Barn Nova may prove no more appealing or less indulgent than 2005’s The Suncatcher Blossoms A Nova And Is So Grateful It Is No Longer Willing To Dark The Sun: Rural Ragas Volume Three. But if you want to stare into the heart of folk rock darkness, see desolate beauty, and hear a lot of guitars, then Barn Nova is a truly haunting piece of work.