Thursday, July 7

Record Review: Matt Valentine [What I Became, Woodsist]

By Jennifer Graciano
Throughout Matt “MV” Valentine’s musical career, he has dabbled in just about everything: from psych-folk to blues. The only thing missing from his catalog, and maybe for good reason, is a straight laced disco album. Releasing material with Tower Recordings, the Werefrogs, as MV & EE, solo efforts and countless other projects, Valentine manages to keep his sound fresh and his latest is no exception. Reminiscent of his work with long time collaborator, Erika Elder (the EE of MV & EE), What I Became layers acoustic and electric throughout that gives a warmth and a calming persistency to Valentine’s solo music.

That this release is out on Woodsist is no real surprise, What I Became is easily one of Valentine's folksier sounding efforts. An album that longtime fans will surely appreciate and no doubt sounds comfortable amongst Woodsist company. His ability to pluck strings as heard on "Continuing the Good Life," is superb and should be highlighted any chance he gets. Valentine shakes it up on “Hit The Trails” with a steady amount of electric and acoustic noise; Valentine sings :“Hit the trails/get off of the road” repeatedly over distorted chords. “PK Dick” spotlights Valentine’s guitar skills as they push his vocals to a barely audible point, an unhurried jam that’s almost haunting.

Throughout What I Became, vocals are buried in effects with barely enough strength behind them. It’s hard not to make comparisons to L.A.’s psych rocker Sun Araw; while tropic sounds aren’t Valentines style, the masked vocals and steady percussion similar to Sun Araw are all there. The rickety vocals on “Stay” continue to be muffled by Valentines excellent instrumentation; here it’s a bit of a frustrating give and take. The few words you can make out seem the most emotive on the album, but straining your ear can only get you so far. The remainder of the album eases out with Erika Elder jumping in on backing vocals for “Ease My Eyes,” which only gives Valentine’s piece a dreamlike appeal. “Ave B” and “Sweet Little Indian Girl” are calm listens that follow the same guitar and vocal combination as on the majority of What I Became.

Matt Valentine manages to, once again, reinvent his sound ever so slightly. No matter how many releases the man has under his belt, he fails to stagger by constructing songs that fiddle with experimental gradual build ups that never overflow to an alarming point. Yet another solid release from Valentine.

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