Matt Valentine is no stranger to psychedelic sounds. For more than 20 years, Valentine's muse was almost exclusively trippy sprawl, whether that took the form of sunburnt jamming with Tower Recordings, subdued acid folk ragas with MV & EE, or any number of experiments that lived on limited-edition CD-Rs or cassette releases. Valentine's work as a solo artist often took on a relaxed tone similar to MV & EE, with 2011's What I Became straddling the line between loner folk and guitar-heavy art rock. Assembled from eight years of back-filed recordings, Preserves goes off the deep end into a pool of demented funk, wild-eyed guitar freak-outs, and layered, druggy walls of confusion and bliss. "Light Speed" opens the album with its closest thing to a pop song. Funky bass, buried vocals, and scratchy, zigzagging wah-wah guitar lines all rise and fall in the mix, sometimes making space for what sounds like a violin or random electronics. It's the sonic equivalent of a bad trip in a '70s blaxploitation movie and recalls the demented swagger of Royal Trux at their funkiest. The song inexplicably ends with various synthesizer patterns before abruptly switching over to the Led Zeppelin-via-Nicodemus riffing of "Cosmic Debris." Structure beneath the madness only comes into view occasionally, as on the bummer folk drift of "Movin' (For the Cosmic Range)," or the zoned-out guitar soloing of "Rockbottomless." Hypnotic long-form jams like "Analog Love" circulate clouds of synthetic atmosphere, droning tanpura, and backwards fuzz-guitar leads. With Preserves, Valentine has sculpted a perfect private-press freak-out record for an era of Internet anxiety and climate-change dread. Elements move in and out of the picture with such slippery motion that it can be hard to grab on to any one idea or sound before it disappears, but understanding or processing the album doesn't seem to be the point. Catching what they can from the thick (and occasionally frightening) grooves of Preserves is all Valentine could possibly ask of his audience when it comes to an album this perfectly damaged.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas