Space Homestead

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Given the thoroughly extensive back catalog that MV & EE had created by the time of Space Homestead's release, it'd be bold to single out the 2012 album as a head-and-shoulders-above highlight on first blush. But in many ways, from the excellent title on down, Space Homestead functions as a perfect summary of the aesthetic that has driven the duo: a simultaneous embrace of zoned-out meditation and easygoing roots explorations that is never quite one or the other in full. It's not that long-noted touchstones such as the Grateful Dead, the Velvet Underground, and the Band, among many others, can't still be applied, but there's an easy deftness to the album's nine songs that results in a unified and remarkable listen, from the gentle drone-tinged serenity of the opening "Heart Like Barbara Steele" to the concluding "Porchlight > Leaves," a collage of soloing, percussion, and singing that feels like the after-impact of what's come before. In between, it's a series of strong highlights, with EE first taking the lead on the extended backwoods trip of "Workingman's Smile." MV retains the majority of the lead vocal performances throughout, but sometimes it's EE's perfect interjections as a balance, as on "Sweet Sure Gone" and "Wasteland," which turn strong performances into something really remarkable. The most "normal" performances, like "Shit's Creek," still have a buzzing, otherworldly weirdness even amid harmonica, acoustic guitar, and singing, while the blasting fried solo that wraps up "Too Far to See," the first of three long performances that conclude the album, shows that the unsettled noise which underscores even some of their most serene work never, ever quite removes itself. It could almost be a summary of their approach rather than taking their work to the next level, but Space Homestead succeeds precisely because MV & EE have so clearly constructed their particular vision.

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