Matt Southern: Ural Mt. Valley


[Potluck Foundation; Feb. 28]

Release show: Saturday, Mar. 14, 3 p.m., The Pour House

Valleys in bloom, stars falling into the sea, poppies and lovers and crows—such pastoral visions abound in Ural Mt. Valley, the new EP that Raleigh musician Matt Southern will celebrate with a free release show at The Pour House on Saturday afternoon. Even its title—which refers to the mountain range that cuts through the heart of Russia, a blurry boundary between Europe and Asia—suggests a faraway, perhaps Edenic refuge in the tundra.

Over five tracks, Southern crafts this mood with crisp yet languorous arrangements beneath dreamlike narrations. Double-tracked acoustic guitars pick and strum around the edges of the mix, brightening the landscape, while low distortion occasionally threatens to well up from below, as it does on the centerpiece, “Rosa,” which hints at a darkness behind the paradise.

“The moon will lay you bare, and the crows will pick you clean,” Southern warns.

But for the most part, Ural Mt. Valley is about finding a brief reprieve from harsh reality. “Older Together” is a tender country ballad dedicated to growing old with a partner, while “Million Little Wheels,” with its droning, John Fahey-style fingerpicking and Laurel Canyon harmonies, gives us permission to feel a little lost: “It’s all right to live without an answer,” Southern sings. “There’s plenty of light to go around.”

There is hope in the valley, but it’s born from exhaustion, and sometimes, the best thing you can do is to “turn out the lights and call it a day.” Southern acknowledges that these respites may be temporary, even illusory. But that doesn’t stop them from being necessary.

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