Valet is Honey Owens and she did something pretty cool on her debut, Blood is Clean – she approximated the response time of how brief she could be within the normally loose-fitting confines of drone/drug/stoner/cosmic ambient psychedelia. As such, ideas were played slowly, just enough times for a pattern to emerge, which she’d then mess with until it was time to try a new part. All of these tracks were clustered right in the middle of that album and continue to ripple through my headphones months after the fact, conjuring a blue-black forest clearing at night, lit by the moon, which I as a listener have to sleepwalk through blindfolded. There have been a lot of releases bearing the Kranky name since the label’s inception, but here was one that reminded me of the best things about its earliest releases: the packed-in, substantive synaesthetic of Labradford; the woozy, sunburnt madness of Dadamah; the lucid, walled-off trance of Dissolve. It was one of the best albums to be released last year … and if you like the new one, Naked Acid, I strongly recommend you check out Blood is Clean.
To miss out on that one would be to deny Owens the chance to develop, to let her sound molt in a cocoon of blues experiments, channeling both Jennifer Herrema and Hope Sandoval through the Ouija board between her pedals and effects boxes. Her guitar playing provides a meaty psychedelic backbone to minimalist strokes, illustrating the points between Loren MazzaCane Connors and Eddie Hazel on “Fuck It” as if she was a DJ, transitioning some quick cuts to cover more ground. Elsewhere, she plays uneasily over a chopped up “Drum Movie,” torches us on the beach (“Fire,”) even starts the dance party with the 8-bit boom bap and housefly soliloquy of “Streets.”
Without the earlier, more sedate grounding, with a sound close enough to sit next to you, Naked Acid’s significantly expanded palette might be a little too distracting. Yet Owens plays that same trick in the spaces in the opening tracks – presenting and manually shifting a tableau of meditative ideas that unite in a cold, clinging symmetry of higher-than-high, chiller-than-chill movements. These sounds favor the album over the song, and pull your attention inward, in a predetermined display of pillowriff-writing righteousness. It’s a really clever trick, and she puts it to great use, but it wouldn’t be there without her varied musical gifts. That it is there belies an attention seldom expected from such billowing, free-natured material.