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Blood Is Clean

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Album Review

Blood Is Clean, Honey Owens' debut as Valet, feels more like a séance than an album. Owens described the process of making these works as more like channeling the music rather than self-consciously recording it, and it shows: her voice, guitar and electronic drones are woven together inextricably, and as she murmurs and moans, the sounds surrounding her ebb and flow match her, rising and falling like breath on the aptly named "Mystic Flood." On "Sade 4 Bri," guitar melodies ripple, reflect and undulate in endless, hypnotic patterns. Blood Is Clean is very different than Owens' work with Nudge, and resembles her contributions to Jackie-O M**********r only slightly — Valet's blend of folk, drones, and indescribable noises that sound organic (even if they're anything but) borrow from Owens' other projects but sound completely unique. "April 6" begins Blood Is Clean with massed, wordless vocals, bongos and impressionistic guitar textures — Owens strums and taps her instrument into melodic rhythms and percussive melodies that blur into each other — while electronic sounds and other percussive elements drift in and out. The effect is incredibly natural, almost like field recordings, but as atmospheric as the album gets, it never quite fades into the background, even on the most abstract pieces like "Burmajuana," which consists of little more than whispering, wind chimes, and viscous guitar drones. Blood Is Clean's more songlike tracks are especially beautiful: Owens has an unselfconsciously sensual voice much like Bardo Pond's Isobel Sollenberger, and "Tame All the Lions" and the title track have some of the disorienting, woozy loveliness of that band's more gently psychedelic moments. The final, 13-minute epic "North" is another standout, piling layers of processed, slowly morphing vocals on top of each other so densely and lushly that they're almost tangible, suggesting glaciers slowly but surely moving and reshaping themselves. Owens' uncanny gifts for textures and for playing with space and distance in her music make Blood Is Clean a quietly accomplished album, artfully crafted without being obviously crafted. Though Owens' work is subtle, it's not so understated that it fails to make an impact on the first listen, and while active listening to the album is rewarded, there's a lot to be said for letting its serene yet unexpected sounds wash over you.


Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

The solo project of Portland's Honey Owens -- who plays with bands including Jackie O Motherfucker and Nudge -- Valet focuses on droning soundscapes dominated by Owens' vocals and guitars. She recorded the songs that make up Valet's debut album, Blood Is Clean, from January to May of 2006. Describing her approach as "channeling sounds from an unknown place," most of the songs were recorded in one take, augmented by a few extra tracks. Blood Is Clean was originally released by Yarnlazer, a CD-R label...
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Blood Is Clean, Valet
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