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More often than not, it is difficult for established artists to expand their sound and try something different. Even more difficult is to succeed at that change. The best draw off of past experiences. They use their knowledge to influence and guide their new creation. For Honey Owens and her partner Rafael Fauria, artistic endeavours shifted with the birth of their child. After spending six years traversing the sounds of "psychedelic house music" as Miracles Club, the pair revived their moniker Valet. They brought in drummer/bassist/keyboardist Mark Burden and recorded Nature at home.

Fans of Owens' "fractured blues" sounds from earlier works in Valet are in for a gentle, welcome surprise. Structurally speaking, the music is not derived from the blues; but there is still a haunting spirit of the blues alive and well, woven throughout the LP. Nature takes up residence in an area that borders dream-pop, psychedelia, and shoegaze. Awash in this hazy sea swims Owens' vocals. Her ethereal voice does not lack sustenance. In a vocal style where it is easy to become breathy and lack diaphragm support, Ms. Owens' singing is in tandem with the compositions offering a solid partnership.

The album opener, 'Sunday' sets the tone. The track starts with long single strums on a reverb driven guitar and floating vocals. It then drops into steady rock-drums. This play between solid beats and hazy layered guitars and synths is the kind of push and pull that allows the album as a whole to not lose momentum. 'Sunday' does not use layers strictly for atmospherics, there are specific riffs and melody/harmony lines that make the composition interesting.

The same can be said for the title track. 'Nature' is more pop in its sound, but still is able to bridge that gap of dreamy haze and solid foundation so you don't float through the void for eternity. A pleasant 6/8 waltz feel and an alive bass line direct the song. 'Nature' is interesting in that while the music has an organic quality, the lyrics go in a different direction. While clouds are mentioned, there are police cars, flashing lights, raised arms and talk of going out Saturday night "with 40s in tow." The play between the natural world and increasing complexity of modern human nature is something I am gaining more appreciation for in each listen of this song.

While this album is full of songs with layers upon layers, there is a mature restraint. It would be easy to add instruments for the sake of it. This is where experience comes into play. Valet have been in the game long enough to know everything must serve a purpose. This is best represented on the song 'Clouds'. In my opinion it's the best ong on the LP. 'Clouds' has back and forths on multiple levels: between a dreamy guitar riff and accented drum beat, and then a slightly hip-hop inspired beat and atmospherics that seep through every crevice. There are moments when the song pushes to a point where it can almost fill an arena but decides to back off. It instead goes for a more rain-morning-mass vibe, echoing in an old stone church. The choice to restrain and not allow the song to burst is what keeps it alive.

Valet accomplished what many modern musicians and producers struggle with everyday: purposefulness. With the exponential growth of technology in the production of music, it is far too easy to add in sounds, beats, and instruments simply because you can. If the purpose of your song/album is to highlight this fact, then more power to you. Unfortunately, that is rarely the case. Valet took their past musical knowledge and forged an expansive record that created its own little universe instead of trying to fill the infinite vacuum of our own. And while I did have to take several listens to gather together lyrics, I can appreciate the commitment to form and function when it came to Nature. Valet's third LP is proof that hazy guitars and dream-pop vocals aren't just for smoke-filled basements. When done right, anyone can take the journey and float with the music rather than get buried inside.

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