PREVIEW I admit I was a little skeptical on first receiving Valet's Naked Acid (Kranky) in the mail. I was burned out on Terry Rileyinspired meditation music even before seeing the garishly New Age "vibe painting" gracing the sleeve. It took a couple of weeks for me to get around to actually listening to the thing, and I'm glad I waited: the album begins with bell chimes, distant drums, and a what sounds like a thumb-piano loop, but what follows is hardly Tubular Bells, part two. Naked Acid is a drone album, but an incredibly brave one in which emotions are laid bare and a surprising range of musical textures flow from a minimalist sonic palette. Take three tracks in their chronological order: "Drum Movie"'s milky growl sounds fit for a David Lynch movie. "Keehar"'s reverb-licked guitar plays like celestial rock. "Fuck It"'s scraping drawl evokes Patti Smith played at half-speed or a duskier Mazzy Star.
Though Valet springs from the same Portland, Ore., DIY scene as White Rainbow, guiding light Honey Owens' musical family tree includes Austin, Texas' Jana Hunter, Finland's Lau Nau, and fellow Portlander Grouper. All these women are pushing the female singer-songwriter format into new atmospheric, painterly territory, taking advantage of loop pedals and thick layers of reverb to collapse the distance between performance and production. Naked Acid's constant dissolve hovers uneasily between Karen Dalton remove and electronic opacity. After 40 minutes of enclosed drifting, Owens finally bobs to the surface on "Streets," turning a few pirouettes over a bustling programmed beat before clipping it off in noisy heat.
When Owens opened for Atlas Sound here last March, she was plagued by sound problems and seemed lost in the gestalt of her multiplanar drones. This time she plays at two smaller venues Hemlock Tavern and a Mission District underground space better suited to her diffuse blues, though it may take something else for her to shake something indelible from what, for now, remains ineffable.
VALET With Galactic Core, Kawabata Makoto, and Numinous Eye. June 18, 9 p.m., $7. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. (415) 923-0923, www.hemlocktavern.com