Valley Maker, the name of Seattle-based singer/songwriter/guitarist Austin Crane’s musical endeavor, brings to mind grandiose acts of nature, which probably shouldn’t come as a surprise for a guy who is also a Ph.D. student in Human Geography. Crane’s second and latest album as Valley Maker, 2018’s excellent Rhododendron, overflows with nature imagery, as songs titles like “Planted in the Tall Weeds” and “River Bend My Mind” would suggest.
Crane expands his Folk-based sonic palette this time out, no doubt aided by his longtime friend and first-time collaborator, Toro y Moi’s Chaz Bear, who produced and engineered several of the new songs. “Light on the Ground,” backed by programmed drums, horn swells and synth atmospherics, brings to mind The War on Drugs minus the guitar heroics. And the pensive “Be Born Today,” with its haunting backing vocals and reverb guitars, wouldn’t be out of place on a Black Angels album.
The expanded textural elements enhance the mood conjured by Crane’s typically evocative lyrics. Take “Beautiful Birds Flying,” which opens with this scene setter: “Cutting off light/Like I would an engine/Walking through the night/Like I’ve gone missing/Missing from the place I live/Missing from my brain, I guess.”
“I think how Chaz approached the rhythm section and auxiliary/synth textures in relation to my guitar and vocal parts really brought the songs into different sonic territories and created an atmosphere around them,” Crane said in a 2018 interview with New Commute. “I feel proud of what we did, really grateful to him, and excited to play the new songs live in this respect.”
Recently released video for Valley Maker's "Supernatural":