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Blues Control - Local Flavor

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Artist: Blues Control

Album: Local Flavor

Label: Siltbreeze

Review date: Jul. 13, 2009

Blues Control works despite itself. Show me any other band whose drummer is a Walkman that sounds this compelling, and I’ll shut up.

Russ Waterhouse and Lea Cho work with keyboard, four-string Cort electric guitar, tapes, and effects, and tower above any latter-day collage artists or tributes to bright futures. They see opportunity in the limitations put forth by their choice of instrumentation, as well as the stricture of the ambient music projects they follow. It doesn’t hurt that they can play well, and that’s the quality that brings them back from the abyss of unmoored banality that so many outfits on their vector have spun off from, hopelessly. There’s pop in this art, and it’s the kind you can buy for $1 apiece in the dusty, foot-level crates at your local record store. Their vision remains chaste, evidenced by a recent move from Queens down to Richmond, Virginia. Best to let a sound this immediate develop on its own.

Local Flavor is their third album, and likely the tightest set they’ve turned in to date. Rhythms jump out on this one, something that didn’t happen enough on earlier releases, a restless, loping, dubular thud cresting over with the hand percussion section at Sam Ash. The confidence of these strenuous beats pushes the band into rock mode; opener “Good Morning” is by far their most straightforward offering yet, with unswerving two-beat and cowbell stampeding across enormous reinforced puffball riffs concussing against the delay pedal, while Kurt Vile and Jesse Trbovich zoom all around the foundation on trumpet and sax. Leading into the album’s most docile track, “Rest on Water,” those two additional instruments provide an emotional lift that’s merely been implied on their past works. There’s a lineage of finding worth in the obscure in this track that starts with John Cale & Terry Riley’s Church of Anthrax album, zips through Michael Rother’s early solo efforts, and beelines straight to Blues Control.

“Tangier” is my favorite on the record, and one of the group’s most startling moments. Synth scales rise out of a muddy-sounding beat, drifting into your subconscious. As Waterhouse syncopates a Trinidadian drumline in and out of the mix, Cho plays persistent, meat-and-potato-based piano chords throughout, keeping the spirit dancing about the room. Her style is reminiscent of Daryl Hall circa Private Eyes, pop totalitarianism at its most confident, and blending with the synths in the background to augment the piano sounds to glorious effect. They sound willing enough to drill you through a concrete wall with these victory marches, saved by single-mindedness and two people’s ability to design sounds unattainable by those who lack the foresight. They push the sides out of a formerly stuffy party and find a new path which to rock themselves down.

By Doug Mosurock

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