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Blues Control - Valley Tangents

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Artist: Blues Control

Album: Valley Tangents

Label: Drag City

Review date: Jun. 27, 2012

The 2010 U.S. Census says the Lehigh Valley is the third most populous area in Pennsylvania and fastest growing. Thanks to the rising density and expense of the New York tri-state area on down through Philadelphia, spillover into this part of the Great Appalachian Valley has been increasing in recent years. To people in pursuit of a lower cost of living, a quieter life, or maybe just a more manageable one, have I got a record for you. Exude the jejune life with Blues Control’s Valley Tangents.

The narrative could hardly fit better. Somewhere in the wake of 2009’s Local Flavor, Lea Cho and Russ Waterhouse picked up and shipped out of New York City from Queens to Allentown suburb Coopersburg. The move appears to have changed them. The duo started Blues Control as a joke, but with Ben Chasny wearing their shirts in public and a few well-timed LPs later, it had all gotten rather serious. Local Flavor was, like their self-titled debut and Puff, one of the best albums of its respective year.

Last year’s FRKWYS Vol. 8 collaboration with Laraaji, recorded in upstate New York, was the sound of Blues Control’s tension melting away in low-fidelity zither trips and Newer Age noodling sprinkled with Laraaji’s “Light Ships” laughter. The cosmic comedian helped the duo release whatever stress they’d pent up and the 35-minute “Somebody Scream” is those valves opening once and for all. Closer “Astral Jam” sounds like an ending in more ways than one.

Nowhere is that more evident than on “Love’s a Rondo,” the opening track on Valley Tangents. This album is gaudy and unmoving, the very “abyss of unmoored banality” that the duo used to be a fix for, according to Doug Mosurock. If you struggled with the band before, Valley Tangents is here to help.

The songs are a mother’s welcome, just pleased to see you home safely after you’ve been gone. There’s no actual blues; there’s not much of anything, in fact. For all the one-sheet’s talk of Mark Hollis, Claude Debussy, Bruce Hornsby and Brian Eno (I would add ‘80s Midwestern wedding bands and YouTube home videos of same), the reality is that Valley Tangents just sort of floats by as background music even whilst actively listening. Its emotional potency is marginal. The album’s obvious highlight, “Open Air,” drifts well into the realms of the uncertain — but just when it looks like they’ve rediscovered that lost element of mystery and depth, here comes “Gypsum” to ease you back into a loose Saturday afternoon groove. For all the dads with a lawn to mow, this album is your summer anthem.

By Patrick Masterson

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Local Flavor

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