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Blues Control

Blues Control

Wednesday 3rd October, 2012 7:46AM

The ex-NYC, now rural Pennyslvania-based duo of Lea Cho (piano & keyboards) and Russell Waterhouse (guitar & drums) A.K.A Blues Control have been kicking around the murky reaches of the lo-fi American underground for a few years now, and this weekend they're finally making it New Zealand for three shows. Inspired by psych, kraut and new age music, their most recent album Valley Tangents (out now on Drag City) offers what is perhaps the best expression yet of their unique, sprawling, instrumental takes on these idioms. UTR caught up with them on the eve of their New Zealand shows about the new album and how they came to live out in the country.

Let's start by talking about your new album, Valley Tangents. It was three years between this and your last proper full-length, why such a delay? Do you think your sound evolved much in the interim?

LC: It's been three years between full-lengths, but we did put out a record in between (our FRKWYS collab with Laraaji). We also moved three times in the last three years, which took up a lot of time. We try to evolve and develop with each new release, so I hope every record we do, including Valley Tangents, reflects that. At the same time, I don't think there's been any change in the basic Blues Control sound and concept since our last record.

Can you talk about some of the influences on the new album?

LC: In terms of subject matter, this record is loosely about our move to the country. There are literal references like going to baseball games at the Iron Pigs stadium (our local Minor League team), watching robins outside our practice room, jamming in the summertime with all the windows open, etc. There are also more impressionistic references about easing into peaceful evenings and enjoying more freedom. Musically, the influences on the whole record are prog, psych, and jazz, but each song incorporates its own influences as well. For instance, for 'Love's A Rondo' some influences include Oscar Hernandez (of Libre), Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Santana. 'Iron Pigs' influences include Laibach, Queen, and Michael Jackson. 'Walking Robin' influences include Casiopea, Peter Green, and 1st Futurologischer Congress.

You moved from Brooklyn to rural Pennsylvania recently. How has that changed how you make and experience music? What was the reason for the move?

LC: We still love New York as a city, but Russ lived there for 17 years and I was there for 11, and we just felt ready for a change. Our cost of living is lower now, so we have more time to work on music, and we don't have any close neighbors, so we can play as loud (or as quiet) as we want at any time of day. It's also more peaceful and low-key, so we're less distracted and less stressed out. We're about an hour from Philadelphia and two hours from New York, so we still go to the city once in a while to see or play a show.

You've so far managed to avoid sticking to any one record label. Valley Tangents came out on Drag City, do you think you're going to be with them for the time being?

RW: We've never consciously avoided sticking to one label. It's just that many different labels have asked us to do records over the years, and we were excited by the idea of working with them, so we did. Drag City have been great to work with though, and we anticipate working with them again, but we also have plans to do singles for our friends at Richie Records and Slowboy.

Are you familiar with much New Zealand music?

RW: I used to listen to a lot of New Zealand music: Xpressway bands like This Kind of Punishment and Wreck Small Speakers On Expensive Stereos, late 90s drone (Eso Steel, Omit, Witcyst, Surface of the Earth), Roy Montgomery/Pin Group/Dadamah, and quite a bit more.. My favorite NZ band was The Ho'Dogs.

Valley Tangents is noticeably less "lo-fi" than some of your earlier material. What brought this about? It seems that this is in keeping with the times as well. Large parts of noise/drone/lo-fi underground from a few years ago have moved towards music that is more produced or which features more pop and/or dance and/or hip-hop/r'n'b elements. Do you have any reflections on this shift?

LC: The fidelity of all our releases, including Valley Tangents, has been mostly due to whatever resources were available to us at the time. We've been trying to be as hi-fi as possible since the very beginning, but in each instance it came out kind of lo- or mid-fi due to either inexperience or a low budget. For instance, Local Flavor was recorded live in the studio over the course of only four days. For Valley Tangents, we were able to afford more time in the studio (nothing extravagant, but certainly more than four days) so we were able to multi-track every song instead of recording live. The difference in fidelity had all to do with more time in the studio and nothing to do with current trends in modern music.

We haven't been following too closely what's going on in the post-noise/post-lofi/hypnagogic circles. Blues Control pre-dates these trends - we've been referencing the 80s, new age, krautrock, dance music, pop music, soundtrack music, etc. for seven or eight years now. We're friends with a lot of different types of musicians, but we don't see ourselves as part of any one particular scene. From the beginning we've just been doing our own thing.

And a related and final question, what recent music have you enjoyed?

RW: Puffy Areolas were great when they played in Allentown a few weeks ago. As far as what's on the turntable now: Northern Haze - Sinnaktuq, Love Sculpture - Forms & Feelings, and Rosebud - Discoballs: A Tribute to Pink Floyd.


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