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Blues Control : Valley Tangents

Blues Control: Valley Tangents

Is being in a musical duo with your life-partner the latest “in thing” amongst the indie-rock community? Looking at Foam Hands’ latest posts one would certainly be inclined to believe that theory but, like Peaking Lights, Lea Cho and Russ Waterhouse – the Pennsylvania-based ex-New Yorkers better known as Blues Control – are much more than some hipster-hyped novelty act. On Valley Tangents, their fourth album and debut release for the esteemed Drag City label, the pair demonstrate an almost telepathic talent for semi-improvised jamming that fits their loosely-structured, jazz-influenced compositions like a glove. Perhaps inspired by last year’s collaboration for the FRKWYS series with cult ambient artist Laraaji, Cho and Waterhouse have taken a more abstract route this time around than they did on 2009’s Local Flavor; whereas on that record they used rudimentary drum machine rhythms, piano and guitar to pump out stately, propulsive epics indebted to the likes of Neu! and Harmonia, here the same basic arsenal is re-purposed to pay subtle homage to ivory-ticklers like Dave Brubeck and Bill Evans (“Open Air”) and contemporary alt-rock axe gods such as Marc Ribot and Nels Cline. Channeling Krautrock, ambient noise, jazz, classical music and more, the blueprint is familiar but there are new sounds too, used sparingly and to great effect; live drums underpin the endearingly sloppy ragtime piano of Guaraldi-esque opener “Love’s A Rondo,” a flute solos wildly during the first half of “Opium Den/ Fade To Blue,” whilst on “Walking Robin” a harpsichord bursts suddenly through the fuzz before disappearing just as quickly. Elsewhere, there are moments that almost resemble hooks: the off-key trumpet that heralds the crunchy, clanging “Iron Pigs” (below) will leave you puzzling (is it real or simply a synthesized keyboard preset? Is it meant to sound so off-key? Is it a joke?) but you won’t be able to get it out of your head, and by the time closer “Gypsum” rides out into the sunset on a strutting, martial groove you’ll find yourself wondering how something so unclassifiable and so defiantly odd can make so much sense.

Valley Tangents is out now on Drag City and can be streamed in full over at Ad Hoc.

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About foamhands

My name is Michael Dix; I'm a decade or so past being down with the kids, but to me new music never gets old. Apparently I like music that sounds like faulty kitchen appliances and ritual slaughter; really I just like what I like, whether that happens to be indie, pop, punk, hip hop, metal, electronica, Afrobeat or jazz. Follow me on Twitter @FoamHandsBlog to receive notifications of new posts and the occasional random brain-fart, and please share links wherever you can. Enjoy!

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