New Age Duo Blues Control Escapes From New York with Valley Tangents
Blues Control duo guitarist Russ Waterhouse and pianist Lea Cho travel the spaceways of indie rock on an undulating platform of psychedelia, electronic, jazz, prog, and new age conventions. The combined result is music that flows from blissful quiet to hypnotically droning to feedback-drenched loud, with any number of random interludes--from jazzy to proggy to spacey--tucked in the middle.
Now based in rural Pennsylvania, the band escaped New York City for a quieter place to get loud, but also free themselves to unencumbered experimentation. The result is Valley Tangents, the band's fourth album.
Up On The Sun reached Waterhouse and Cho at their home and studio, where rabbits hop across the yard and the sun actually shines as the pair discuss their musical outlook, making the new album, escaping NYC, and how Blues Control brings it all to life on stage.
Up On The Sun: On one side you can sound kind of new agey and spacey, and on the other wildly psychedelic. How do these two styles work together?
Cho: We started playing together as Watersports. That was only our minimal, spacey, new age stuff. Blues Control came later and actually incorporated everything we were doing.
Waterhouse: When we started Blues Control we used a lot of the same gear. With Watersports we did our new agey stuff, but Blues Control was the flipside of that, sort of the loud rock, piano rock, classic rock, psychedelic rock. I sort of see new age and psychedelic rock as being on the same continuum, it's just different shades.
Cho: We don't feel like they are opposing forces; they complement each other.
Waterhouse: Exactly. A lot of new age music, depending on how far back you go and how deep you get into it is pretty psychedelic.
Cho: That was our main influence, anyway.
Waterhouse: We were sort of exploring new age stuff which I think evolved out of a love of krautrock artists. We explored more world music and drone. It all seems to be the same in our minds.
So with all these influences and potential starting places, what gives a piece its initial direction?
Waterhouse: Every song on our song on our new record had a different genesis depending on the influences we were working on.
Cho: Sometimes we have a musical riff first and then we turn it towards a larger idea. But sometimes we have a larger conceptual idea and try to express that musically. It can start at any angle, but then it fleshes itself [out]. We do a lot of talking, but sometimes you just have to jam.
Waterhouse: It's harder just writing a melody, so sometimes you just need to play.
Cho: And sometimes we'll just talk and talk. And sometimes we're just playing and playing. And then we start talking. We try to balance the two.
Waterhouse: Sometimes we're playing and something will happen and we'll be, "Wait, let's record it."
Valley Tangents is your fourth album. How do you see it as far as growth of the band? To me it sounds less spacey, more direct, and jazzy in places but also psychedelic and rocking compared to earlier works.
Cho: We don't want to make the same record twice, and on some level each record has its own goals. The jazzy, prog-y vibe we're pushing for this record, we had it on other records, but it wasn't as essential as it was for this record. Again, it feels connected to the other ones too. It's not a whole new thing.
Waterhouse : Our first two records came out and were made around the same time, in 2007. Our third record came out in 2009, so it's been a very casual progression.
Cho: I feel like we're creating a long-term discography so each record will have its own time and vibe. Hopefully [this one's] not the same as another one, but you can also see the lines [getting there]. All of them still sound like us as opposed to someone else?