Blues Control

Valley Tangents

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Blues Control's continuing transmogrification into a band that's nearly impossible to peg down -- calling them an instrumental, new age, post-rock, jazz fusion duo doesn't exactly help -- progresses further on Valley Tangents, their excellent 2012 release. For all their various impulses, it's clear on Valley Tangents that they do have a certain general approach to explore, just one that doesn't welcome immediate simplification. "Love's a Rondo" feels like a gentle fusion jam from the late '70s with a hint of an unsettled edge -- it's more formal than improvisational, but the combination of piano and keyboard soloing, as well as a slightly rougher and zoned guitar over the core melody and rhythm, works in a kind of serene swirl. When the guitar pulls back toward the end to match the piano melody, it's a bit of a stirring triumph. In contrast, the synth fanfare of "Iron Pigs," not to mention the brief bursts of noise and quick stomp, suggests the Black Sabbath reference is very intentional but far from exact, not that Sabbath didn't have their quiet moments. But the blend of instrumentation fits the general pattern already established: guitar with warm, thick sound, keyboards suddenly stabbing through, piano taking over toward the end in a steady dark rhythm. With these two songs setting the tone, Valley Tangents makes its short but engaging way through numbers entitled "Opium Den/Fade to Blue" and "Gypsum." Yet even all this doesn't sum it up, as the quiet start of cymbals and rambling/sprightly piano of "Open Air" shows with slow synth moans bringing the song to a sudden end. The hollow beats and opening keyboard moodiness on "Walking Robin," in contrast, feels like a rather adventurous mood duo from a distant hotel, with a bit of winsome playfulness that doesn't seek to overturn tables, even when the guitar noodling takes on a brief hard edge.

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