Blues Control Live at Holy Mountain in Austin

Blues_Control-4Drag City is a label that has become prominent for working with indie darlings like Bill Callahan (Smog) and Joanna Newsom. However, fans forget that the label has a far more experimental leaning. Even Callahan began as a wildly experimental artist, who has only produced accessible indie-folk in recent years. Many of Drag City’s bands continue to create music fiercely devoted to experimental instrumentation and structures; Blues Control, who played Holy Mountain this past Saturday night, is just one of those bands.

Blues_Control-1Having released Valley Tangents in the middle of last year, Blues Control is out on the road in support of the album. After a few particularly difficult sets by openers, Blues Control took the stage to deliver a short set of experimental songs that ranged from psychedelic folk to jazz to pop. Experimental music obviously isn’t for everyone–it’s experimental. But if one decided to expand their understanding of music and take in an experimental set, Blues Control might be a great place to start. Though the songs certainly delve into noise, distortion, chaos, and dissonance, they also possess a tightness and clear direction. Band member Russ Waterhouse carefully tweaked sliders on his mixer at times, while at others he strummed a sparkling, silver guitar; once, he employed a small reeded instrument to add a lilting melody to the mix.

Blues_Control-5Meanwhile, contributor Lea Cho banged on keyboards and guitars as she shuffled around the stage in tiny, awkward steps, appearing as though she moved with her feet chained. Hunched over with her black hair completely obscuring her face, Cho seemed entranced in some eerie other dimension. However, at the end she did look up and let out a small, peaceful smile, shedding light on what might be called performance art that reflects the mood of the music and not necessarily the inner state of the artist. Fans of independent music often pride themselves in exploring beyond realms immediately available or apparent; it fascinantes me then that these same fans sometimes become content to listen to bands that all sound so similar. If you’re looking to explore the experimental side of music, Blues Control is a duo that have a number of solid records under their belt for you to check out.

All photos below © Bryan Parker and Pop Press International. Click any image to open in slideshow view.

About author
Bryan Parker is a writer and photographer living and working in Austin, TX. He is the founder of blog Pop Press International and print journal True Sincerity and recently released his first book, a volume on Beat Happening in the 33 1/3 series.

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