Reviewing instrumental records is sometimes a bit of a challenge for me; I'm used to bands and records with, you know, lyrics, those pesky little things with words that tell you what the point of the song is so that you don't have to dig too deep. In fact, I think I've reviewed only one instrumental record here in our hallowed htmls before and that was Fred Frith's Guitar Solos because that record is positively mind bending as to its consideration of what a guitar is truly capable of. Otherwise, I can't recall ever reviewing Explosions in the Sky or Raccoo-oo-oon or anything of the like.
And so then I received a submission for a review a couple of weeks back. I didn't sleep on it, I just got caught up with work; the busy season has arrived and instead of working an irritating fifty hours a week and billing for forty two (I'm salaried without overtime), I'm back to working sixty and billing for forty five. And so when it comes to my off time, I find that the last thing that I want to do is retire to my basement quarters when the sun is out and the weather is warm. Yes, even if I have reviews piling up. M. and I have three point/counterpoint features to do and I remember that only one of them is Def Leppard. Because he is wrong about Def Leppard and, really, M., I should fire you because you're wrong about Def Leppard.
ANYhoo, the strategy lately has been to plug the records that are submitted to me into my super snazzy phone and dedicate one or two whole bike rides around the lakes or around the river to listening exclusively to that record. That's what I have to do to get these things done. I'd ask M. to pick up what I can't but we've been over that: He's wrong about Def Leppard. I now have trust issues with him.
Jesus Christ, we're three paragraphs in and I still haven't started the review? I should get on that, shouldn't I?
You see, since this is an instrumental record (and a quite good one at that, we'll get to that part) and I am not adept at reviewing instrumental records (whether I like them or not and, again, I like this one), I think I should perhaps try a different tactic than usual and y'all can tell me if this works. I'm sure it won't.
You see, last weekend, I went to Kramarczuk's in Nordeast to procure some biała kielbasa, a white kielbasa I had grown up on in NWOH. Going to the Rainbow (chain supermarket) and the Wedge (organic co-op) had proved fruitless. I was sick of the red kielbasa and thus I went to Kramarczuk's (Ukrainian family owned butcher shop / deli / restaurant). Being that Kramarczuck's is a healthy haul from here in Whittier to up there in the East Bank (I think), I put in Control's Schulte, A and headed on my way to Nordeast.
THIS IS WHERE THE REVIEW ACTUALLY BEGINS.Schulte, A begins with "A Feast and the Seven Days Following", which seemed appropriate enough since I was on my to procuring vittles for my feast. In a waltz, the bassline comes across as though influenced by classical music against layers of looped guitar which, on a sunny Sunday, traveling by bike toward Downtown Minneapolis with its skyscrapers and diminished traffic, granting carte blanche to the weekend cyclist is one of the most pleasant things you could possibly experience. I know that "pleasant" is hardly ever a ringing endorsement when talking about rock 'n' roll but not everything has to be the big beat 'em ups, kids. I would hear this song maybe seven or eight more times before I got home, probably a lot more than that. Schulte, A is only four songs long and "A Feast and the Seven Days Following" clocks in under three minutes. So, yeah, I had gotten through the EP by the time I made it to Kramarczuk's. In fact, I think I was on my second run.
"Middle Brother Watches Younger Brother..." is the second one (otherwise, I probably wouldn't have mentioned it second) and if I were going to say something like "reminds me of Raccoo-oo-oon" I would do that here. Because, yeah, it reminds me of that band just minus some of Raccoo-oo-oon's occasional sojourns into big sweeping epic nonsense. (Yeah, Raccoo-oo-oon is pretty great but I can't take them in large doses.) In fact, there is a breakdown section about halfway through that may have some folks thinking, "That's a Mars Volta move." Yeah, it is a Mars Volta move. I can't remember what record it was on though because here was the problem: Mars Volta didn't pull that move or others like it often enough to warrant my attention span. So, hey, where Mars Volta meanders and where Raccoo-oo-oon sometimes goes too big, Control are, uh, controlled, I guess. So when you're on your bike and crossing a suspension bridge, this is the iteration of those techniques that you want: The one devoid of bullshit.
And I know it's a common theme around here, how often I claim this band or that band is devoid of bullshit. Well, I'll put it like this: If a band has a healthy heaping of bullshit, I probably won't review them. And if they have elements to their music that I may have heard before but it seems as though they possess superior versions of said element, chiefly because they lack bullshit, then I'm going to point that out. So, short version? Control are something that won't take any uninitiated listener any "getting used to," yes, you've heard these things before, but they'll probably be your favorite iteration of those things because they get to the goddamned point, they don't muck about, and it's all your favorite parts anyway.
"Lapse" is the song you want to hear in one of two instances. The first is riding through the Audubon Park neighborhood up Johnson St NE after you've decided that since you're in Nordeast and you don't get to Nordeast that often, that you may as well visit the old neighborhood. And then you see the Hollywood theater is still abandoned and that used book store where you bought a copy of Enderby's End has been replaced by a vintage clothing store. Also, hipsters have been moving into the area. Also? Everything is up-fucking-hill.
The second instance? Well, you know, when your special someone comes over, you didn't scald the alfredo, you splurged on a bottle of wine (and some French ticklers), you've got candles and shit going. It's going to be a special night. "Lapse" isn't the sleazy get down jam on this record, no. It's the "Quiet Storm" jam. For the first two minutes or so, and I swear to god that I'm actually going to type this, the band sounds like rain. No, I'm not a hippie and I'm not trying to be all "It's elemental, man." No. Come on, you know me. When do I pull that shit? No, I'm just saying that this song sounds like rain. And slow, sweet love making. There might be a giant feather involved but none of that crazy zipper-mouth mask shit. Control don't roll that way. (My apologies to anybody in Control who actually does roll that way.) And, yeah, at the 03:15 mark, there's a crescendo so - and I'm just going to go ahead and say it - somebody better cum. That's kind of what you do at the crescendo. I know three fifteen into it is a little early but, hey, sometimes... Yeah, I just typed myself into a corner.
SO! Let's just move right on to "RR". And I'm going to say this, too: The guitar intro reminds me of the title screen from Ecco the Dolphin. (You see, there was this thing back in the nineties called a Sega Genesis...) "RR" revisits territory from "A Feast..." but this time with lots of lovely little swells. Again, this one is pleasant and, again, "pleasant" is not a bad word. What? Music is not limited to only a handful of emotions. "Pleasant" can be one of those myriad shades of emotional response. Come on, it's eighty degrees, you have a childhood favorite food in your bag, you're headed home and you have a downtown skyline serving as your North Star to guide you home, wind in your hair, sweat in your pits, and soon you'll have a few bloody marys and be reading the free weekly. "RR" is the song you want for that: heading home. It's the resolution of all that malarky where you decided to go take a look at old neighborhoods and realized that, you know? That's all in the past. None of your friends live in the old neighborhood, none of the shops you cared about (aside from Marino's) are still there, what the hell did you go there for? To put some miles on your legs or visit some ghosts? Or maybe it was genuine curiosity, just looking to see how things had changed in the last five years. Because, fuck, if you weren't already having weird dreams about the old neighborhood for two weeks prior and then you run into an old school friend who's one of the best drummers you've ever seen and he says it's been about five years since you guys saw each other and... Yeah. You kind of need "RR" at that point. That's the song you listen to when, no, you're not looking for closure or anything like that, you listen to it when you just want to look at something and say, "Damn."
And then light a smoke and go home so you can put your sausage in the fridge and bloody your mary.