Sunday, October 08, 2006

Osaka-16th August 1972, Are You There?.....Blues Control's 'Riverboat Styx' Cassette

Can I tell you it has been a severely long time since I took cassettes seriously. Am I lame or what? You can call me a Luddite, attack my presumed bourgeoisie notions, go ahead. I can take it. Hell, I might even deserve it. Time was where it weren't like that. Back in the early 80's I was a big proponent for cassettes. I had the Throbbing Gristle suitcase, a couple Sub Pop collections, all kind've DIY ones, the Light Bulb series, Boy Dirt Car, the list goes on & on.Them Fast/Forward "audio magazine" things outta Australia? Loved'em. Hell, I thought Graham Engels 'Castanets' column in OP was consistently the strongest readin around. Later I got some by Daniel Johnston & did I have a field day w/the Xpressway series or what? But at some point I just put'em all in a box & walked away. It weren't that people stopped doin'em, in fact, from the late 90's till now, they's stronger than ever! How do I know? On account of this fella Blande I met down the bar. He's Norwegian (I think) & he get's into cassettes like most people get into debt- it's outta control! One whole room of his house is a floor to ceilin library of'em. The sound system is vintage Macintosh & man is it loud. Blande's a funny guy. When we's out, all he ever drinks is blackberry brandy, but at home, in that tape room..... strictly Ports or Madeira's. Some folks call him Marple (as in Miss Marple) on account of it, but to me, he's just Blande (I don't think it's nice to tease foreigners, especially if they's bigger than you). I was over his place the other night after the bar let out, I had my cans've beer & he was fillin imperial pint glasses fulla tawny & BLARING noise tapes by bands w/names like (don't quote me) Penis Quilt, Enema Bench & Smoke Break. After a while I couldn't keep track. It all just sorta sounded like a condensed version of a construction site, like I was trapped inside a cement mixer while it rumbled around, surrounded by jackhammers & nail guns. I used to do that shit for a livin so I guess I weren't so impressed by the, uh, "sheer brutality" of it or whatever. So I said 'Hey Blande, you got any Rock?" He looked at me like I had six heads. I thought he was gonna puke, but then his head reared back & bellowed a stentorian laugh, like that fella on the Uncola commercial. "Oh Woody" he replied ( he can't say Woodbe for some reason), "Maybe it's for you bedtime. Rock.....yah, it's so funny! He reached over & handed me a Radio Shack portable cassette player, some headphones & a tape. "Here.This is Rock band. Please keep. I do not enjoy. There is no pain. Goodbye." I took the stuff & saw myself out. I was lookin at a bit of a walk & it weren't the friendliest of neighborhoods at 4am, so I felt damn lucky to have this tape 'n deck to buffer my discomfort. I looked at the case so's to get a gander at who I'd be listenin to. In very small print it read 'Blues Control-Riverboat Styx' (thank God for that streetlight). Well, it weren't like I had a choice in the matter, so I strapped on the gear & headed towards home.
As I cautiously navigated my way through the avenues of Port Richmond back down into the Fishtown hamlet, the sounds of Blues Control was a warm, comforting narrative for this nocturnal, pre-dawn trek. Riverboat Styx..... I practically felt like Charon himself as I dutifully weaved my way through the menacing corridors from one treacherous netherworld to another. Man was I glad to have Blues Control along! As their woozy keyboards plonked & guitars howled, the jam started to wildly unfurl. I felt as though I was being protected by both Hades & Persephone which instantly nullified all my trepidations. Soon enough I could see the comforting neon of Sappho's Bakery & I realized I had crossed into the Elysian Fields of friendlier territory.And I was fuckin hungry to boot.
Sappho's is a funny place, but damn do they make some great pasteries! I can never decide between the Rita Mae brownies or the Edith Head cheese danish's. The ladies what run it're from Amsterdam, so there's always an "early bird special", if you catch my drift. I grabbed one of each & hightailed it off to my abode. I'd become entralled w/the tuneage Blues Control was layin down so I sat in the recliner, glugged my last can've Fosters, gnawed them space tarts & let the tape click over. 'Rolling Fog Blues' it was called & as it poured outta them headphones directly into my brain it couldn't have been anymore right if I'd scripted it myself. Dense, desensitized 'n langourous on it's buildup, the more I listened, the more the Blues angle of this band became apparent. Then by the 10th or 11th repeat my imagination ruptured into an opiated epiphany & suddenly the Blues Control duo of Russ Waterhouse & Lea Cho became transformed into Deep Purple & I was livin in the grooves of 'Made In Japan'. And not even the whole of Deep Purple, but Blackmore & Lord as isolated entities; Gillan was eliminated entirely (minus some harp work), Paice & Glover becomin an electric sponge've looped background tapes & percussive crud. And not the whole of the songs either; imagine the instrumental beginnings 'n buildups within 'Highway Star/Child In Time' spliced & the bridge of 'Space Truckin' condensed, then all've that reduced & remastered at 78, jumbled, levels splayed, reedited 'n spit out on cassette tape. That's the sound! It's fuckin twisted! It was so good I had to take it off. That scream you hear, off in the background? That's the severed head of Ian Gillan wailing in concurrence for all eternity. The morning sun was beamin through the front window like a beacon, commandin me that it was time for a pillow to contain the fire that was smolderin in my head. But before I dedicated myself off on a sojourn to Nod, I found a Myspace page for Blues Control & gave a listen to some tracks posted from a prior release. What can I say? It was all I hoped it would be; like vintage Dead C deliverin a sonic symposium at Balco Labratories. Next day I listened to the 'Riverboat Styx', (sans lubricants) & it was even better. So I went out & got me a proper cassette player for the audio system. Looks 'n sounds good too. I am a believer. 'Que bene distinguit bene docet' goes an old Latin proverb. I don't know about the teachin part, but the bit about distinguishin....that I nailed! And I may never get or hear another tape for as long as I live, but this Blues Control deck is it's castle. Long may it spool.

'Riverboat Styx' available at;

Contact Blues Control at;

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