Schulte, A, the latest EP by Control, reveals the Madison trio's happier side. So often with post-punk, there's something qualified, something nagging, something waiting to go wrong. Control's last EP, Grabhorn, C, embraced that with a lot of distortion and drummer Luke Bassuener chanting about who knows what through copious reverb.
But even in its cover art, Schulte, A suggests a different tack. Namesake and artist Alyssa Schulte's wild, scribbly design is the most colorful yet in the band's series of visual collaborations.
The new EP does embrace some of the genre's cryptic tics, especially long song titles that don't explain anything ("Middle Brother Watches Younger Brother While Older Brother Goes Out") and shorter ones that don't either ("RR"). But flexibility is a theme of Control's short career, and putting out relatively frequent EPs allows the band to explore a few minor ideas at a time, varying their sound in small but pleasing ways.
"RR" provides a nice finale to the new EP, building up to an unequivocal, jolly release. Guitarist Stephen Baraboo has a tendency to wander and fiddle with loops -- at times a little too much -- which makes it all the more pleasing when he settles into one punchy chord for a couple of minutes (over some loops, of course), letting bassist Matthew Rajala's chords gradually set a new pattern.
At the very end, Baraboo lays into a good example of how to play a post-punk guitar hook: just convoluted enough and just catchy enough. Bassuener is still saying something unclear in the background, but instead of foreboding it sounds a bit like a celebratory cry.
Control is an eccentric and artiness-prone kind of band. But it also knows how to get to the point.
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