SAMUEL JAMES photo by Jon Reece
>>Samuel James is pretty tireless. He’s been playing the blues, a type of music you can refine but not exactly revolutionize, in Portland for a decade or so now. He’s exceptional at it, as most who take the time to listen can recognize. But the question persists: What happens next? We imagine him asking this, as any good and honest artist does, virtually all the time. Last spring, this question prompted him to take a fairly radical approach to songwriting, using his guitar percussively as well as melodically, and at times almost like a piano (see the awesome “How to Live Without You” again if you already have). Now it’s prompting him to take an experimental approach to distributing his music. James has a new album at the ready — Aphorisms, Bumper Stickers, Truths & Rhymes — and plans to release it digitally to subscribers over ten months, one song per month, with the promise of live versions and other surprises. A slightly smaller scale, maybe, but you might think of this similar to what Radiohead did when they reached their own sustainable plateau of success. Visit therealsamueljames.com for more info.
>>Though it’s not associated with previous owner Ken Bell, the former Porthole and Comedy Connection owner Oliver Keithly plans to reopen the Big Easy as a “comedy and music” venue at the same location this month. The new arrangement might very well be successful, but with as much culture as the old place had, it’s a little odd they’re keeping the name.
>>For those familiar with noise and power electronics, the musician J. Morse has a new project called Erroraeon worth checking out. Instinct of Self-Annihilation, a DVD-album slated for release on January 25, seems like quite the experience. Judging by the preview teaser, it looks like a collection of distorted, low-end noise kriegs, ambient percussion, and assaulting vocalizations providing the soundtrack to a series of abstract, abrasively colored visuals. A reminder that music can be as physically demanding as it is intellectual or emotional, a/k/a a total treat.
>>He’s doing his job well enough that you may have already heard: Jeff Beam, Portland psych-rocker extraordinaire, is taking a bit of a break from the music scene to work as the director of communication for Shenna Bellows’s bid for the US Senate. Learn the long answer why by reading the Phoenix’s Deirdre Fulton’s interview with her from last fall (“Former ACLU Head Shenna Bellows Launches US Senate Campaign,” October 25, 2013).
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