Jeff Beam is sorta starting over. Again. With his fourth full-length release of original material, Jeff Beam’s Loudspeaker Wallpaper, he has mostly recreated last year’s full-length, Be Your Own Mirror, by re-recording six of the songs from that album in a live studio environment with his new Loudspeaker Wallpaper band. (The band’s name is itself a reference to a track off Beam’s 2010 album, Venus Flying Trapeze.) The other two tracks on the eight-song record are also re-dos; one from Beam’s solo effort, Portraits of Poor Traits, and the other from Hello Greetings from a Bunker!, recorded as the Stereo Flys.
This is a good-sized departure for a guy who’s produced a lot of new material in the recent past — in addition to the albums, there have been a few shorter works and one-offs — and who’s used to doing all the writing and performing. On this go ‘round, the songs get better. Beam seems to be distilling his sound over time, which is a sensible plan in these days of virtually free digital reproduction and distribution. Keep recording the tracks till you get them right, right?
That reverbed and muted vocal thing is still his style of delivery (for now), but it’s consistent throughout the eight songs here, lending a dream-like, narcoticized aesthetic and a tendency for this listener to free-associate the lyrics. “But they didn’t listen,” repeated through “Successful People Who Never Existed,” could become “but they did and didn’t ... one day did glisten” — the mind wanders. For the album as a whole, though, the consistency is important. It allows you to calibrate the listening experience.
The band can jam, too. “Congratulations on Your Latest Achievement” rips through the final couple of minutes like a Phish freestyle. Beam wails into distorting falsettos, accompanied by peals of Scott Nebel’s guitar on “Hospital Patience.” The explosion of reverb at the end drifts into the finish for a good 12 seconds. The loudness in the middle body of “Part One” hits at gut level with the rhythm section of Sam Peisner on bass and Jacob Wolk on drums.
And while Beam’s never been afraid to merge and play with genres, or to make “easy” music, when he adds digitized beats to “Now” and “Whispering Poison in His Ear,” or the computerized whir on “Part Two,” it confers a digital flair to the organic whole, rather than just one more sound in the mix.
This is as fully realized as Beam’s songwriting and recorded performance have been in unison.
Jeff Beam’s Loudspeaker Wallpaper | Released by Jeff Beam’s Loudspeaker Wallpaper | with Toughcats + ShaShaSha | at Port City Music Hall, in Portland | Aug 23 | jeffbeam.bandcamp.com