Boldly striking out into the gray terrain of potential copyright infringement is local avant-indie act Sama Dams. However, if it comes down to it they have a good shot of sidestepping the issue, not only because the inventive post-rock pearls they compose could make even the most protective Samuel Adams employee raise their pint glass in repect, but also one of the dudes in the band is legitimately named Sam Adams.
Sama Dams’s new release, titled Comfort In Doubt, is a testament to what the band is capable of when bandmates Lisa Adams and Chris Hermsen unite with Sam and displace that sneaky ‘A.’ CID showcases the band’s incisive awareness of compositional, rhythmic, and tonal elements, and their execution situates them among bands such as the Dirty Projectors or St. Vincent. These mavericks of their genre share a common mindset in their attempts to push the boundaries of alternative music, shoving off from the cruise liner that alt-rock has become in their tiny musical dinghy, with just their unorthodox sensibilities to guide them through a turbulent and unforgiving seascape of creativity.
That was dramatic. But seriously, Sama Dams certainly does deliver some refreshingly unpredictable musical tasties that’ll knock that Big Data song out of your sorry head. CID starts with “My Ears Are Ringing,” a tune illustrative of the band’s typical sound. It begins with sustained vocal harmonies (a la Dirty Projectors) between Sam and Lisa before Sam takes us aside to tell us the verse. His dry-throated, emotive voice falls somewhere between Dan Auerbach and Nate Reuss (that will be the only Fun. reference in this article thankfully), and fluctuates seamlessly between loud and soft, high and low, passionate and aloof. The instrumentation is sparse, syncopated, and can seem disjointed at times--but in the most musical way of course. The drums seem to do everything in their power not to intrude on the delicate magic at play between vocals and guitar, making themselves as spare as possible. Near the end of the song, a fuzzed out guitar tumbles out onto the musical canvas and screams through a solo that moves between melody and atonal noise. It’s like a noise solo you would hear coming from the likes of Billy Corgan, but with an emphasis on the noise. Not to disparage Sam’s guitar playing… we just can’t all be Billy Corgan, you’ll understand.
Throughout the album you will see these motifs arise--the jagged vs smooth textures, disjointed and sparse instrumental punctuation, the anything-but-a-standard-rock-beat drums, the noisy solos--along with some other surprises including a few startlingly pop sensible melodies (chorus of “Maggie” or “Ton Weight Down”), which stand as beacons through the avant-haze. If you have an ear for bands that gracefully break the mould of indie, are sick of hearing standard bom-ts-kah (to use a technical term) drum beats, or just want to put another feather in your esotericist cap, Comfort In Doubt is worth a spin.
Catch Sama Dams live Wednesday, December 17 at the Doug Fir Lounge for their official hometown release of Comfort in Doubt along with the support of psych pop savants Grandparents and dream pop charmers WL.
- Bryce Woodcock