Release Date: Mar 30, 2018
Record label: Sacred Bones
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock
Words have a way of blurring in Amen Dunes' music. Over the past decade, Damon McMahon has led his psychedelic folk-rock project with an ear for transforming language, stretching and repeating simple phrases past the point of clarity. His voice, distinguished by a ghostly, soulful vibrato, has never been entirely intelligible, and that's part of why it works.
Throughout his career as Amen Dunes, Damon McMahon has existed just on the other side of clarity. He was, for years, the rising underground artist who sounds like he's singing from around a corner, and who ducks into the shadows to avoid the light. Musically, McMahon shrouded himself in noise and effects on his debut, 2009's DIA, then gradually peeled back that shroud on 2011's Through Donkey Jaw and 2014's Love.
Amen Dunes' Damon McMahon begins Freedom with a pair of illuminating quotes. "This is your time!," a child shouts, then McMahon's mother -- who was diagnosed with terminal cancer when he began making the album -- reads a quote from painter Agnes Martin: "I don't have any ideas myself. I am a vacant mind." This feeling of change and openness resonates throughout Freedom, a set of songs that are as simple and complex as their title.
"An American is a complex of occasions," goes the line by Charles Olson in 'Maximus to Gloucester, Letter 27 [withheld]', a poem in which the author recalls fraught childhood memories and confronts some challenging geo-cultural questions of nationhood and selfhood. Damon McMahon, on this fifth album as Amen Dunes, is an American complex of occasions in the Olson sense, both personal and social, dealing with parents, grief, and his difficult upbringing. Alongside this he examines various corners of popular culture.
Just shy of a decade ago, Damon McMahon--the singular lifeblood of Amen Dunes--began releasing his beguiling music. On the 2009 Locust Records LP DIA, an expression of raucous id recorded three years earlier, the first track shared his pen name. "Amen Dunes" was a mission statement: swirls of guitar, feral drumming, and the unmistakable wonder of McMahon's voice that triangulated folk and garage through prismatic trial-and-error.