12 Songs, 52 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Amen Dunes is the work of Brooklyn-based musician Damon McMahon. Though his previous albums have been largely solo performances, Love is produced by Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Dave Bryant and Efrim Menuck and features the additional support of some longtime friends—drummer Parker Kindred and Jordi Wheeler on guitar and piano—along with Colin Stetson on sax and occasional vocals from Iceage’s Elias Bender Ronnenfelt (on “Lonely Richard” and “Green Eyes”). The nearest comparison might be Bonnie "Prince" Billy, who often works a similarly obscure method to get the desired recording effect. “Everybody Is Crazy,” in particular, sounds like a gorgeous lost BPB track. “I Can’t Dig It” uses a deliberately lo-fi approach and sounds like a bootleg recording of a band playing in a cavernous hall. The remaining songs settle into a modest, mystical tone, with the piano-based “Sixteen” sounding as wired as Daniel Johnston and the acoustic “I Know Myself” offering a calmer view.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Amen Dunes is the work of Brooklyn-based musician Damon McMahon. Though his previous albums have been largely solo performances, Love is produced by Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Dave Bryant and Efrim Menuck and features the additional support of some longtime friends—drummer Parker Kindred and Jordi Wheeler on guitar and piano—along with Colin Stetson on sax and occasional vocals from Iceage’s Elias Bender Ronnenfelt (on “Lonely Richard” and “Green Eyes”). The nearest comparison might be Bonnie "Prince" Billy, who often works a similarly obscure method to get the desired recording effect. “Everybody Is Crazy,” in particular, sounds like a gorgeous lost BPB track. “I Can’t Dig It” uses a deliberately lo-fi approach and sounds like a bootleg recording of a band playing in a cavernous hall. The remaining songs settle into a modest, mystical tone, with the piano-based “Sixteen” sounding as wired as Daniel Johnston and the acoustic “I Know Myself” offering a calmer view.

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Ratings and Reviews

4.7 out of 5
11 Ratings
11 Ratings
walkerpogue

Melody, Melody, Melody

A really strong release reminiscent of Cass Mccombs if he were blissed out and beautiful. The whole album sounds spontaneous as if the whole affair might have been captured in one evening in a cavernous space. Echoes blend together with melody after melody to make this a wonderful find well worth the purchase.

A warning: reviewers keep comparing it to Will Oldham and I couldn't find too much connecting tissue justifying the comparison. At moments it sounds like 'Tennessee Fire' era MMJ or 'Pride' era Phosphorescent. Loose and beautiful.

cest meyy

floating out to sea

really digging this album. especially amen dunes. pop open a bottle of wine, take it to the ocean and drink under a full moon with your special someone. or better yet stay up at your ceiling and think about life lol

chrsnorbt

I can dig it…

I could run down a massive list of who I think this sounds like, but I think that would be missing the point. This is timeless music here. It more or less sounds like outsider music from the late 70’s or so. But instead of it having that super unpolished thing all the way through you only get a glimpse of full on fringe on a few songs. What you get instead is songwriting mastery that has a huge seventies flare to it. Super mellow, buy it, turn it on and get lost. The further you get the more the album devolves or evolves, it really depends on whether you’re inside looking out or outside looking in.

About Amen Dunes

Amen Dunes is the project of Damon McMahon, whose shape-shifting psych-folk has drawn comparisons to Roky Erickson, Syd Barrett, Chris Knox, Suicide, and Royal Trux. Over the years, his music shifted from murky, lo-fi atmospheres to a more accessible sound, but the timeless quality of his voice and the elemental nature of his songwriting remained.

A Philadelphia native and a former member of the indie band Inouk, McMahon issued an album under his own name, Mansions, in 2006. Later that year, he began recording as Amen Dunes, sequestering himself in a trailer in the Catskills and laying down songs that he never intended to release publicly. He moved to Beijing in 2007 and recorded intermittently, honing a dark, acoustic-based sound. In 2009 Locust Music issued his Catskills sessions as DIA, and McMahon returned to the U.S., settling in New York. The following year, Amen Dunes made its debut on Sacred Bones with the Murder Dull Mind EP, a collection of songs from McMahon's time in China. His first full-length for the label, Through Donkey Jaw, was released in August 2011 and featured some of his most accessible music to date. However, the album didn't make as much an impact as McMahon hoped, and after 2012's EP Ethio Covers, he self-released 2013's The Spoiler, a set of challenging songs recorded from 2009 to 2011 that included a track dedicated to avant-garde composer Julius Eastman, and another that he recorded in his underwear.

McMahon took a different approach for 2014's Love. Drawing on the end of a long-term relationship, it featured more careful songcraft and a cleaner sound as well as contributions from Iceage's Elias Bender Rønnenfelt, Bon Iver's Colin Stetson, and members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Early the following year saw the release of the Cowboy Worship EP, which McMahon described as a companion piece to Love and featured a cover of Tim Buckley's "Song to the Siren." McMahon continued to expand Amen Dunes' music with the wide-ranging Freedom, on which he reunited with Godspeed You! Black Emperor as well as frequent collaborators Parker Kindred and Delicate Steve. The album, which also featured production by Chris Coady and Italian electronic musician Panoram, arrived in March 2018. ~ Heather Phares

FORMED
2006

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