Over the course of 10 years, Damon McMahon aka Amen Dunes has transformed continuously, and Freedom is the project's boldest leap yet.
The themes are darker than on previous Amen Dunes albums, but it's a darkness sublimated through grooves. The music, as a response or even a solution to the darkness, is tough and joyous, rhythmic and danceable. It's a sound never heard before on an Amen Dunes record, but one that was always asking to emerge. Eleven songs span a range of emotions, from contraction to release and back again. 'Blue Rose' and 'Calling Paul the Suffering' are pure, ecstatic dance songs. 'Skipping School' and 'Miki Dora' are incantations of a mythical heroic maleness and its illusions. 'Freedom' and 'Believe' offer a street tough's future-gospel exhalation, and the funk-grime grit of 'L.A.' closes the album, projecting a musical hint of things to come.
While the previous Amen Dunes records have all been largely improvisational first-take affairs, recorded in a matter of weeks at most, the forthcoming full-length Love is the product of close to a year and a half of continuous work by Damon McMahon. Unlike McMahon's earlier Amen Dunes recordings, which were almost always a solo affair, the music on Love was performed by a variety of musicians, including his longtime collaborators Jordi Wheeler on guitar and piano, and Parker Kindred on drums.McMahon chose to hold the main recording sessions for Love in Montreal with Dave Bryant and Efrim Menuck of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. In addition to recording the sessions that McMahon produced, members of Godspeed also played on several of the songs. So did saxophonist Colin Stetson and Elias Bender-Ronnenfelt of Iceage, who duets with McMahon on two tracks.This project has always seen McMahon guided by traditional song and sound, but Love is the first work in which this clearly shines through. The result is definitively the most substantial Amen Dunes record to date. These are elemental songs about time, love and memory, as much about the listener as they are about the writer: pure, open, and beautiful.
Amen Dunes' Love took close to a year and a half, 16 musicians, and five different studios to complete. It was a song cycle that required broad experimentation before it was clear what was essential underneath the surface. In that process, much of the sound that might have made it onto the album was lost. There was just too much to say for one record. Cowboy Worship is an attempt to give life to some of the music that didn't make it past the scalpel.
Dunes are a mysteriously ethereal and minimal trio from Los Angeles. Appropriating pop and experimental music into a familiar swirl, whileretaining a fresh outlook and approach, Dunes inhabit a space of tweaking, twisting, imagining moments and emotions from the past, destined to end up as their future. Stephanie Chan, formerly of Austin Texas bands Finally Punk, and The Carrots plays guitar and sings in Dunes, she creates surreal and dreamy narratives with her lyrics and uniquely beautiful, powerful voice. Mark Greshowak plays barritone guitar and sometimes bass, he used to write songs and tour with seattle area band Talbot Tagora, now he and Stephanie weave their melodies back and forth, making lush tones for our eardums. Kate Hall, played drums in Mika Miko before holding down the rhythmic duties and also singing for Dunes. Having released a 12" EP on Mexican Summer, 2 7" EP's, one on Los Angeles label Teenage Teerdrops, the other on San Diego's Art Fag and a tape on Ooga Booga Dunes are primed to release a full length to the world.
Amen Dunes is the solo project of Damon McMahon along with the occasional collaborator. After playing in New York and touring in the US and Europe from 2009-2010, McMahon released the recordings he had made in his former apartment in Beijing as the Murder Dull Mind EP on Sacred Bones in the summer of 2010. This past January he began the recordings for his second full length, Through Donkey Jaw. These are his first proper recordings in almost five years. Where Murder Dull Mind was sparse and mostly acoustic and almost all first take improvisation, this new work, while still including a number of improvised recordings, contains many more fully realized sounds and songs; very much the winter to Murder Dull Mind’s summer.