Damon McMahon’s musical totem might just be a pair of interlocked, somnambulist ghosts, deeply in love and nonchalant, full of both deep talent and a perfect euphoria. “Love,” McMahon’s latest release under the Amen Dunes project, is their soundtrack to nightly meanderings.
What McMahon started with Amen Dunes in 2006 – a meandering, ultra-solo musical meditation project, mostly recorded by himself (and, apparently, often with no real desire to release any of it beyond maybe a few copies for friends and acquaintances) has blossomed into a unique, and uniquely mesmerising and strong, record.
Fiercely independent, on “Love” McMahon seems to teeter just over the edge of traditional songsmithing, with no care whatsoever that the tempo in one part of a song might slow down a tad, or a guitar chord or lick may sound more like a flub than intentional. In the opening chords of the record’s first track, “White Child,” a second acoustic guitar bangs ariff that’s perfectly off-key and out of register before McMahon’s howl begins – and the rest of the tracks all seem to hesitate, waiting for all of it to mesh. Where other musicians might re-take that one, McMahon doesn’t seem to care. Or, perhaps, it’s just that this type of perfection – somewhat Jandek-ian – is all he cares about.
This record is an expression, more than a collection of songs. Deep, barrelling horns bellow behind marching, reverberating drums, draped by McMahon’s alternately warbling and mumbling vocals. On the record’s most produced track, “Lonely Richard,” McMahon seems to lament what feels like a self-imposed isolation with his unmistakable vocals – approaching the spiraling obsessions of Syd Barrett, but not quite as scarily sad. The late bridge sounds forced – like McMahon intends on making his jaunt away from the initial melody work on the fly, no matter what. Buy, again, it’s perfect, haunting. Other songs seem to meander like a quiet walk through some Japanese gardens, late at night or before Dawn, like the quiet, smiling “I Know Myself,” or a night spent calmly tossing, turning, thinking – insomniatic – in “Lilac In Hand.”
Amen Dunes will be playing at Lost Lake Tavern (3602 E Colfax Ave, Denver, Colorado 80206) Monday night, July 14, along with Axxa/Abraxas and Prism Waves at 8:30 PM (Tickets – $8 in advance, $10 DOS). Don’t miss a chance to catch what will likely be a bigger scene very soon.