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Alternative & Indie - Released March 30, 2018 | Sacred Bones Records

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
Unadorned melodies for broken-hearted lyrics, Freedom follows Love in a simple and logical succession. Amen Dunes sticks to the well-worn path: the work's strength is in its starkness. And the starkness relies on its flinty timbre, its abstract lyrics, its wild folk. It's dry, and psychedelic. The direct, tumbledown beauty is born from repeated motifs. Sometimes gloomy, sometimes jubilant. From Miki Dora's drug-addled crescendos that pay homage to the surfer outlaw to the infinite loops of Believe, McMahon stuns the audience, carried by instinct to the depths of emotion. Love took two years. Freedom three. McMahon recorded at Electric Lady Studios in New York, then moved to Sunset Sound in L.A, bringing along Steve Marion on guitar (Delicate Steve, The Growlers), Parker Kindred (Jeff Buckley) on drums, Chris Coady (Beach House, The Antlers, Slowdive) producing. But also Romain Panoram for whom he fell in London: hence the finely-filtered electro backdrop. Intoxicating. © Charlotte Saintoin/Qobuz

Alternative & Indie - Released May 13, 2014 | Sacred Bones Records

Some artists' music gets more intricate as the years pass, while others, like Amen Dunes' Damon McMahon, pare it down to its essence. While 2011's sprawling Through Donkey Jaw suggested he could go in almost any direction on his next album, on Love he forgoes much of that woolliness -- some of which ended up on the smaller-scale releases Ethio Covers and Spoiler -- resulting in songs with a newfound clarity and serenity. The album begins with some of McMahon's most appealing music yet: "White Child" manages to be bold and eerie at the same time, tempering its punchy brass with trippy woodwinds and a melodic sensibility that evokes fellow travelers Epic Soundtracks and Greg Ashley. "Lonely Richard" might be the closest McMahon has come to a bona fide pop song, but its heavy reverb and droning violins help keep it weird. "Splits Are Parted," meanwhile, captures the album's strange grace and yearning in McMahon's cries of "Oh, I could love you." Love's pastoral excursions are simpler yet more sophisticated than what came before, but the album still boasts plenty of haze on the eight-minute title track and "Lilac in Hand," which nods to and modernizes flower-child freedom. The wide-open drones that dominate these songs allow more details and nuances to come out, whether it's the layered backing vocals on "I Know Myself" or "Sixteen"'s carefully sketched portrait of youth, love, and loss. That said, Love also shows McMahon's way with towering sonics hasn't deserted him: "Green Eyes" creates an air of doomy majesty that makes it feel longer and more imposing than two and a half minutes. The album's more polished feel extends to how well blended and balanced it is; the dense weirdness of Love's lone rocker, "I Can't Dig It," enhances the alluring drift of songs like "Rocket Flare" and "Everybody Is Crazy." This is easily some of McMahon's prettiest and most accessible music, and it's also some of his finest. In its own simple, graceful way, Love adds more depth to the rest of Amen Dunes' work. ~ Heather Phares

Alternative & Indie - Released November 30, 2018 | Sacred Bones Records


Alternative & Indie - Released August 16, 2011 | Sacred Bones Records

Most Sacred Bones releases state the year the album was recorded on the cover, but in the case of Amen Dunes' Through Donkey Jaw, the “recorded in 2011” is especially significant. Not only are these the first Amen Dunes songs recorded with a full-fledged band, they’re also the first proper recordings that Damon McMahon has made since he holed up in a Catskills cottage in 2006, laying down songs in private that eventually became Dunes’ debut album, DIA. Later, while living in Bejing, he made music only sporadically, issuing a handful of mostly acoustic tracks that were released as the Murder Dull Mind EP. Where DIA was a barely contained sprawl of ideas that ranged from full-on acid folk freakouts to eight-miles-high folk-pop and Murder Dull Mind was heavy on the folk and light on the freak, Through Donkey Jaw tempers these extremes and revels in Amen Dunes' newfound expansiveness. The album opens with two of its most impressive tracks: The witchy “Baba Yaga” feels like the perfect blend of McMahon's previous output, cloaked in reverb as it builds from subtle drones into violin squalls, while “Lower Mind”’s deeply trippy journey from delicate plucking to dark, towering rhythms and keyboards shows just how mercurial the full-band Amen Dunes can be. Elsewhere, McMahon turns in some of his most accessible songs yet: “Christopher,” with its hazy riffs and singsong melody, sounds like a more polished DIA track; “Good Bad Dreams” is so fey that it evokes Marc Bolan's hippy-dippy days; and “Sunday” and “Bedroom Drum”’s floating folk hint at McMahon's more intimate side. Yet for every song that suggests Amen Dunes have gone pop, there’s another that’s far darker and weirder than anything McMahon has previously committed to tape. The watery tones of “1985” give way to “Not a Slave”’s blobby keyboards, claustrophobic backing vocals, and drum assaults, while “Jill,” with its hard-edged electronics and nightmarish feel, hints at why Sacred Bones released this album. Through Donkey Jaw's bonus tracks save the weirdest for last, culminating with “Gem Head”’s guitar maelstroms and the ten-minute sound collage “Tomorrow Never Knows” (not a Beatles cover, but it shares the same transporting feel, times a thousand). Darker and in some ways more difficult than what came before it, Through Donkey Jaw shores up Amen Dunes' strengths and pushes forward at the same time. ~ Heather Phares

Alternative & Indie - Released January 20, 2015 | Sacred Bones Records

Conceived as a companion piece to Amen Dunes' gently transcendent Love, Cowboy Worship shines the spotlight on different versions of a few of the album's songs. Some of its changes are subtle; the EP is bookended by interpretations that are very similar to what ended up on Love. On "I Know Myself (Montreal)," it's clear where the mellow groove of the album version came from, but its meditative cello drones and layered vocals come to the fore, creating a more intimate and immediate feel. Likewise, the rough edges on "Love (Montreal)" add a welcome, wabi-sabi beauty to its hazy reflections. Where much of Love was deceptively breezy, its pastoral sounds leavening Damon McMahon's musings on devotion, Cowboy Worship strips away some of this patina for a more intense mood. "I Can't Dig It (China Street Blues)" reveals Love's frenzied rocker as something more deliberate, its turbulence more clearly defined from its pulsing first half to its dramatic finale. "Green Eyes (Music Blues)" remains a standout, and this version, which features Harvey Milk's Stephen Tanner and heroic doses of distortion, emphasizes the song's feeling of disconnection ("No emotion/That's the sound of devotion") in a way that surpasses the album track. However, Cowboy Worship's finest moment isn't an Amen Dunes original; it's an original-sounding cover. McMahon's version of "Song to the Siren" pays homage to the airy longing of Tim Buckley -- one of Love's main inspirations -- as well as the bittersweet sensuality of This Mortal Coil's interpretation without slavishly copying either. While Cowboy Worship doesn't match Love's transporting qualities, it does offer a pleasant tangent for Amen Dunes fans wanting more of its mysterious beauty. ~ Heather Phares

Alternative & Indie - Released July 27, 2010 | Sacred Bones Records


Alternative & Indie - Released November 9, 2018 | Sacred Bones Records

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