For some, the keening voice and half-slurred, half-shouted lyrics of Damon McMahon (aka Amen Dunes) remain an acquired taste. But to many more, this New York-based oddball poet is a true original of modern psychedelic music in the midst of a whole lot of less-inspired revivalism. That much was clear on his fine 2011 outing for Sacred Bones, the lo-fi, surrealistic Through Donkey Jaw, and on a track like “Blue Rose”, two songs into his new album Freedom, you can see how it has bore new fruit, expanded in scope. Like J Spaceman, Amen Dunes rides repetitive riffs into the stratosphere, creating a quasi-religious experience. And like a true experimentalist, he crams his songs full of texture, anchoring his melodies and deeply personal (though sometimes tough to pick out) lyrics in a soundscape evoking American folk blues, electronica, and krautrock. His lo-fi past some distance behind, Amen Dunes continues to make epic pop tunes, with much credit due from collaborators like Colin Stetson and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Freedom is an album of loss and joy, and a fun listen, at that. I dare you not to tap your foot in time to the charming “Calling Paul the Suffering”.
Amen Dunes perform tonight at the Doug Fir Lounge with support from Okay Kaya.