Photo Vincent Yip
With an approach that sits somewhere between those of Dirty Beaches and Women, Damon McMahon’s solo project Amen Dunes offers an edgy introversion with his second LP. The record clings to bedroom-fi aesthetic, falling into pits of reverb and distorted guitar, melting into minimal percussion. Rising from repetitive feedback, song fragments appear over faint percussive pulses to guide you through the haze.
Through Donkey Jaw is a collection of McMahon’s trippy ideas, falling together as a slow-burning return to music after five years in Beijing. Starting out as desert seranades gestating in upstate New York, this LP is a tense vocals-and-noise driven piece, making more sense as a whole than its disjointed elements do on their own. There are the odd moments of softness (the meditative “For All”) but more often it gives off an eroding chaos (“Jill”).
There’s very little to hang onto in this record, but after a few listens the ideas begin to make sense.
At its most lively, the album hearkens to the clangy psychedelia of the 13th Floor Elevators, but most of the time Amen Dunes slow things to a steady dirge, building and receding with each drawn out chord. It’s sparse and haunting, a quiet record save the odd point of climactic noise. But don’t expect any resolution; it engages only insofar as you let the strange tension seep into you.