by Jeff Milo
The tempting narrative here is how the recluse tries something regular - or the abnormal now sounds normal.
When Damon McMahon first completed songs as Amen Dunes, he had not intention of anyone ever hearing them. He recorded material way back in 2006 before he all but quite music and moved to China. Thankfully those experimental tapes were left with some friends and fate eventually fostered them over to some hands inside the Locust Music label in Chicago. After a few years, a proper debut (D.I.A.) finally arrived - showcasing McMahon's unique brand of gloomy/groovy folk.
As he steadily turned some of heads (at least from blogs and zines appreciative of a more avant-garde aesthetic), he would release recordings in 2010 that were darkly beautiful dirges that still retained a strange delicacy, most of them improvised (or at least one-take affairs) and others even more obscure (for an audience over here in the states), with one 7" featuring a set of covers of Ethiopian music.
With Love, essentially his first proper introduction to a potentially wider audience, McMahon has been inspired by classic American singers and highly iconic songs from our 60's troubadour traditions. The stately march and bleary guitars of "Lonely Richard" recall the ponderous warbling of Tim Hardin, while the rustling jangle and cinematic reverb swells of "Spirits Are Parted," the vocals touched with just the subtlest effects for a celestial kind of rasp, recalls Astral Weeks-era Van Morrison.
"I Can't Dig It" is a bit of a wild card, a joyous cacophony of brambly guitars nearly burying the vocals entirely, set to a steady swaying rhythm - in effect feeling as though you're just outside the door that leads down into the basement wherein this riffy, clackety, altogether bombastic folk freak-out is being explosively recorded - thus demonstrating the graceful mastery of distortion by McMahon's chosen production team, Godspeed! You Black Empreror's Dave Bryant and Efrim Menuck.
There's been suggestions that this is the psychedelically-inclined singer/songwriter's turning back towards a more rootsy or soulful influences - and while you won't actually hear prominent signatures from the likes of Sam Cooke or Marvin Gaye, you can, if you listen closely, still hear how McMahon's sense for melody has streamlined here, affecting a nicely strung together theme, with clearly stepped verses into choruses, catchy hooks into soaring bridges - if, still, garbled discretely by above-noted proclivities towards experimentalism.
We can dig it.
Amen Dunes is on tour.
Performing at Jumbo's on Tuesday night - 6/24 - 9pm
3736 3rd St. Detroit
Presented by Something Cold
Ft.Paul Bancell, Marital Vows and Radiant Marks.
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/283179041849320/