Amen Dunes is not something you put on to just listen to. It is an invitation to possession. Somewhat in the vein of Exuma, Death in June, or Sam Ashley, Damon McMahon (the "mind" behind Amen Dunes) seems to have an intimate relationship with songwriting as a medium to conjure spirits and recording as a way to capture and exorcise them. His monumental last full length, DIA, was written and recorded during a period of intense seclusion in a cabin in upstate New York in 2006. When I asked Damon about how this isolation affected the recording process, he admitted to feeling presences and sometimes resorted to cranking up the volume as loud as he could to "drive the demons away".
But whereas DIA is a castle protected by these loud, electric of walls of distortion and reverb, Murder Dull Mind is more of a watchtower turned inward, barricaded by no amplifiers, fenced in by no haloes of effect pedals (save for some sparse interjections), a lone shivering structure of acoustic guitars and raw voices rendered tough by the sun and soft with rain, skeletal remains of a panopticon that sees all but suffers invisibly. It is rooted in unmistakeable darkness, but also retains a pensive and wistful detachment that allows it to breathe and reflect on itself, hovering in this state of half-embodiment almost like a ghost hovering above it's grave. The lyrics are also suspended in this half-formed, half-realized state of consciousness--- sometimes rising into the crystalized realm of comprehension and language, other times diving deep into swirling primordial streams of subconscious understanding. Here the voice is a primary access to the spirit world, and the concept of "hollow syllables" has been a historically viable means of sacrificing the voice to the control of other invisible systems beyond language-- much like the function of vocables in indigenous music or speaking in tongues endemic to Pentacostal and Shaker hymns. But as with any good possession music, Murder Dull Mind also exorcises those same demons it allows to take hold of it. In the anthemic title track, Damon sings a reflective affirmation of being: "Turn into yourself; you notice yourself", and therein lies the key to approaching this fragile and extremely moving inverted world.
Murder Dull Mind will be released as a 12" EP on Sacred Bones July 27th.
If you are scared, GO.
If you are curious, LISTEN: