Blending Dan Bejar‘s surrealist imagery with Kurt Vile‘s hazy songwriting, Damon McMahon conjures vivid soundscapes throughout the electronic-tinged ‘Freedom‘. McMahon‘s fifth album under the Amen Dunes moniker, the effort rewards detached listening as rippling psychedelia laps against the listener’s consciousness. Playing upon nostalgia and disparate textures (de facto opener ‘Blue Rose’ recalls Oasis whereas ‘Skipping School’ opens with a distorted, Shpongle-esque sample), ‘Freedom’ charms with its swimming, heady auditory experience.
Curiously, McMahon does not draw unwavering attention to his voice. While the aforementioned ‘Blue Rose’ opens with the gem, “I’ve got money because I work all day / Don’t get down a mile away,” McMahon‘s near-extraterrestrial delivery seemingly coaxes listeners to really explore the space. Given this, Amen Dunes rewards prolonged engagement with the album; audiences may find their attention lazily drifting between McMahon‘s voice and session player Gus Seyffert‘s (Beck, Bedouine) propulsive basslines. In a daze, one might feel they have fallen into a time-warp on ‘Freedom’; somehow, tracks like ‘Time’ and ‘Miki Dora’ — which already feel sprawling — seem to ramble on for eons despite their five-minute length.
Amen Dunes‘ brilliance radiates. On the standout track ‘Believe’, McMahon quips, “When I was a kid I was afraid to die / But I growed up now” over a sparkling groove seemingly plucked from Whitney‘s ‘Light Upon the Lake’. Just as one assumes the song is heading in one direction, though, the arrangement darkens as McMahon (in Bejarian fashion) croons, “I can feel it in the air tonight / Summer’s almost done.” Although such a reference delights on its own, it’s McMahon‘s nonchalant delivery that closes the sale.
Returning to McMahon‘s electronic inspirations as a youth, Amen Dunes’ ‘Freedom’ benefits from Chris Coady‘s (Beach House, Cass McCombs) production. The multi-layered atmosphere encourages mental frolicking without intimidating or disappointing. Songs like the relatively bare ‘Satudarah’ and boppy ‘Calling Paul the Suffering’ appreciate the subtle complexity despite holding up on their own. For those who can engage with psychedelia without effort, ‘Freedom’ offers bountiful rewards.
Amen Dunes‘ latest effort won’t appeal to everyone but its hypnotic arrangements are irresistible. Admittedly, one yearns for a modicum of direction after wandering aimlessly through the album, but McMahon seems to trust listeners enough to let them roam freely and discover whatever they may find. Such faith ought to be honored, and perhaps audiences might repay the solid musician with cynical grooving on an unsuspecting dance floor.
‘Freedom’ is out now via Sacred Bones.
The full track-listing is as follows:
2. Blue Rose
4. Skipping School
5. Calling Paul the Suffering
6. Miki Dora