I think it would be safe to say that ‘Amen Dunes’ album releases, to date, have all contained elements of experimentation and a desire to find a particular sound. Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Damon McMahon (aka Amen Dunes) has previously recorded material in remote locations, over incredibly short periods of time and occasionally in a single take – just to create the perfect musical sound. The artists new EP ‘Cowboy Worship’ comes about as a result of this quite individual method of recording.
When McMahon began recording the 2014 LP ‘Love’ some of the sound that made it to the final cut was lost. Here on ‘Cowboy Worship’ you have the original intentions for the music. We’re told that “Cowboy Worship as a concept certainly did not begin with ‘Love’, but instead ‘Love’ began with Cowboy Worship, was born from it, and in turn added a new link to the chain”.
So, what exactly do we have? Well, original workings of ‘I Know Myself’, ‘I Can’t Dig It’, ‘Green Eyes’ and ‘Love’ – all from last year’s ‘Love’ LP. In addition we also have a cover version of Tim Buckley’s ‘Song to the Siren’ and ‘Lezzy Head’ from the artists ‘Through Donkey Jaw’ album.
It’s obvious from the start that this is an EP for fans of Amen Dunes only. The material, while well written, is not something your standard music lover would stumble across without having previous exposure to the artists back catalogue (and in particular ‘Love’). These pre-“Love” versions offer very little in the way of originality, the majority are too similar and the changes too slight. Surely it would have made more sense to publish the entire package on SoundCloud, or on the official website, as this would have given the artist more exposure to a wider audience – and after all, everyone likes a freebie. In truth it all makes for a rather confusing and disappointing release and I would certainly think twice before reaching for my wallet.
We also have to ask ourselves the simple question – are these original recordings any better than those on the LP? ‘I Know Myself’ certainly offers nothing new in the slightest. ‘Lezzy Head’ seems to be missing a couple of samples and distorted vocals but again the overall patter is much the same.
Thankfully the EP version of ‘Green Eyes’ differs from the previous comparisons. It’s actually quite impressive – louder and brasher than the final version that made the LP. ‘Son to the Siren’ certainly provides something new and also allows you to appreciate McMahon’s vocals. They’re quite stunning and this Tim Buckley cover is actually a moment of jaw-dropping brilliance.
However, these two moments are quickly glossed over with a similar sounding version of ‘Love’. It’s all too familiar and I fail to see how this EP complements last year’s excellent album in anyway.
The full-tracklisting for the ‘Cowboy Worship’ EP is as follows…
I Know Myself (Montreal)
Song to the Siren
I Can’t Dig It (China Street Blues)
Green Eyes (Music Blues)
Lezzy Head (Burial)
No European live dates have yet been announced for Amen Dunes. However, US residents and visitors to the same country can see him at one of these venues…
Jan 22, 2015 – New York, Bowery Ballroom
Mar 26, 2015 – Baltimore, Metro Gallery
Mar 27, 2015 – Raleigh, Pinhook
Mar 28, 2015 – Knoxville, Big Ears Festival
Mar 29, 2015 – Bloomington, The Bishop
Mar 31, 2015 – Iowa City, Mission Creek Festival
Apr 1, 2015 – Chicago, Schubas
Apr 2, 2015 – Cleveland, Beachland Tavern