Amen Dunes, Through Donkey Jaw
Equal parts lackadaisical and spooky, on the outskirts of avant-garde pop
Through Donkey Jaw — the music on which is about as vague as its title — will likely appeal to fans of Deerhunter and Syd Barrett more than it will to those who get down to Band of Horses and Devendra Banhart, but they’re kindred spirits all, even if their commonalities are sometimes shrouded by ethereal vocals and filthy guitars. Like the weirder dudes mentioned above, Damon McMahon lives on the outskirts of avant-garde pop; he’s an artist’s artist and he’s spent the last several years between New York and Beijing, recording occasionally and releasing even less often.
His latest reflects his globe-hopping and apparent self-reflection. More specifically, it sounds like it was made in a different world altogether, its muse not readily available to most humans. After all, something has to account for McMahon’s wails and chanted mantras that sound less like words and more like syllables; they’re equal parts lackadaisical and spooky. Or the piles of reverb that obscure his oft-desperate soundscapes. That the whole thing ends with an instrumental, 10-minute cluster fuck of a staring contest called “Tomorrow Never Knows” is only fitting. Like any good journey, half the fun of Through Donkey Jaw is going through it.