Review: Amen Dunes - "Cowboy Worship"

Amen Dunes - Cowboy Worship
(2015 Sacred Bones)

Ever since I first laid ears on Amen Dunes' sophomore LP, Through Donkey Jaw, I've found myself fascinated by the project's peculiar approach to folk music: skeletal in construction, yet its reverb-laden aura of mystery wafts through the air like ceremonial incense, filling each song with an eldritch breath of life. Frontman Damon McMahon borrows timbres normally associated with cozier acts like Fleet Foxes and Paul Simon, only to bend and distort them into spookier sonic territories. Though recent efforts have nudged the project's sound towards accessibility, its adventurous spirit and penchant for improvisation is as present as ever. The latest AD release, a 6-song EP, is composed of 5 alternate takes from previous albums and a cover track. I feel that as a standalone EP release, it's McMahon's greatest output to date. It is powerfully succinct and filled with lush textures that often recall The Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows". Songs like "I Know Myself" and "Green Eyes" slowly build upon minimal arrangements, opening with guitar and percussion, followed by layers upon layers of improvised accompaniment, from moaned backing vox to droning strings. McMahon's vocals are powerful, half-shouted half-sung, especially so on his cover of This Mortal Coil's dream-pop classic "Song to the Siren".