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Amen Dunes

Through Donkey Jaw

(Sacred Bones; US: 16 Aug 2011; UK: Import)

You might feel like you’re eavesdropping when you listen to Through Donkey Jaw, although you may be eavesdropping on some alternate universe. To call Amen Dunes’s music bedroom pop may be accurate in relation to the recording approach, but it misses the sonic oddity of this record entirely. This is dank-cave pop. Its muffled psychedelics rise up from underneath some crust of atmospheric sound. The guitars don’t echo or ripple, they shudder with a subterranean murk. Dunes himself is an arresting and complicated performer. Sometimes he wails with heart-worn beauty, as on the jangling “Lower Mind”, while in other spots his voice is ragged and cut loose, raging against the walls of sound. “Not a Slave” finds him working up to this fever, starting with an open sound that feels downright pastoral next to these other tunes. But all that clattering sound piles up and Dunes hurls into a banshee wail, breaking the ceremonial control and repetition of the track. This stuff is insular—Dunes’s music wraps around him, obscures his words and guitar phrasings—but you never miss the emotion. This music reaches out to you in spite of itself. It’s dark, sometimes troubling, and constantly out of focus, but it is also often beautiful in its own otherworldly way.

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Matthew Fiander is a music critic for PopMatters and Prefix Magazine. He also writes fiction and his work has appeared in The Yalobusha Review. He received his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from UNC-Greensboro and currently teaches writing and literature at High Point University in High Point, NC. You can follow him on Twitter at @mattfiander.


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