Photo: Jess Buckley / Thrill Jockey

Psych Power Trio Dommengang’s ‘Wished Eye’  Dominates Fate

The ooze Dommengang draw from in Wished Eye is a loose, unspun wool that’s part metallic, fuzz addiction, visionary production, power trio power, and all rock.

Wished Eye
Thrill Jockey
21 April 2023

Blues-space rock outfit Dommengang‘s new record, Wished Eye, is the stuff of gods. While guitarist Dan “Sig” Wilson, bassist Brian Markham, and drummer Adam Bulgasem are just Portlanders (having settled after living separately), they know their stuff and will fearlessly dole it out. In one swoop of a song, Dommengang will carry us out via oceanic riffs, primordial bass, and a percussive chariot only to retract us, reminding us we are safely harnessed when earthless.

We’re off, threading through the needle’s eye into an unknown destiny. The title, Wished Eye, is a pairing of words that whirl in surreal surprise and syntax, one that conjures prophecy. While it stems from what Brian Markham said was a phrase that “continually popped up in dreams”, it also evolved from a happy accident. Brian sampled a Meditation Singers LP that skipped, which became a track, then the album’s title. “We felt it grabbed the attention and directed the audience to a more dreamlike state before the music is heard; it gets you in the right mood.” Wished Eye matches Dommengang’s “spirit and the transformative time we find ourselves in. Hope and longing swirling in the strangeness… [in] keeping on.” 

Wished Eye immediately journeys with its opening, “Runaway”, a Santanaesque introduction to a speaker stuck, alone, but bold enough when in a “natural life” or in love. Enriched by the pedal steel work of Abronia’s Rick Pedrosa, sounds foam beautifully despite late-capitalistic lyrical darts like “The outside world seems so jaded”, “I just threw up”, and “The USA seems so strange.” Next is the ripping “Society’s Blues”, a song solidifying themes of a forgone civility, where it is “time to disappear”. The reverb subsumes us. The title is also a nod (but much more menacing) to Dommengang’s fatherly titans, Blue Cheer, and their seminal “Summertime Blues”.  

We are then escalated into “Last Card”,  where “there is only me”, and wits are terminated in a WorldEnd. Our chances are down, but our last hand has luck: “Love is the card we have to play.” And like the more granular resonance wrought by recording engineer Eric Crespo, it’s clear if we rub up on the tougher grit — if we allow for more bleed — beauty happens.

More sonic bravery abounds in the beguiling instrumental “Little Beruit”, which easternizes Dommengang’s mode. It resurrects Portland’s nickname to mirror its pandemic-era tumult while upholding the place and time that gave them space to jam. Markham notes that “Portland and the pandemic helped us slow down. We searched for a new sound and focused on pacing, allowing for vulnerability and a feeling of searching.” Deep listening in nature and experimental music fostered freedom. It “allowed space to let other aspects of our sonic selves shine through”. 

“Myth Time”, “Blue and Peaceful”, and “Petrichor” confirm Dommengang’s heightened creative state, showcasing Wilson and Markham’s brotherhood in writing and voice. Crespo recorded the singing through two microphones. “One was going directly in, and one was going through my Deluxe Memory Men and into a mic’d up 1970s Fender guitar amp with the spring reverb turned up a little. The vocal sound was often a blend of the clean direct sound and the dirtier amp sound.” With Bulgasem’s stalwart drumming as an anchor, a broadening effect expands, what Crespo called letting “guitar leads sometimes pop out to the front of the mix over top of everything else.” Indeed, each track sends us to meet our fate, snaking and shredding, then yanking us back to a musical source material where transformation occurs. The final song, “Flower”, tells us the end is tender.

To tether us in their sound tsunamis is no small feat. It’s mythic. Curtis Godino’s cover artwork confirms it graphically: fonts flow like a thick yarn, hands invite possibility and prophecy, and a backside collage multiplies images of the three members. In its totality, an allusion to the Three Fates. The Fates were keepers of the cords of destiny, representing lives that can be ripped, knotted, or clipped permanently. 

The more graphic cover art diverges significantly from Dommengang’s previous covers using photographic images. Sig Wilson confirms, “Photographs, while open to interpretation, take you to a specific place that potentially dictates how you perceive the sound. This way, it’s more ambiguous and gives the listener more agency for where they travel when they listen.” Wilson sees the artistic shift signaling a new chapter, recounting past covers: “For example, in Everybody’s Boogie, the Pontiac in the parking lot of a motel takes the listener on the road and/or on the run — a blissful abandon. The cover of Love Jail takes you to the American Southwest with sun-washed colors and an overall feeling of love and hope but also loneliness and dread. It’s ominous. No Keys is darker, the photo evoking an even deeper hole we are digging ourselves out of or into.”

Like the records that precede it, Wished Eye conceptually gelled alongside the progression of the writing. Wilson notes, “The lyrics and the music, slowly bubbling in tandem, eschewed a new feeling of searching and longing for place and understanding.” Wilson claims Wished Eye is more hopeful than their previous work, yet “at the same time, heavier than before.” Brian Markham agrees that “the songs started real loose and ended up molding themselves organically into Dommen jams”.

Ahhh, the Dommen jams. The stuff of gods — the good stuff! But if our fate rests in Dommengang’s talented hands, what is a Dommengang? It originated in wordplay, fitting with their free-form ethos. They fiddled with foreign languages, finding meanings like “band of dreams”, “broken dream”, and “damage”. Markham muses: “So far, we’ve heard that Dommengang directly translates to the following: Lady Gang, Judgement Day, Priest Alley, and Idiot Hallway.” He continues, “Making up our own word for the band really seems to fit with the entire concept discussed here.”

Indeed, the ooze Dommengang draw from Wished Eye is a loose, unspun wool that’s part metallic, fuzz addiction, visionary production, power trio power, and all rock.

RATING 9 / 10