Transmissions :: Amen Dunes

Welcome back to Aquarium Drunkard Transmissions. This week on the show, we’re sitting down with Damon McMahon, best known as the man behind the mysterious and compelling Amen Dunes musical project.

Transmissions host Jason P. Woodbury first spoke to McMahon way back in 2012, when he was touring in support of the second Amen Dunes album, 2011’s Through Donkey Jaw. Then, they checked in again in 2018, when he released the tremendous Freedom.

Amen Dunes’ sound has shifted and morphed all along the way, though some constants have remained—particularly, his mantra-like vocals. Even when it’s hard to clearly understand exactly what he’s saying, McMahon has a way of making his lyrics felt, as if the shape and sound of the words in and of themselves has some occulted meaning. 

McMahon’s latest is called Death Jokes. It was released on May 10th by Sub Pop Records and it’s a dense, layered gem. Built on beats, piano—a new instrument for McMahon—and stacked with samples of artists like Lenny Bruce and J Dilla, it’s a difficult record to grok at first. It doesn’t reveal itself quickly. In a media landscape that often asks us to rush through our experience of music, Death Jokes asks us to stop, to listen again, and to listen deeper. It reveals more as you sit with it. 

In that way it’s a profoundly counter cultural album; it bucks against the mode of our day. This conversation follows suit, examining the way the digital age has tried to reduce human experience down to clean binaries. It’s a conversation about spirituality, about the root of music, about the subconscious, and much more.

Transmissions is a part of the Talkhouse Podcast Network. Visit the Talkhouse for more interviews, fascinating reads, and podcasts. Next week on Transmissions? Synth legend Steve Roach.

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Weekly podcast companion for the Aquarium Drunkard music blog / SIRIUS XMU satellite radio show. Sound collage, old-school, free-form radio.

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