Amen Dunes is the project of Damon McMahon, whose shape-shifting psych-folk has drawn comparisons to Roky Erickson, Syd Barrett, Chris Knox, Suicide, and Royal Trux. Over the years, his music shifted from murky, lo-fi atmospheres to a more accessible sound, but the timeless quality of his voice and the elemental nature of his songwriting remained.
A Philadelphia native and a former member of the indie band Inouk, McMahon issued an album under his own name, Mansions, in 2006. Later that year, he began recording as Amen Dunes, sequestering himself in a trailer in the Catskills and laying down songs that he never intended to release publicly. He moved to Beijing in 2007 and recorded intermittently, honing a dark, acoustic-based sound. In 2009 Locust Music issued his Catskills sessions as DIA, and McMahon returned to the U.S., settling in New York. The following year, Amen Dunes made its debut on Sacred Bones with the Murder Dull Mind EP, a collection of songs from McMahon's time in China. His first full-length for the label, Through Donkey Jaw, was released in August 2011 and featured some of his most accessible music to date. However, the album didn't make as much an impact as McMahon hoped, and after 2012's EP Ethio Covers, he self-released 2013's The Spoiler, a set of challenging songs recorded from 2009 to 2011 that included a track dedicated to avant-garde composer Julius Eastman, and another that he recorded in his underwear.
McMahon took a different approach for 2014's Love. Drawing on the end of a long-term relationship, it featured more careful songcraft and a cleaner sound as well as contributions from Iceage's Elias Bender Rønnenfelt, Bon Iver's Colin Stetson, and members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Early the following year saw the release of the Cowboy Worship EP, which McMahon described as a companion piece to Love and featured a cover of Tim Buckley's "Song to the Siren." McMahon continued to expand Amen Dunes' music with the wide-ranging Freedom, on which he reunited with Godspeed You! Black Emperor as well as frequent collaborators Parker Kindred and Delicate Steve. The album, which also featured production by Chris Coady and Italian electronic musician Panoram, arrived in March 2018.