When: Wed., Feb. 1, 9 p.m. 2012
I doubt Damon McMahon ever worries about coming off as too cryptic. If you forced me to describe his music in terms of genre, I'd call it a distant neighbor of psychedelic folk, hypnotizing and seriously druggy—but that only gets you halfway there. To record some of the earliest Amen Dunes material, when the band was still a solo project in 2006, he locked himself away in the desolate Catskills and mostly just improvised guitar parts around his lyrics—he hadn't intended to release the results, and it wasn't till 2009 that they came out as DIA. In 2007 he moved to China for a couple years to freelance and work at a Chinese record label, for which he tried to launch an imprint specializing in American experimental music; while there he also recorded 2010's Murder Dull Mind EP. The recent Through Donkey Jaw (Sacred Bones), recorded back home in New York, is intensely personal, like everything else McMahon has done—on these distant, hazy, reverb-loaded songs, he sounds like he'd be just as happy singing to a brick wall as an audience of live people. Right from the dark and eerie opener, "Baba Yaga," swelling and contracting masses of guitar and white noise wash over you while space around them fills with McMahon's strained, echoing vocals. It's such a very chill high. Now that Amen Dunes includes a drummer laying down primitive rhythms and a keyboard/synth dude generally making shit creepier, the improvisation in McMahon's guitar playing is largely gone, but the sound is much more full and lush. Through Donkey Jaw is one of my favorite albums of last year that I didn't hear until this year, full of beautifully haunting lasting moments—the thick buzz and stereo-panned voices on "For All," which sound like what a schizophrenic might hear in his head, are already burned into my brain. —Kevin Warwick This Will Destroy You headlines; Mountains and Amen Dunes open.