Amen Dunes tried various genres from experimental rock to psychedelic folk during his music career. On his fifth album, Freedom, he finally exploits his full potential. The organic psych gaze fluctuates with his blurred voice, depicting an emotional journey in a Lo-Fi ambience.
“Blue Rose”, as the opening track of this album, reveals the struggling relationship between him and his unpredictable father. His ebullient vocal soften the track emotionally, perfectly matching the sprawling and dreamy vibe that created by its psychedelic synthwave and crisp percussion.
The lyrics also depicts his fluctuated emotion and fragility – he shows a tough façade when he sings “I’m the baddest, stoniest thing in town”, while at the end of the track, he sings “Said you weren’t much a man to me / But you’re the only one I’ve ever had” which reveals his vulnerability.
“Time” sounds like a sunset driving song that should have been played in 80s. The dizzy synthline keeps hovering with the relaxing guitar riffs and the trembling voice of McMahon, creating a warm yet subtle outlook.
Along with the chaotic and echoing synthwave, the dizzy feeling carries on, and even getting harder in the next track “Skipping School”. Lyrically, it describes his life of adolescence and the wistful feeling of looking back on the old days. All nostalgia has been melt down and evaporated into the rhythm gradually with the roving harmonica and intensifying guitar gems.
“Calling Paul The Suffering” has a more jazz-influenced beats. The bouncy groove and the rhythmic patterns of piano make the track brisk. While it is still a track that talks about his father, along with its relaxing vibe, it’s more like reappearing the old scenario of him and his father.
“Miki Dora” is the first single of the album. Like most tracks on the album, it fuses 80s rock elements into its sprawling arrangement. As to the track itself, it is inspired by problematic mid-century surfer and convicted financial fraudster. McMahon indicated that “This song is ultimately a reflection on all manifestations of mythical heroic maleness and its illusions”.
The draggy vocal and melancholic melody in “Satudarah” suddenly turns the album into a black and white slow-motion, turning the album into a different ambience. Unlike other psychedelic and rhythm-driven tracks in the album, “Satudarah” is more sensitive with its acoustic background. The sluggishness of this track somehow creates a sloppy atmosphere, being soaked by its dampness.
While on “Blue Rose”, McMahon talks about his father, “Believe”, however, is a track about his mother’s mortality. The folk-guitar hooks and the orbital synthesizer keeps the arrangement lush and listenable. The lingering of synthline in “Dracula” delivers a dizzy, luminous vibe along with the flickering guitar riffs and regular drum beats, creating an undulating and waving texture and warm breeze.
The same title track “Freedom” is more spontaneous – the onomatopoeia in “Freedom” along with the loose beats gives a unfettered feeling, while the lyrics “You got a beautiful guitar / And there’s an ocean where you are / Wherever you run there you are” deliver a boundless imagination.
“L.A.” is also a highlight in this album – with its elegant arrangement, psychedelic but dynamic atmosphere and danceable beats, shifting from guitar folk vibe to electronic bouncy ambience.
“L.A.” and “Dracula” both describe a journey of romantic love in adolescence, with the young and wild scenario that created in his lyrics, “Drove on 4.2 / Drove his car through the city” and “Pretend I light my first cigarette and drive down to L.A”. Along with his whisper “Bitter and better” and subtly penetrating synthline, it leaves endless reverie at the end of the album.
Freedom is an emotionally sensitive and well-constructed album driven by its psychedelic synthline and moody guitar hooks, delivering a layer of dizzy and dreamy atmosphere. The blurry vocal of McMahon gradually dissolves into its fluid rhythm, sprawling with the undulating waves of synthesizer and percussion. The nostalgic feelings and vintage scenario he creates like an orange sunset covering the skyline of city.
Purchase Amen Dunes’ Freedom on iTunes here and stream it below.
Words by Neo Chen