Thursday, September 17, 2009

Dungen (#5, 2008)

Looks like it sounds like a subterraneon prison.
But it's actually more like an open grove - Dungen.

"Det Tar Tid" from 4 (2008)

The very Swedishly named Gustav Ejstes started Dungen as a kind of solo recording outlet. This being a top discovery from last year, missing background history is an obvious theme. Supposedly, there's a big Swedish folk influence, but I don't hear it. Now maybe that's because I don't know my Swedish folk - but I think it's just a gimmick to lure the bespectacled corduroy demographic in. He also sings exclusively in Swedish - you know what that means! And it's pronounced [dOOn'-Gən]. Swedes.

So, a few years back, they had their big indie breakout with Ta Det Lugnt (2004), which is Swedish for "Take It Easy" (supposedly) and the song "Panda" (which I missed). Good stuff. The album might have been stronger if it wasn't a double-LP, though. Last year, he formed as a complete band and they released 4, and that's where I come in. I think the talent has matured a lot, and the (single) album is still diverse but also more focused. It has really strong vocal melodies, great tunes and varied material, based on pop- and folk-fueled sounds. But still it rocks, with a suprising lot of drumming squeezed in.

Given the light touch of the writing, it's surprising how often it's a busily percussive album - although pretty rarely too bombastic or overwhelming. There's a trap set, hand drums, shakers, woodblocks, hand claps, piano forte, I think a xylophone. I wouldn't be surprised if they had an 8-pack of temple gongs in there somewhere. "Finns Det Nagon Mojlighet" is mostly a march, "Mina Damer Och Fasaner" is mostly palm-muted guitar rhythms. But then there's the jazzy folk that's a hallmark of the Nick Drake acolyte, with "Maleras Finest" basically a jazz flute quartet. You get mid-tempo pop with peeling, distorted guitar. And of course a two-parter rock-guitar freak-out jam, "Samtidigt," which is very bombastic and overwhelming. In a good way!

I like how the New York Times says they "almost beg to be described as hippies." Saw them live in Austin a little bit ago, and they put on quite the epic rock show. Some mellow stuff, some rip-roaring guitar rock, some tight hooks, some looser jamming. And 4 is a lot like that - keeping a balance but never muddling it up. If you like prettiness in your music but also real rock sounds, and don't mind either one, Dungen does each and both together exceptionally well.

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