Sunday, October 5, 2008


...a new project for me, Relics will be my attempt at critically analyzing sound recordings, new and old, week to week. By considering origin, influence, and historical context, I hope to make connections to the space and place surrounding each particular release. I am pleased to announce my first project will be a month long focus on the music of Sweden, and I am extremely excited to dedicate my first Relics post to a band very dear to me: Dungen.

Simply titled, 4 was released on Swedish label Subliminal Sounds (Kemado, USA) on September 30th and is Dungen’s fourth full length studio release. Cinematic and sweeping, 4 isn’t full of the raw psychedelic jams that have taken precedence in previous releases. That type of energy is now more of an undertone- and fans who have identified with the heavier Dungen of yore will hopefully notice a new, yet familiar, delicate, controlled heaviness. With this release, leader and founder Gustav Ejstes, focuses on piano and producing, and the album contains more tracks than ever before recorded with a full band. On Ta Det Lungt, Ejstes recorded most of the songs alone, and has noted that much of the record was made out of angst and frustration with the his musical world. 4 marks a deliberate entrance into crafted compositions for a group, and what I think comes through the most is the type of “band leader” influence Gustav has over the other players. It’s clear that the members of Dungen really understand playing with one another, and they execute this with knowledge and skill. Throughout the release there is a noticeable calm- and the maturity of sound that happens when developed musicians play together often is pleasantly audible.

There are a few fade-outs and ins, which to me is a slight disappointment. The last thing I want is to notice the energy of something musical, truncated. I understand that sometimes songs do not end perfectly, or a jam can go on and on. But, for a band with such a history of improvisation and extended melodies, it’s a bit painful to get super excited about where something is going, and then have it peter out. For some reason, it was decided to keep tracks in a 5 minute time frame, and I find this to be a bit limiting to the bands in depth sytle. 4 is only ten tracks long, and I feel that for a full release, a bit more time could have been put into organizing (and extending) the tracks so there weren’t any of those noticeable cut off moments. This occurs mostly when no vocals are present, and makes me wish for the 7 and 8 minute tracks that graced Ta Det Lungt. However, the song writing in 4 is pure pop and it’s finest, and with 5 tracks with vocals and 5 without, even the instrumentals play out quite lyrically.

Guitarist Reine Fiske, bassist Mattias Gustavsson, and drummer Johan Holmegard all contribute to the lush instrumentation on 4. With this record Dungen still manage to pay homage to Swedish organist and composer Bo Hansson, as they have in pretty much every previous release (more on Bo in a week!). However this time, influences are a bit more refined and less deliberate. An interesting thing about Ejstes, is that his father is a folk fiddle player. This type of traditional, but more modern Swedish sound is quite present and developed throughout. I’d go so far as to call this release contemporary Swedish folk. Glimpses of Turkish psych, tasteful touches of Beatle-esque pop, funky, thumping bass lines, jazzy guitar shimmery seventies flutes and bells- deeper listens of 4 come across like some long lost bizarre Phil Spector release. With 4, it is evident that Dungen has really come into a sound that is very much their own. Some bands make it to a fourth release by putting out the same album over and over, 4 feels like the perfect step forward from Tio Bitar, and by blending the sounds and themes of their previous releases, something new has emerged. With 4, Dungen does not disappoint, nor do they confuse. Their influences- classic, their sound- timeless, and the feeling- perhaps not unlike the comfort one might find in a forest grove of pines trees- somewhere in the lush landscape of Sverige.

For a glimpse into the good old soft side, dungen @ criminal records, september 2005:

1 comment:

articlescollective said...

well said m'lady. i think i like the new album a lot but i agree, fadeouts are unfinished thoughts.

haha if i didnt know those dudes were Scandinavian i would be really confused walking past junkmans