Dungen | Tio Bitar (Kemado)

cd_dungenIt's perhaps a measure of the highly evolved musical aesthetic that pervades Scandinavia that a young Swedish dude like Gustav Ejstes could better his American counterparts at recreating guitar-based psychedelic rock of the hippie era.

 

 

 

 

One purpose of music has always been to transport you to another place—and some music can also help you travel to another time. Amid all the retro-progressive and psych-rock we've gotten in the last few years, I can't think of another artist besides Dungen that so effectively recreates the atmospheric vibe of late '60s-early '70s communal rock music festivals. Close your eyes and listen to Tio Bitar, Dungen's second U.S. release, and you can almost see the long-haired musicians hunched intensely over their instruments on stage, the throngs of enraptured teens and twentysomethings smokin' funny stuff and whirling to the insistent rhythms, the fuzzed-out electric guitars and flurries of keyboard filling the summer air. Far out, man!

It's perhaps a measure of the highly evolved musical aesthetic that pervades Scandinavia that a young Swedish dude like Gustav Ejstes (who writes all the songs and plays most of the instruments in Dungen) could better his American counterparts at recreating guitar-based psychedelic rock of the hippie era. But lest you think this is some exercise in nostalgia, just give a listen to the multi-textured, furiously energetic sound Ejstes favors. There's a discipline at work here (as there was on Dungen's previous, highly acclaimed Ta Det Lungt CD) that reveals utter clarity of purpose. Ejstes takes all the good things you might remember about those halcyon psychedelic days and injects refreshing new life into them. And it doesn't even matter that the vocals are in Swedish – so perfectly are they placed in the mix amongst bursts of fiery, Hendrixian electric guitar, robust rhythm and bass, and tasteful organ and piano, that it's truly the overall sound that matters.

And what a sound! "Familj" offers Dukes of Stratosfear-like harmonies and fantastic drumming…plus, whenever keyboards appear, they are far more economical and effectively decorative than the sort of self-indulgence you expect from the neo-prog realm. The segue from the fuzzed-up "Gor Det Nu" into "C Visar Vagen" is a thing of wonder; the latter track's beautiful acoustic guitar chordings, subtle flute and a repeated motif that sounds like violins (but is probably a synth) provide an album highlight, for sure. On "Mon Amour," Ejstes waxes axe-tastic for just under nine minutes (the disc's longest track)—you can really feel the might of his guitar playing and the way the powerful drumming keeps pace. It's a thick, surging soundscape that always seems perfectly under the young Swede's command, even though he's clearly jamming his ass off.

And the more delicate tracks are just as impressive: "Sa Blev Det Bestamt" is an elegant composition blending acoustic guitar, piano, tambourine and another exotic string instrument…it's a four-minute charmer. And the concluding instrumental shows how good taste and artistic discipline can make something genuinely lovely out of flute, piano and distorted guitar, which in lesser hands could become mawkish or tedious. Dungen have obvious reverence for the sound they make, and it's uncanny how you end up feeling that same reverence as a listener. And the 42-minute length is hardly an unreasonable challenge for the progadelica connoisseur.

If you miss the days of psych-fests and free love, well, there's no time machine yet to take you back there. But Dungen's masterful update of that mind-altering sound is surely the next best thing. B+ | Kevin Renick

RIYL: Jimi Hendrix, Strawberry Alarm Clock, early Who

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply