Tio Bitar – Dungen
There is a scene in Metallicas Some Kind of Monster documentary where drummer Lars Ulrich asks his father, world famous Danish tennis player Torbin Ulrich, for advice. The subject is whether or not a cool, experimental instrumental should be placed at the beginning of the album, St. Anger. The drummer plays the track in a Bay Area studio for his father, who is not pleased and quickly vetoes the selection. Lars Ulrich defers to probably the only man on the planet who could change his mindoutside of band mate James Hetfieldand the instrumental is scratched.
Ironically, Torbin Ulrich would have run from the room during the playback of much of Dungens Tio Bitar or maybe, he would have applauded Dungen’s consistent forays into avant-garde progressive rock. The unexpected breakthrough of 2004s Ta Det Lugnt, garnered the Swedish band international attention, including a spot at 2006s Bonnaroo festival. Suffice to say, it wasnt because de facto band leader Gustaf Ejstes compromised his Scandinavian blend of acid rock one iota. Ejstes, Dungens songwriter, guitarist, keyboardist, flutist and lead singer gathers together disparate strands of ’70s prog with a unique twist of early 21st century experimentation found somewhere outside the realm of Alpha Centauri via Sweden. The current album (translation: ten pieces) is an even further foray into that unnamed genre. Ejstes builds on the sonic delights found on Ta Det Lugnt to conjure a deep glimpse into the melancholic caverns of space pop. If the English-speaking listener can get past the Swedish lyrics and embrace the heady psychedelic trippiness of Ejstes and his ingenious melodies then, the next step is whether or not he can endure repeated listenings to finally utter the magical, Ah, yessssI get IT.
After the crazoid Intro, filled with plenty of distorted guitar mayhem, Familj ensues and sets the bipolar mood in spectacular fashion — organs bloom in a multi-hued tone in familiar Dungen territory (if there is such a magical place) while Gustav Ejstes delivers confident Swedish lyrics and drums pound out a near martial beat. This may be the only concession made to those who were first wooed by the psych/trance garage rock of Ta Det Lugnt. Shortly thereafter, a fuzz-tone barrelhouse, Get Nu, burns with a melting candle-on-speed tempo while gliding celestially upwards. The gorgeous violin-enhanced Caroline visar vn’ is an instrumental piece that yields majestic Oriental imagery: a compositional trait that is becoming an Ejstes hallmark between the sweet guitar and organ-based cacophony.
"Mon Amour is the jam that should get some attention, Ejstes channeling both Electric Ladyland and Band of Gypsies-era Hendrix without a modicum of restraint. The improvisation tumbles into cataclysmic valleys but it never alters from its mapless path. Think of The Lord of the Rings directed by Quentin Tarentino, with an evocative keyboard that recalls Miles Davis. But Ejstes seems more open to just allowing the chaos to speak for itselfall middle without a clear definition.
Slev det best follows and throws a total curveball at the listener. At first, a welcome descent to earth after the prior intergalactic jam, the song melts into an exotic afternoon in Istanbul with a wonderful Eastern hook that comes out of nowhere. And the closing dirge that waltzes through an out-of-focus blend of ambient rock and beautiful film exit music, En g i kom det en t continues the wonderful unpredictable nature of the album. The coda doesnt offer closure but, then again, the unifying musical theme of Tio Bitar is never offered in the first place. Which is why one feels the strong need to embrace that very bipolar lack of artistic definition when listening.
Does Dungenspecifically, nearly one-man band Gustav Ejstesneed a structure to contain all of this wildly inventive work? Does the fact that the songs start and stop without any relationship to a defined form or shapesee Stanley Kubricks films for further proof that an artist can occasionally pull this trick off_hinder_ their overall relevance? Do some of the extraordinary hyped-up, low-tech demo quality of the tracks enhance the reckless psych-rock abandon? To create is divine; to compromise is human? Or does the listener choose to answer those questions using her own critical templates? Probably. Ejstes has mapped out some original ground by embracing elements of rocks past without being too reverential. Whos to say if he can craft his own Dark Side of the Moon orperhaps, closer to the mark his own Soft Bulletin? Im not really sure and damned if I care, at this point in Dungens career. Im just having fun on the topsy-turvy journey towards that ethereal goal of bringing the chaos back home.