4 – Dungen
Dungen continues its unique hold on 1970s prog rock with a 21st century twist on their fourth albuma collection of shorter melodic pieces which never stray too far away from the nifty little Scandinavian cul-de-sac forged on the fringe of post-everything music.
Led by Gustav Ejstes on piano, strings, percussion, and vocals, the band continues to deliver songs with unapologetically wistful Swedish lyrics, and without any attempt to pander to a much wider Western audience. Indeed, Dungen appears more than willing to continue within the exotic sonic bubble they have created for themselves. With Ejstes as the de facto leader, Dungen have crafted a deceptively dense album combining the strength of their heavy rock influences with a good dose of jazz and Swedish pop within taut, focused songs.
This is not to say that Dungen no longer experiments. Once known as eccentric head-trippers who covered quite a bit of ground along torn and tattered acid-rock terrain, the band has consolidated its strengths by focusing on melodic structure, instead of aloof dissonance. Songs shimmer with the piano played by Ejstes inherited from his grandmother ("S Att Se,” “MrFinest” and “Mina Damer Och Fasaner”), while counterbalancing the beautiful pop scenery with the distorted arc of Reine Fiske’s guitar. Ejstes isn’t quite ready to jettison rock as he continues his uncanny ability to write songs that are deliciously memorable, but a bit lyrically mysterious. Ejstes often sidesteps this language barrier by using his voice as an instrument, rather than just a storytelling toolthe songs drifting from one precise melodic touchstone to another.
Indeed, on an album which owes its shape and elegant grace to the warm yet melancholic strands of the piano, and the occasional violin, it is the guitar which also adds heat on other highlights. “Fredag” is Dungen’s first victory lap of triumph’ song in their canon, while “Finns Det Nn Mghet" is a majestic winner which combines trance, chamber pop, folk, and a gorgeous chorus melody prefacing distorted guitar feedback. As if to play a game of one-upmanship with thyself, the band follows that duo with “Mina Damer Och Fasaner,” which echoes Pink Floyd, and no one else but Dungen, themselveslarge, round, weird, beautiful, and out on the melodic fringe.
Near the album's coda, the second part of a studio jam soars with the grandeur of Dungen in full flight on stageowing as much a debt to Blue Cheer and Camel, as it does to Jimi Hendrix, or Grateful Dead. “Samtidigt 2” is an excellent instrumental, and an absolute triumph on an album that finally showcases the band as not just a strong rock group, but a band that recognizes the pop potential in folk, jazz and classical music motifs, as well. 4 is also a reminder that while Dungen continues down their path into uncharted soundscapes, they are one of rock’s great inheritors of the acid and prog rock throne left behind so many years agoSwedish lyrics and ear candy pop are just a bonus.