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Dungen - 4 CD (album) cover




Psychedelic/Space Rock

4.05 | 43 ratings

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4 stars Two months ago, I purchased this album, not having heard a note of the band's music, just based on recommendations here at PA. Within a week I had all six of their albums, and although it's only late February, it's probably a safe guess that this band will be my greatest new discovery for 2013 (5 years after the release of this album, but better late then never, right?). Possibly because this album was "first" for me, it still remains the benchmark by which I evaluate their other work, and even after dozens of listens (including a self-imposed month of NOT listening to it, in order to not wear out its welcome), the magic of this album has not diminished a bit for me.

"Dungen 4" is actually the band's fifth album; though I believe one of the earlier albums may officially be an archival, post-hoc release of early material. No matter: this is Dungen reaching an apex of creativity. Having mastered the art of creating a warm, direct-from-1968 psychedelic sound on his first couple of releases, Gustav Ejstes eventually formed a stable band lineup by the time of the third album (the breakthrough "Ta Det Lugnt"), and then this band proceeded to add layers of subtlety and ornate arrangement into the pieces, even as the pieces became shorter and more succinct. This mature approach is epitomized on this album, which includes ten short songs totaling less than 40 minutes, yet most of these songs contain even more musical content than the seven minute monsters they were churning out just a couple of years prior.

The opening track, "Sätt Att Se", kicks off the album in much the same way that "Airbag" kicked off Radioheads "OK Computer" album: a thick haze of sound framing a moody piano ballad, with strings and piano providing the jazzy harmonics, bass and drums maintaining a quiet but steady pulse, and Reine Fiske's lead guitar creating the kind of palpable texture that only Fiske can provide (see his multitude of other projects for elaboration on this). "Målerås Finest" is next, taking things to an even more poignant level, Ejstes' piano taking the lead on an instrumental, for a sad, simple melody. Track 3 "Det Tar Tid" follows, picking up the pace just a little - the big WOW factor on this track is achieved from the close vocal harmonies, pushing this complex little miniature to ecstatic heights. "Samtidigt 1" is the first of two excerpts from an improvised guitar jam included on this album, and it pumps up the rock quotient considerably and gives Reine Fiske a chance in the spotlight with full-on squalor (the full 15 minute "Samtidigt" from which the two excerpts was taken was also released as an EP in its own right - well worth seeking out). "Imgenting Ar Sig Likt" (track 5) closes the first half of the album in a relatively unremarkable way - this kind of unmemorable atmospheric piece seems to be precisely the kind of tune that Dungen is usually so adept at avoiding; still, it's at least pleasant if a bit uneventful.

The second half of the album begins with the only other track on the album that doesn't WOW me, the instrumental "Fredag". Unlike the prior song, plenty of drama occurs in this piece; however, the main melody introduced by Fiske's echoed slide guitar just sounds a little too close to Morris Albert's "Feelings" for comfort ("Feelings... nothing more than Feelings..." augghh!). Still, not a deal breaker by any means. And the closing four tracks which follow meet or exceed the high level of quality set in the first few tracks. "Finns Det Någon Möjlighet" (track 7) and "Mina Damer Och Fasaner" (track 8) bring back the spine chilling vocal harmonies, compelling yet complex melodic themes, and thickly baroque instrumental arrangements. "Samtidigt 2" comes next, the second excerpt from the aforementioned guitar jam, this time occupying a surprisingly Santana/Allman Brothers-like territory. "Bandhagen" closes the album with a simple, piano-led (with Mellotron and celeste providing counterpoint) instrumental that seems like a more optimistic take on the sad piano piece from Track 2. A very appropriately understated ending to an album which never tries to overwhelm the listener, but rather aims to give the listener a rich, nutritious tray of musical hors d'oerves with a full array of flavors that satisfies, but doesn't fill you up. Hmm, it must be getting near lunch time.

I'll give this a very high 4. The album sags just a wee bit in the middle, but apart from a couple of less than stellar tracks, the other eight tracks have some of the most richly accomplished and ear-pleasing music I've heard in recent years. How Swede it is!

HolyMoly | 4/5 |


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