Musings on music delivered when I dig myself out.

Dungen -- Ta Det Lugnt
Subliminal Sounds; 2004

A common sentiment among rabid music enthusiasts and old folks alike is that everything was better in the past. Unspoiled by the need to emulate their predecessors, musicians had the ultimate freedom to make sound as far out as they could take it. Entire genres were emerging every year and almost no one looked back. It is in this period of time that Dungen belongs.

The group, or more accurately the Swedish 24 year old Gustav Ejstes and a few of his friends, is a relative enigma. Other than the knowledge that the group has put out two other albums, there's very little to offer up -- even Dungen's website is in some form of internet limbo. Perhaps it's all this mystery surrounding Dungen that makes it so difficult to believe that Ta Det Lugnt, their third album, is from the present day.

On the other hand, I would suggest that it's the music that makes me doubt the year 2004 emblazoned in pink on the disc. Thunderous drums a la Keith Moon or even John Bonham, vocals that sweetly coo and shout, and an eye-opening bag of guitar tricks and effects spring forth from each track. Snugly fitted amongst those elements are regal arrangements for flute, piano, organ, and a small string section, each more achingly beautiful than the last. Every song, from the brief "Tack Ska Ni Ha" to the eight and a half minute "Du E For Fin For Mig," is a swirling portrait of sonic beauty.

Ejstes is not one to shy away from fulfilling his musical desires. Songs that start out as intensely psychedelic scorchers fade into jazzy asides that focus on sax and piano ("Ta De Lugnt"). "Det Du Tanker Idag Ar du I Morgon" is a waltz-like number with lazy waves of guitar and precisely executed flourishes of flute. The track that follows, "Lejonet & Kulan" is done exclusively on an organ, although it encompasses a number of instrument's sounds. It's like the creative urges of his pysch-rock ancestors have been beamed into Ejstes' head and that Ta Det Lugnt is his outlet. This is not imitation -- it's like he's a displaced master himself.

One of the most appealing factors of Dungen's songs is Ejstes' guitar work. Ranging from frantic and fleeting to precise and executed with angelic-like care, there is little that Dungen doesn't put forth. The striking leads and white hot solos of "Ta De Lugnt" suggest near-virtuoso skill and could inspire much fist-pumping and air guitar-soloing. Other times Ejstes scales things back to passionate acoustic strumming and hand claps. All his work, even at his most bananas (check out the King Crimson-esque "Om Du Vore En Vakthund"), feels like pure artistic expression without ego-stroking.

What may come as a surprise is that Ejstes sings exclusively in Swedish, choosing not to resort to English to increase Dungen's commercial ability. While I might not understand what he's singing, it feels fitting; creating a greater focus on Ejstes' harmonious voice while allowing the listener to sing whatever words feel right with the melodies.

I can't help but come away from writing this review feeling almost defeated; there is no way that I can express the sheer magnitude of talent that Dungen possesses. There are relatively few musicians I know of that stack up as admirably as Ejstes, and even fewer that can sit as deservedly with the forefathers of psych-rock. Ta De Lugnt is easily the most beautiful new album I've heard all year and certainly one of the most creative. As little as this means, my proverbial hat is off to you, Gustav Ejstes.

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