Saturday, December 03, 2011

Oh, the irony! It's not lost on me! After having just given a half-baked review of Simon Reynolds' Retromania, what do I decide to do? That's right: give a quick spiel on one of the most unashamedly retro contempo bands of them all, Sweden's Dungen. This quickie is inspired by my raving for the recorded works of Sweden's Turid just two posts below; after a dozen rotations of the lovely lass - musically speaking - I thought I'd skip four decades and stick to the same region by spinning the wares of that country's great white hope of the 21st century. Dungen were kind of a big deal roughly half a decade back - a "buzz band", you might say - though their unwillingness to play the game, to do anything but play by their own muse, has seen them slip back into the comfortable jacket of being a "cult band". You following me? They had a couple of albums - 2004's Ta Det Lugnt included - released on a subsidiary of the Virgin label in their homeland; their 2007 opus, Tio Bitar, was licensed on CD Down Under on the indie-via-a-major imprint, Ivy League and they toured here at the time with (gulp) Wolfmother! (surely one of the most shitawful excuses for a rock band this century) But don't judge 'em by the company they keep. They left Virgin coz it wasn't their scene (maaan), and all this background material is perhaps immaterial to the one very important fact: they make fucking great records. Really, really great records. Along w/ another contempo fave of mine, the UK's Trembling Bells - a quartet I raved about earlier in the year who shamelessly mine a Fairports/Incredible String Band/Syd's 'Floyd realm of sound - Dungen sound like a band caught in the wrong time frame, but their appropriation of this musical timewarp is handled w/ such care and attention to detail that even the hardest of heart would forgive them for their musical grave digging. Dungen really is just one guy: Gustav Ejstes. He is the one constant, the singer, songwriter and renaissance man, although he has kept a steady band under his wings in recent years, one which cuts it ably in a live setting, too. Whilst their two more recent albums - 2008's 4 and 2010's Skit I Allt - have seen the Dungen sound paired down to a slightly less ornate setting, lighter on the psychedelic overload and stronger in the baroque art-pop dept. (I compared 4 to Roxy Music, Amon Duul 2 and Scott Walker a coupla years back on this blog), there's zero drop in the quality dept.: it's just the sounds of a band moving on. The high point for myself, and many others, remains 2004's Ta Det Lugnt, a 2LP magnus opus which very well could've been released in 1971, and if it had, you'd possibly like it a whole lot more. It was released this century, and that's no reason to dismiss it. Available as a 2LP set on the Swedish Subliminal Sounds label, if you read this blog for the music recommendations and not the showbiz gossip, then you know what must be done: it involves the exchanging of hard-earned cash for goods. A 13-song meisterwerk featuring tracks both long & short - from 55 seconds long to 8 1/2 minutes - it runs the gamut from gentle, flute-laden acid-folks ballads to elongated psych-rock jams to jazzy, Soft Machine-style excursions to light, baroque sunshine-pop and even Zep-style riffin' hard rock. Amongst all this remains their constant worship of Swedish underground rock from the '60s/'70s - International Harvester, Trad Gras Och Stenar, Parson Sound, et al - and others from the "progg" scene (follow that link for a layman's explanation of what I speak of). All of this, of course, has been done before. You could even say it's been done better. Rock & roll isn't moving forward, it's feasting on its own corpse, etc., etc., etc. All true and I couldn't give a fuck. Dungen also have the songs to back it up. I just listen to those whose musical output, whether it's ahead of its time or way behind its time, floats my boat. Dungen do it. Every fucking time.

1 comment:

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