Psychedelic is having something of a renaissance right now, not just in the U.S. but all over the world. It’s happening in Italy with the likes of bands such as the heavily Syd Barrett-influenced Jennifer Gentle. Thanks to Animal Collective, Comets on Fire and countless other bands that may or may not be taking lots of drugs, it’s definitely happening stateside. But it’s in Sweden where some of psych-rock’s greatest talents are beginning to emerge, in particular Dungen, the tripped-out vehicle for songwriter Gustav Ejstes. And with all of the lyrics sung in Swedish, English-speaking ears are taken just slightly farther outside of their ability to make sense of what’s going on, only adding to the curious intrigue of it all.
The title of the first song is in English (“Panda”), and that’s the best point of entry here not to mention the most immediate. With a rumble of reverb-treated drums and chugging guitar scratches, “Panda” bursts into a Technicolor carousel of sound. Like some kind of strange cross between Comets on Fire and Olivia Tremor Control, Dungen plays it heavy and layers on instrument after instrument in a whirling hallucinatory daydream. And the fact that it’s not in English just seems to make it that much more of an adventure, and all the more joyous and euphoric.
The next, and only additional, song titled in English is “Festival,” a song that begins simply enough, with heavy crashing drums and some basic acoustic strums. But after a few verses, the echoing pianos start crashing through, turning what would have been a simple pop song into a heady, psych-rock trip-out. “Du E För Fin För Mig” is an epic masterpiece of a song that begins with a string overture fit for one of Ejstes’ more pretentious British contemporaries, but quickly switches to a catchy, acoustic verse. But the strings return during the magnificently huge chorus. I hear the title means “You Are Too Fine For Me,” which could mean that this is their “Foxy Lady.” (But probably not.)
In the title track, a lovely, jazzy piano riff twists around a scratchy guitar melody, in what sounds like Vince Guaraldi jamming with Hendrix. More twinkly piano lines flutter about “Det du tanker idag är du I morgon,” an instrumental track that’s simple and beautiful, shying away from the overblown psych rock on earlier parts of the album. “Bortglömd” returns the guitar-driven freakouts in large numbers, however. And if the bombast becomes too much, then look no further than “Lipsill,” a happenin’ seventies-flavored pop song.
With so much emphasis on psychedelic music these days, it would seem the spirit of the ’60s was seeping back into the canon. But in the case of Dungen, Ta Det Lugnt suggests that this thick psych-rock broth may be the musical sustenance of the future. And if the linguistic barrier is disorienting, don’t sweat it. The heavy, cosmic rock on Ta Det Lugnt is a universal language.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.