Ta Det Lugnt, the breakthrough 2004 album by Swedish psych-rockers Dungen, was such an enormous, sonically destructive and thoroughly overwhelming album, it seems almost impossible for the band to have even considered topping it. So they didn’t. As enjoyable and aurally thrilling as that trippy guitar-blazing journey was, it’s not necessarily the only trick that Dungen knows. After all, earlier albums like Stadsvandringar were marked by a folkier, subdued psychedelic pop sound, accessible, but still looking fondly to the ’60s for `shroom-addled influence. The band’s fourth album, Tio Bitar, as well, takes its primary cues from the era between 1967 and 1970, but takes a step forward toward a more accessible and fun side of their acid rock tendencies.
For the most part, Tio Bitar isn’t all that different than Ta Det Lugnt. It’s a bit more brief, its tracks staying within the 2-4 minute range, with the major exception being the nearly nine minute “Mon Amour.” You wouldn’t necessarily know it by the four minute “Intro,” consisting of blazing guitar wizardry and distorted destruction a la Comets on Fire, but much of the material on Tio Bitar is more strongly steeped in pop tunefulness. “Familj,” a mini-epic of its own at five and a half minutes, intertwines slithering guitar riffs and kaleidoscopic organ harmonies, making for a gorgeous sonic lava lamp backdrop. “Gör Det Nu” opens up with more wild sound collisions, and remains a dense mess of distortion and squid-armed drum chaos.
In case anyone’s wondering, yes, all of the lyrics this time around are still in Swedish, but that’s hardly a complaint. I can hardly understand what a lot of indie rock singers grumble anyhow. At least Gustav Ejstes has a vibrant and colorful voice of his own with which to guide these wayward psychedelic musings. Yet, the band has a beautiful mastery of instrumental songs as well, such as the gorgeous “C Visar Vägen,” which finds a graceful violin dancing atop delicately plucked acoustic guitar. It seems a bit ironic that the catchiest song here has the most unwieldy title, but “Du Ska Inte Tro Alt Det Ordnar Sig” is nonetheless a joyous and hand-clappy rocker that injects its Sabbath-y crunch with some radio-friendly melody. The lengthy “Mon Amour,” which follows, is also initially a melodic treat, a relatively simple and straightforward garage rock song during its verses, but a careening death wank over the remaining six minutes or so. By comparison “Så Blev Det Bestämt” is much more graceful and delicate, piano and organ creating a laid back ballad sound before some oddball Mediterranean influences seep their way into the latter portion of the song.
In “Ett Skäl Atl Trivas,” a T. Rex like strut guides the song into an exotic, Middle Eastern flavored melody, albeit one soaked in fuzz and pocked with moments of near silence, save for the steadily swaggering beats. At only two minutes long, “Svart Är Himlen gets in and out quickly, making its impact with little messing around, and for that, its soaring layers of piano and guitar make it one of the more enjoyable standouts. And with closing track “En Gång I År Kom Det en Tår,” Dungen closes the album with an oozing, molasses-speed dirge that trickles across the speakers and drips out onto the floor in churning wonder. And in a comparatively brief 40 minutes, the album ends, still overwhelming, every sound still knocking the listener with as much forceful sonic impact as humanly possible, but with a bit less of a “what the hell was that?” as its predecessor. Without recording the same album twice, Dungen have taken their strongest aspects into another foray that may not be quite as surprising, but still makes for a compelling and mesmerizing work of tripped-out art.
Pentangle – Basket of Light
Jimi Hendrix Experience – Electric Ladyland
Comets on Fire – Avatar
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.