"Ta Det Lugnt"
Anyone who's heard the Hives, the Caesars or Sahara Hotnights knows what today's Swedish rock sounds like: a little retro but impeccably crisp, tuneful and Americanized. The newest Swedish import, Dungen, doesn't completely shatter such expectations; its "Ta Det Lugnt" is also a little retro. But the album breaks from the Nordic pack by being eclectic, unpredictable and delightfully weird. Oddly, Dungen mastermind Gustav Ejstes sings in a different tongue than any of those other bands (which sing exclusively in English). It's hard to tell what language he employs, but it sounds as if it might be Swedish.
The group began as a one-man show, and Ejstes still plays guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and other instruments. On this album, Dungen's third, the only other full-timer is guitarist Reine Fiske, whose versatile playing suits Ejstes's neopsychedelic sensibility. Such songs as "Panda" and the title track conjure circa-1968 Britain, where pop-rock was expanding every which way. Dungen's closest contemporary equivalent would be Super Furry Animals, who float airy pop melodies over arrangements that can range from metal to jazz, much as Dungen does on "Festival" and "Dur ar For Fin For Mig." The contrasts don't always work, but Ejstes seldom gets stuck in a rut. He's soon moved on to the next idea and with a finesse that makes his eccentric juxtapositions flow as smoothly as some other band's two-minute, three-chord rocker.
"Ta Det Lugnt" became an underground hit last year as an import, so the band's U.S. label has added a five-song bonus CD to this version to distinguish it from its Swedish predecessor. Four of the added selections are instrumentals, which isn't the ideal ratio. Two pit hard-rock band against flute, an idea that quickly wears thin. But half the instrumentals are respectable, and the only vocal song, "Tyst Minut," is exemplary Dungen: simultaneously driven and languid, earthy and dreamy, familiar and unanticipated.
-- Mark Jenkins
Appearing Sunday at the Black Cat with Mia Doi Todd.