If your first instinct was to pronounce this Swedish band’s name as the well-known castle dungeons of medieval times, then stop. The pronunciations are similar, but you say Dungen as “DOONG-un” which in Swedish means “the grove.”
At first glance I thought the definition was “the groove” which somewhat makes sense given the band’s musical sensibilities. But on closer inspection I was wrong, and a quick search reveals that the band’s name relates to frontman Gustav Esjstes’ birthplace.
I’m not sure Sweden is known for its production of psychedelic music. U.S. and U.K. bands get their nods in creating the conventions closely analogous to anything psychedelic-related. While it can be easily confused with the more popular dope rock, psychedelic rock is more spiritual and joyful with time being boundless due to enlightenment and not memory loss.
I’m always reminded of The Doors when I think of psychedelic rock. Somehow Dungen manages to break free of that popular association to craft something more unheard of.
For their aptly titled fourth album 4, Dungen expresses creativity through sprinkles more genre-blending than anything too experimental. This approach allows the quartet (Ejstes – piano, vocals; Johan Holmegard – drums; Reine Fiske – guitar; and Mattias Gustavsson – bass) to sustain a constantly fresh sound throughout the album’s somewhat brisk 37-minute run time.
The unfortunate nature of anything classic-sounding is the out-of-date feel it evokes. Ejstes leads this album toward a more retro ambiance in the many jam tracks that take you back to those past times, rather than try to throw you back to them.
The opening “Satt Att Se” reveals their true laid-back nature through the song’s expansive instrumentals. Dungen showcases their versatility on more hybrid tracks like the pseudo-folksy “Det Tar Tid” and the pseudo-blues “Ingenting Ar Sig Likt.”
Ejstes concentrates his energy on the piano for this go-around and 4 surprisingly benefits from the subtracted guitar with more mellow and softer melodies. The lullaby-eque “Marleras Finest” is poignant and enchanting in its happy-go-lucky mood, while “Bandhagen” is the same but in a stroll-in-the-park kind of way.
It’s weird listening to Dungen because part of you feels like you’re listening to something incredibly familiar, yet not quite so. The Ejstes-led Swedish quartet represents a throwback to those former easy-going times of carefree living but without the nostalgia.