In what felt like a very short decade, Sweden’s Dungen has mutated at a furious pace. Main man/ producer/ arranger/ singer/ golden child Gustav Ejstes’s lone constant has been change. Take the leap from Dungen’s self-titled 2001 debut, featuring long psilocybic exploratory tracks of aural tomfoolery, to next year’s Stadsvandringar, which found Ejstes coming to grips with the language of rock. It all converged with the zeitgeist that is Dungen’s third album, Ta Det Lugt, an album that ignited the blogosphere so that it glowed like the aurora borealis. Not content to revel in such accolades, Tio Bitar flashed the band’s pop smarts as well as their incandescent freakouts while 4 put the band’s cohesiveness on display, at once gorgeous and biting.
For those who don’t have their English-Svenska Dictionary close at hand when plunking/ popping/ importing Dungen’s sixth album Skit I Allt into their respective LP/CD/ MP3 listening devices, let’s make sure the title doesn’t get lost in translation: “Fuck All.” Really? Should we be expecting a nihilistic punk album? “For me, it means ‘Don’t give a shit, forget about it, just go ahead and do it,’” laughs Ejstes. “Skit I Allt is about a certain feeling: you’re with your friends and mates, all hanging out till 6 in the morning. You’re the last one left at the party and you call this person that you want to be with. They’re asleep, but they still say, ‘Ah, fuck it, come over.’ It’s that feeling.”
Just don’t think that with Skit I Allt the band is reducible to any one feeling. Or musical genre. At ease with effervescent pop, third-eye popping psychedelia, heavy rock, spider-web folk and breezy jazz, Dungen’s dynamism astounds throughout. Rather than remain only Ejstes’ studio vision, Dungen is a muscular full band now. Guitarist Reine Fiske, bassist Mattias Gustavsson, and drummer Johan Holmegard are fully integrated into Ejstes’ vision of Dungen: “Whether you perceive Dungen as a band or as me and my songs and my productions, the band is something totally free. They take the songs somewhere else.” Take “Soda,” which moves from gentle finger-picked guitar to a rollicking beat that makes the song gush forth in all its glory. With the sumptuous opener “Vara Snabb,” Dungen’s jazz chops are evident. From there, the band reveals the aching, handclap-propelled, strings-laced ballad “Min Anda Van.” Ejstes confesses: “It translates as ‘My Only Friend.’ It’s dedicated to a friend who got very ill and it’s my most personal song yet.”
While the album is stuffed with concise songs (nothing running beyond five minutes) there are already candidates aplenty here for Dungen’s live blotter-fueled sonic maelstroms. ““Hogdalstoppen” (named for a massive junkyard near Ejstes’ flat) is already a massive instrumental track that we’ve started expanding between 5 and 15 minutes,” Ejstes says. Perhaps the instrumental “Blandband” (trans. “Mixtape”) exemplifies the Dungen philosophy best. A mélange of bright piano chords, snaking lead guitar, and weightless woodwinds, it twists and turns like a forest path. The song was inspired, says Ejstes, “by a friend made me a cassette recently and I missed that antiquated way of listening. I like finding out about music fast but at the same time, I like listening to whole albums. I conceive Dungen music in that same way: side one, side two, a journey.” Enjoy the trip.