Dungen - Häxan

(CD 2016, 39:13, Smalltown Supersound STS285)

The tracks:
  1- Peri Banu Vid Sjön(3:01)
  2- Jakten Genom Skogen(4:10)
  3- Wak-Was porta(1:35)
  4- Den Fattige Aladdin(0:30)
  5- Trollkarlen Och Fågeldräkten(4:30)
  6- Grottan(0:58)
  7- Häxan(2:48)
  8- Aladdin's Flykt Över Havett(0:59)
  9- Kalifen(4:37)
10- Achmed Flyger(4:33)
11- Aladdin Och Lampan, Del 1(0:49)
12- Aladdin Och Lampan, Del 2(1:12)
13- Achmed Och Peri Banu(3:10)
14- Andarnas Krig(6:21)

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Dungen started as a solo project from Swedish multi instrumentalist Gustav Ejstes, who was introduced to Swedish folk and psychedelic music by his father, a music teacher, fiddler and violinist. After some deep dives into long forgotten psych and folk records he came to the conclusion that he should play all those instruments himself to prove he could do it as well. Initially Gustav got help from Reine Fiske (of Morte Macabre, Paatos and Landberk) on guitars. Eventually Dungen grew into a proper band that has delivered some great psychedelic/ progressive rock albums with the highlight until now being the 2015 record Allas Sak.

But it may very well be that they top this with the new one, Häxan, which translated means 'the witch'. It is a concept piece, I presume from the instrumental flow and the song titles. And yes, it is confirmed as the website tells me. In between the release of Dungen's most recent two albums (2010's Skit I Allt and 2015's Allas Sak), the quartet was asked to create an original score to Lotte Reiniger's 1926 movie The Adventures Of Prince Achmed, understood to be the oldest surviving full-length animated feature film. Inspired by the work and the characters - Prince Achmed, Peri Banu, Aladdin, the Sorcerer, and most of all, the Witch - the members of Dungen immersed themselves in the groundbreaking visual language of this landmark silent film.

There is a threatening opening - the slow pace and droning sound reminds me very much of post-rock ā la Sigur Ros. Then we go into the fast-paced Jakten Genom Skogen ('hunt through the forest') built on a Mellotron foundation with acoustic guitars and percussion.
The short Wak-Wak's Portar brings wild psychedelic rock (that moves from left to right in your speakers if you listen closely) with heavy fuzzy guitar and wild flute. The flute continues in the even shorter Den Fattige Aladdin, but here in a jazzy fashion-a theme that will return later on the disc.
The majestic title track somehow reminds me a bit of The Launch from Boston's Third Stage. That comparison may sound odd because sound-wise Boston and Dungen are miles apart, but just listen to both and you will hear what I mean. Anyway, I find it a highlight on this disc (and also on Third Stage, for that matter).
Kalifen is another symphonic highlight as is Achmed Flygger that again has loads of Mellotron. Just delicious! In Aladdin Och Lampan the jazzy flute theme returns.
The disc is closed by the heavy psychedelic Andarnas Krig with heavy guitar drenched in feedback. One could have wished for something more peaceful to end the disc, but the band had to follow the movie...

A great effort. As far as I'm concerned they could do more purely instrumental stuff!

**** Carsten Busch (edited by Robert James Pashman)

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