Friday, September 30, 2005

The Swedish are coming! The Swedish are coming!

The one day I spent in Malmo Sweden near the Danish border taught me one thing: muthafuckas LOVE music. In my short time there I saw a Hiphop DJ playing G-Funk, a big Band doing a wonderful rendition of New York New York miles from said city, an acoustic indie band which featured a lead singer in drag and a Mr. T look-alike in a Tux and a female marching band whose skirts were being lifted by the wind, much to their consternation. I don’t know if this is common in that country, but with the amount of music going on there it seemed unsurprising to me that there’d be a big recording scene. The only thing is, I hadn’t really found much material that hit me: my brother constantly plays Swedish metal which while scary, is un-listenable by my ears and Swedish Hiphop, while technically perfect lacks any and all soul. Then there’s the Hives and a bunch of Indie bands but honestly I confuse half the Norwegian ones with the Swedish ones so I won’t expound. I’m fairly sure they’re not responsible for Annie so that’s a plus in my book.

Dungen (pronounced Doon-yen) don’t really fit in with anything I’ve heard from Sweden. For one thing, the vocals are in Swedish which is more surprising than you’d think considering everyone in the country speaks perfect English and tend to want to sell outside of their own country. The other thing is the sonic style which is more psych-rock than garage without ever sounding Lo-fi. Sure their neighbors the Finns have been coming with it and every Elephant 6 band in the world can do something vaguely 60’s influenced but Dungen’s Ta Det Lugnt somehow manages to sound a shade less derivative than most, layering tonal compositions miles high with shimmering organs and what sounds like entire flute sections. The man behind the band Gustav Ejstes apparently put all of this together in a basement studio on his grandmother’s farm, playing almost all of the instruments and crafting the record with what seems to be a completely analogue sound: très chique in this era of Protools and synths. Also, he sounds and looks like an Elf and not in the same way as Prince.

As if musical prowess and a seamless reconstruction of a long lost era in rock wasn’t enough, Ejstes’s band features top notch songwriting (from a melodic standpoint) and if I may say so, a very nice voice. Ejstes’ pipes manage to be pleasant to the ear and while I have NO idea what he’s saying it doesn’t seem to really matter as emotions cross the language barrier to communicate youthful energy, melancholy and drug-induced euphoria. Or maybe I’m getting it wrong, but either way it sounds damn good. As an album meanwhile, the songs run one into the other with the selection being slightly top loaded but the whole thing flowing together nicely as a complete whole while avoiding musical-suite or concept album ridiculousness. It’s also worth noting that their sound is pretty distinct for the genre and their ideas can’t be pinpointed back to any particular band. You’ll find trace elements of Pink Floyd, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Brian Wilson and a host of other influences but never enough of one to make them sound derivative. Nice job guys, in an era where everyone reminds you of someone, you’ve managed to sound like something from the era not imitating it. Of all the bands I’ve heard only Circulatory System have also managed to completely eschew their predecessors in such a way.

If there’s one flaw I can find with these guys, it’s that they scheduled a show here in Montreal on October 12th. That’s the same night as the Decemberists dammit! And I already bought my ticket! Oh well, seems like the band is finding a surprising amount of success outside of their native land so hopefully this is just the first of many tours. In the meanwhile here’s my favorite song off the album Du E För Fin För Mig. I have no idea what it means but it manages to mix baroque instrumentation with rock music without going Spinal Tap on us. NOT an easy task.

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