Let’s get uncomfortably music-geeky for a moment and talk about drum sound. Yes, seriously. There’s a reason Dungen’s breakthrough single, “Panda,” opened with a drum solo. Dusty and dry, hollow and cavernous, those stuttering drum hits summarized bandleader Gustav Ejstes’ entire aesthetic vision in a scant 18 seconds of boom-bap.
Writing about the group’s new album, 4, the temptation is to focus on what has changed since then. Whereas he once played every instrument on Dungen records, Ejstes has now confined himself to the piano stool and composed his songs from there. Johan Holmegard handles the kit now. But listening to instrumental “Fredag,” it’s impossible to ignore those familiar, lumbering tom fills. They’re pretty much the hook to the song -- although, keep in mind, this is all coming from a talentless drummer.
Even with that stylistic hallmark still in place, 4 is indeed a different beast from its predecessors. It feels less like an album and more like a jazz session, unified and focused in its themes. Opener “Satt Att Se” begins not with any detonation of guitar feedback but with an ominous swell of strings. Once the rhythm section kicks in, the track immediately settles into a relaxed swing groove. This time around, Ejstes is gunning more for David Axelrod than Jimi Hendrix.
You can hear it on enchanting tracks like “Det Tar Tid” and “Ingenting Ar Sig Likt”: a shift away from showy pyrotechnics and toward swirling atmosphere. Some of the instrumental tracks on Ta Det Lugnt hinted at such a sun-glazed approach, but 4 extends the feel into full-fledged songs. Of course, there are still moments of psych-rock abandon that pop up throughout the album -- jam excerpts on “Samtidigt 1 & 2,” especially.
By paying just as much attention to sonic details as ever, Ejstes and his pals have put forth another refined effort, from the piano on back to the drums. It’s not something that anyone has to be a huge audiophile to appreciate, but perking up your ears always makes for a juicier payoff with a band like this one.
As the name might suggest, 4 is indeed the fourth studio album from Swedish psych-rock band Dungen. That just goes to show that even though main man Gustav Ejstes howls in Swedish, you don't have to be able to understand that language to "get" Dungen. How does one get Dungen? Start by tuning in, turning on, and dropping out. The band channels the loudest and wildest elements of '60s psychelelia, creating a universal language of the freak out. 4, though, might not melt your face as much as previous Dungen albums, as it finds Ejstes completely leaving his axe behind to play piano. Here is some more numerical information on 4: the album consists of ten tracks, all which clock in at under five minutes.