Dungen LiveMarch 13, 2020 Mexican Summer
Those who’ve been fortunate enough to catch Dungen in a live setting, are aware of the transformative experience in store, how they stitch together a fine and fiery tapestry of song. Dungen’s new album Live is the golden, glimmering thread holding it all together.
Live is Dungen in their own land, saving up stunning solos and fiery interplay for their home team, elements of their farthest-out and most inspired moments assembled into one piece of continuous music by producer Matthias Glava. Dungen worked with Glava on their second album Stadsvandringar, aka 2, when the band was just gaining traction in Sweden and a bit beyond. Glava returned to help Dungen capture the beautiful, crisp stillness of their 2015 return Allas Sak, and stayed on through the creation of Haxän, their interpretive soundtrack to the silent film The Adventures of Prince Achmed.
It’s right around Glava’s return that the source material for Live was recorded, in late November 2015, at Stora Teatern in Gothenburg and Victoriateatern in Malmö. Joined by Swedish sax deity Jonas Kullhammar (who brought his skills to Allas Sak), these were undoubtedly some massive experiences. Live drops us into moments where Dungen’s right at the edge of the cliff, right at the point where they’re getting out of the time machine to bust into John Anthony’s studio right when Affinity is cutting their album for Vertigo, right at the point where you discover the break on a record that snaps into place over some hip hop track you’ve been listening to for years, and you play it over and over.
Entirely instrumental (including a footstompin’ cover of Doug Jerebine’s “Ain’t So Hard to Tell” – check with our buds over at Drag City for the full story on that one), Live showcases what Dungen does best: create a vibe where none existed, build a mood out of circumstance, attack the music with a fan’s soul and a master’s scorching virtuosity. It extends moments out of their catalogue that seemed like they were already explored and breathes new life into them, at times graceful, at others rambunctious, and sometimes a little of both. It stirs memories of when those first import copies of Ta det lungt hit the record store, how we listened in awe and watched the customers turn around, that first shock of awareness, that anxiety over trying to take home what appeared to be the last copy on the shelf before someone else with the same idea beat you to it.
Fans of Reine rippers need look no further. His classic burnt guitar tone and masterful touch is on full display within Live, as is his more recent propensity to build vibes with the Mellotron. Matthias and Johan are locked in as usual, the backbone, wildly swinging in the way they do. Gustav seems to be peaking here, directing currents of energy and melody with the precision of an air traffic controller. This thing gets air; it gives the sense of a band playing purely out of their own time, passionately reviving seldom-remembered histories of recorded sound.
What makes Live really work is the notion that Dungen have this side in them at all times, the idea that all it takes is time and a response to get them into this form. Going through the band’s entire catalogue, growth as musicians is a constant. They’ve afforded themselves the luxuries of being able to go at their own pace, and one of the best things about doing that is that they’re always aware of where you came from, and they build on that to take themselves and the listener out to the rarefied spaces explored within. It’s an intense ride through everything that makes a Dungen show special, back to back to back. All the peaks, all the moments of improvisation and connectivity through sound. It’s pieces of everything you know about them, reinterpreted out of love and respect for the craft. All things that are unmistakably part of what puts Dungen in the top tiers of latter-day psychedelic soul expression. Please hold onto your ticket because it’s about to get punched.
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