Well, as it turns out, Dungen means “the grove,” and it’s a band from Sweden. That last part I knew already.
A long time ago, when I was working at this dumpy, kind of sketchy youth center, my boss would occasionally wear a Dungen shirt. It was black, and ill fitting, and had the artwork for the band’s Ta Det Lugnt on it. He didn’t wear a ton of black, so it was always a little bit of a stark thing to see him in it.
So for a while there, that was really my only knowledge of the band.
Anyway, since the band is from Sweden, and like all bands from Sweden are black metal or whatever, I just presumed that Dungen was a metal band. But boy, was I wrong.
There’s like, way too much jazz flute on this album for this band to be metal.
Turns out Dungen is some kind of weird hybrid of psychedelic rock and folk music, with a bit of funk or jazz fusion thrown in for good measure. And as it turns out, they make relatively fun and upbeat music, as you will find on the group’s eighth album, Allas Sak, which translates to “everyone’s thing.”
The title track/opening track, is reminiscent of Dr. Dog, in a sense, in its rollicking, free wheeling nature—complete with an out of tune piano, flute licks, and crisp production on the drum kit; and it’s that vibe that they continue into the sunny, up-tempo, jammy “Sista Festen,” but it’s also a vibe that they quickly shift away from as Allas Sak goes on—the longer you listen, the deeper into the psychedelic nature of Dungen you get.
One interesting thing about Allas Sak aside from its unique amalgamation of styles, and its 1970s production aesthetic, is that the first few tracks segue seamlessly into one another—which is a neat bit of studio trickery that they cease after the third song. There’s also a bit of 1970s classic rock melodrama and theatrics throughout—check out what could be considered the album’s ballad, the slow jam “En Gång Om Året,” and the driving, progressive rock rhythms of the heavy “En Dag På Sjön,” which kind of sounds like it’s one big build up for a moment that never actually arrives.
While the production values and musicianship of Allas Sak are very admirable—it sounds amazing, fully capturing the 1970s sound Dungen wants, and these guys obviously have the chops to back it up—it lacks cohesion. Are Dungen a psychedelic rock band with blistering guitar solos leading the charge through each song? Or, are Dungen sensitive folk musicians, tickling the keys of an electric piano on a song like the tender “Flickor Och Pojkar?”
It’s an album that doesn’t answer the question. Or maybe it does, and I just didn’t know it. For the songs that do have lyrics, they are all sung in Swedish. Music may be the “universal language,” but the Swedish Chef may as well be fronting this band, you know?
The album title translates to “everyone’s thing,” and with Allas Sak, Dungen are really trying to have a thing for everyone—two sounds prevalent over 40 years ago converging, creating a bizarre amalgamation. It’s by no means an unlistenable album but I don’t see it as something I’ll be returning to as the months go by. Unfortunately, for genres that seem so endearing and timeless, Allas Sak, for me, is a temporary listen.
Rating: 3/5 stars
Kevin Krein is a Minnesota based writer, and has been operating the award winning music blog Anhedonic Headphones since January 2013. For nearly as long, he’s been contributing to Bearded Gentlemen; and for nearly as long, he wrote “The Bearded Life” column for the Southern Minn Scene magazine. He currently writes “The Column of Disquiet” for the recently launched Next Ten Words, and his writing has appeared on Spectrum Culture and in River Valley Woman.
He is a vegan, a huge jerk, and above all else, a cool rabbit dad.