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Dungen - Tio Bitar

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Artist: Dungen

Album: Tio Bitar

Label: Kemado

Review date: May. 15, 2007

Though a minor star in his Swedish homeland, songwriter Gustav Ejstes only came to international acclaim with his Dungen project’s third full-length Ta Det Lugnt. That album played psych-pop by the numbers, sticking close to a pretty familiar palette of fuzz guitars, tumbling drum fills and sweet vocals. It was pleasant stuff, mostly – a record with some obvious antecedents from a man who was more than capable of crafting nifty hooks while delivering them with an inimitable confidence. That it got heaped with exultant praise was a bit surprising; Ejstes saw fit to stay well within psych rock’s well-worn parameters and did little to warrant the absolute shit fit people had upon hearing the album.

Regardless of my larger suspicions about the origins of Ejstes' groundswell of acclaim, it’s true that he had the element of surprise working firmly in his favor with TaDet Lugnt . As a well-played record that no one really expected, it captured more ears than anyone involved could have imagined. With his latest album, Tio Bitar, however, Ejstes is hardly flying under the radar. He's no longer a stateside unknown, and expectations are sure to shift accordingly.

Much as before, Ejstes handles most of the album’s recording and production on his own, pitting rumbling percussion against expertly played licks and his insouciant croon. Still comfortable within his preferred niche, the 10 tracks gathered here again take aim at that long since passed zeitgeist of throaty and full-bodied late '60s/early '70s rock. But Tio Bitar is hardly a carbon copy of its predecessor. Instead, Ejstes stretches out more, loosening the reins on his songs a bit to allow them to explore rougher structures and more unkempt sounds. If TaDet Lugnt was pristine portraiture, carefully aligned and composed, then Tio Bitar is the off-the-cuff action shot – freely flowing and effortlessly jammed, its hair ruffled and with a face in need of a shave.

Ejstes is at his best when playing against form, and those moments that display the most obvious attempts to expand upon the Dungen sound are easily the record’s best. “Caroline Visar Vagen” begins with intricately plucked acoustics and moody organs before giving over entirely to a weeping violin; unfettered by vocals, the strings become the focal point here, and the result is a track that paints a gloriously somber mood with broad brush strokes. The keys pull a similar trick with “Familj,” tracing faint echoes through the track’s center, around which Ejstes drapes his limber voice and lithe guitar playing. And “Mon Amour” capably shakes its rote opening in favor of blistering solos that bristle with an intensity heretofore unseen in aDungen track.

Yet while these moments rank head and shoulders above much of what Ejstes has done in the past, the remainder of the album fails to keep pace, yielding a second side that only manages to thrill with ascendant climax of “Svart Ar Himlen.” Much of Tio Bitar’s back half is fraught with the same pitfalls that often derailed Ta Det Lugnt – a reliance on pretty melodies and vague atmospheres that have little to no backbone. Make no mistake – Tio Bitar is a pretty massive step forward. But while it’s as expertly played and assembled as any record you’re likely to hear, it’s still more suited for blaring comfortably in the background instead of dominating its surroundings.

By Michael Crumsho

Other Reviews of Dungen

Ta Det Lugnt



Skit I Allt

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