Dungen – Ta Det Lugnt

Ta Det Lugnt

When I brought home Dungen’s new LP Ta Det Lugnt, my friends gawked at my eccentricity. When I defended the merits of the music, my friends replied with “But he doesn’t even sing in English!” So much for music being the universal language.

Yes, Gustav Ejstes, the 24 year old multi-instrumentalist creator of Ta Det Lugnt, sings in Swedish. I can’t understand a single word he’s saying throughout the entire disc (except the cognate “festival”), and unless you’re majoring in Scandinavian culture studies, neither will you. Now that that’s out of the way, it’s time to talk about the music.

Dungen’s music sounds impossibly old; Ejstes takes lo-fi recording a step earlier and managed to open up a wormhole between the 60s and the oughts. But once the dust is blown off the surface, the ingenuity, creativity, and general newness of Ta Det Lugnt shines through brilliantly. Ejstes crafts songs where throwback psych-pop melts effortlessly into cascading soundscapes, jazz interludes, and epic instrumentation.

The opener, “Panda,” starts off with a rattling drum fill, introduces a Hendrix-esque opening riff, segues into classic rock with soaring, aggressive solos, and finishes with acoustic plucking. “Festival” features a forlorn Ejstes majestically crooning over a galloping drum line and sparkling guitar. A minute and a half in, the song turns into a soundscape that wouldn’t be out of place on Explosions in the Sky’s The Earth is Not a Cold, Dead Place. A vaudeville piano line guides the song into its exit.

The middle of the record features two mini-epic tacks, “Du E For Fin For Mig” and “Ta Det Lugnt,” both expanding well past the seven-minute mark and transcending genres fluently. “Du E For Fin For Mig” starts off as a tribal chant, gradually gaining momentum into a pop anthem and finally into a roaring jam session replete with towering guitar solos. The opening minute of “Ta Det Lugnt” sounds like a mix between the Beatles and Circulatory System, but later the song morphs into an easy-jazz piece.

Already, Ejstes has covered almost as many genres as I have in my CD rack, and we’re not even past track six yet! But it’s not just the experimentation and genre-melding that makes Ta Det Lugnt so incredible; rather, Ejstes’ uncanny attention to detail and sonic layering takes center stage throughout the album. At any given time, five or six instruments will be sounding off at once, and though the recording sounds antiquated, no one sound overpowers another. Instead, everything blends together into a dense, orchestrated jungle of reverberation. Such incredible and successful intertwining could only be the result of a single brain and musical vision maintaining control of every part of each song. It’s a daunting task, to be sure, but it’s one that Ejstes pulls off beautifully.

Perhaps it’s a good thing that we can’t understand what Ejstes is saying. Maybe that just eliminates the distraction of verbal language from the enjoyment of a higher form of language: melody. Without our ability to comprehend it, the voice simply melts into the music, until it’s all the same and the vocals are just another instrument again – its effect is similar to that of Animal Collective’s use of primitive grunts and coos to inject another layer of emotion into their music. In the end, Ejstes’ work elicits a very different reaction from that of any other album; Ta Det Lugnt appeals not to our higher frontal lobes, but to something more basic, innate, and ancient; this is music in its most purely impressive form.