On Dungen's seventh album, 'Allas Sak', multi-instrumentalist and brain-behind-the-music Gustav Ejstes claims that he wants his listeners to "create their own stories around the music". Certainly, the charming, well-wrought pop songs on 'Allas Sak' would provide ample inspiration for a good tale. As with all of Dungen's previous seven albums, the music is intricate but not dense, uplifting but not overly sweet. It has the orchestral elements of a soundtrack, voiced in Swedish – but with none of the overbearing emotion.
These are the things that have made Dungen a consistent and rewarding band throughout the years. What defines Dungen's blend of folk, krautrock motorik and Beach Boy vocal charms is that even after years of prolific work, his sound still remains unique to him. What marks 'Allas Sak' out from previous albums is its lack of improvisational spirit. Much of what makes krautrock great has always come from this spontaneous drive. This has made it especially hard to pin down why the album seems more enlivened but less spontaneous than its predecessors. Notably, 'En Dag På Sjön' is the only track on the album that embodies the improvisation that was perfectly captured in 2004's 'Ta Det Lugnt'.
Yet in sacrificing invention in favour of sonic precision, Dungen have managed to produce an album that is perfectly balanced in its ambitions. The band's feedback-drenched guitars sound more immersive than they have in recent memory and the percussion more crisp. The songs sound fully formed and more pop orientated than they ever had – and Dungen have always maintained a pop sensibility. On 'Franks Kaktus', Gustav Ejstes' flute spars with a guitar and whilst the track might seem like a jazz-folk improvisational piece, its edges are too smooth and its transitions too fluid for that to be the case. While an improvisational edge remains, the album is a far more well thought-out affair.
If 'Allas Sak' signals anything for the prolific Dungen, it is that his work is not done. This may be the sound of an artist working with a formula: a formula that is certainly an effective, endearing one, but a formula nonetheless. What is clear is that there is far more music to be mined from this unique vein that he has found in the not often explored space between pop and krautrock.
Words: Alex Green
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