Haxan (Deluxe Edition) by Dungen (Mexican Summer)
Swedish quartet Dungen has, up until now, flown under my radar except for a forgotten collection of live songs from a Daytrotter session in 2009. Maybe its all due to timing, a particular publicist with good tastes, or an inclusion of mind-expanding substances, that this album has fallen into my lap. I’ve long enjoyed the musical roads less traveled, where progressive, rock, electronic, metal, jazz, psychedelic and more have intervened and Haxan is a thrilling addition to my out-there tastes in music.
Haxan came about when the band was asked to score an animated movie called The Adventures of Prince Achmed from 1926, the first animated movie, an interesting tale in itself. Haxan (Swedish for witch) draws us in with Peri Benu vid sjon. Tones are dragged out into dreamy gauze, bowed strings or treated voices waft around to a light funk bass and drums. On Jakten genom skogen the pace picks up and a little of the haze clears up with the help of a brightly strummed acoustic guitar, plucky bass and jazzy drum tempo. The lead string melody holds you tight in its mystical mood. Wak-Wak’s portar is a slap in the face with overdriven guitar pans and garage rock jamming as a flute trills and chirps over the groove. A cheeky loungey flute melody follows called Den Fattige Aladdin. A familiar rolling piano riff that’s picked up on standup bass is the center of Trollkarlen och fågeldräkten with playful cymbal work, spacey guitar flourishes and percussive elements sure to speed you down the rabbit hole.
The title track places Dungen in full psychedelic rock’n’roll mode with scratchy and soaring guitar leads and powerful piano pounding, as the band take us in to a dangerous and exciting world. Yes, Kalifan has an organ melody that give off more than a fragrant whiff of A Lighter Shade of Pale, yet lifts us to a colorful land of sunset-tinged clouds and then down through shadowy alleyways where deadly dealings are conducted.
Achmed flyger would fit well in a Quentin Tarantino movie with the song’s evocative and grooving Morricone feel. Aladdin och lampan del 2 is a return to the flute melody heard earlier on Den fattige Aladdin. At the end of the song the music gets squashed, like its getting heard from an old stereo, much like Pink Floyd‘s Wish You Were Here. Andarnas Krig closes out Haxan on a triumphant note: a build up of intensity in the grungey guitars, lots of cymbal work, all orgasming in a pulsing groove and taloned guitars tearing into your grey matter leaving you a bloody mess on the floor.
The bonus 12″ vinyl and addition to the original release includes an extended version of the title track plus three live performances that drive the various elements of the songs to a greater intensity, of ecstatic highs and mellower lows.
Get Haxan (Deluxe Edition) on vinyl as it was recorded to tape, in order to better experience the analog warmth and crackle of Dungen‘s dazzling performances. Mind-altering substances not included.
Dungen will be performing live along with a showing of The Adventures of Prince Achmed as well as concert hall shows this spring.
(by Bret Miller)