This rare UK performance by Dungen was a warm up for their appearance at All Tomorrow’s Parties’ “Nightmare Before Christmas” festival (being held at the interesting environs of Camber Sands – a Pontins Holiday Camp!).
The two support acts, Alexander Tucker and Fursaxa (aka Tara Burke) have released their most recent work on the All Tomorrow’s Parties label offshoot (ATP Recordings). Although very different from the headlining band, they were very much peas of the same pod. Perhaps a pod picked by La Monte Young. Both based their performances around the same modus operandi: namely alone with just their favoured instrumentation and a sampler, and building up layers upon layers of melody.
hypnotic drone built on keyboards and supported by a startling array of instruments
Alexander Tucker’s set was more stripped back; distorted folk on a battered acoustic guitar building into a raging peak around his multi-tracked vocals and then falling away to undiluted finger-picking (and back again). The foundations of Fursaxa’s hypnotic drone was built on keyboards and supported by a startling array of instruments. Her’s was an ageless, songless racket. Oriental and gregorian styles drifted in and out and amid it all appeared an accordian and a swanney whistle! The depth that Burke constructed from such humble origins was admirable, but at times it was easy for the mind to wander as the melodic structures she’d built tended to drag on. Another time my feelings might have been reversed but on this night the opener’s analogue drone was preferable.
Gustav Ejstes, Dungen’s beating heart and soul, grew up in a large house in a small village in rural Sweden. His music teacher father filled his early life with obscure Swedish folk and 60s pop and rock, and these influences clearly run through this year’s fantastic long player – Ta Det Lugnt (Take it easy). Ejstes played most of the instruments on the album himself but here he restricted himself to guitar, keyboards and flute. The three other members fulfilling the roles of bass, drums and guitar were all very skilled and contributed to a set that was as tight as their hair was long (i.e. very).
Critics could, legitimately, call them retro, but that’s missing the point.
They drew heavily from their latest opus throughout, playing most of the album alongside two older tracks. The crowd was quiet up to this point, but once “Panda”’s stuttering drum intro burst forth into driving Zeppelin-fuelled blues rock I knew any unbelievers would soon be converted. “Festival”’s bucolic Woodstock folk (that’s the original not the frat boy riot sequel) was an uplifting joy. When they went on extended intrumental passages (only twice) it was more Hendrix psychedelic blues than swollen prog extravagance. Most importantly of all they really seemed to be enjoying themselves on stage. Smiles all around, which makes a change from some of the po-faced miserabilists out there.
Critics could, legitimately, call them retro, but that’s missing the point. They’re not cynical copyists; Ejstes is imbued with the spirit of the music of his and other countries glorious pasts, in a place presumable untouched by MTV, the NME and major labels’ hard sell. You get the feeling if no one wanted to buy his music he’d still spend his time in his small village with all his instruments. Fortunately for us, he’s very good at it.