Dungen At Amoeba, Wednesday March 22nd 2017
Dungen sounds almost a archaic name, it reminds me about dungeon of course, dungeons and dragons, but it is also the nickname of a Swedish quartet which was playing an in-store at Amoeba on Wednesday night. Last year, they released a new album Häxan (translation: ‘The Witch’) on Mexican Summer, and they played a bit from it, after having performed at the Getty Museum a day before.
It was mostly an instrumental set, just like their album, a short set of some moody and cinematic soundscapes, first built around vibrant keyboards, atmospheric guitars and discreet percussion, then morphing into other territories of prog and psychadelic rock or even extending to krautrock. The first compositions they played had a strong Mogwai vibe, with keys moving around a krautrock structure, building a widescreen landscape journey, haunting and hypnotic with a blowing sound as if the wind was accompanying us on the journey.
The crowd was large and captivated and then the sound became even more evocative, like the soundtrack of a movie visioning an army marching toward a battlefield or something epic of this sort. The Stockholm quartet was surely going beyond rock, although I didn’t see any electronica involved, and when they said they were about to play something from their new album, they partially switched their piano for a flute, and the result sounded like the stylish soundtrack for a 70’s European movie. I am not saying this to make them sound outdated, but I didn’t expect this light jazz after the heavy Mogwai psychedelia. All together, they may have only played four tracks and the last one introduced vocals over keys and more climatic guitars.
I have mentioned soundtracks a lot and was thinking about movies when listening to them at Amoeba, so I was not surprised to read that Dungen actually create an original score to Lotte Reiniger’s 1926 animated fairytale film, The Adventures of Prince Achmed, which is the oldest surviving full-length animated feature film. And the band was so inspired by the characters Prince Achmed, Peri Banu, Aladdin, the Sorcerer, and of course the Witch, that they recorded Häxan, which was mixed, and edited by hand to tape entirely in the analog domain…
the music was part rumination on the past, part something more modern, soundtracks to get lost in, partly adventurous and then familiar at many levels, thus truly timeless in the sense you would never be able to date Dungen’s music.