Sound: Swedish act Dungen could have taken the easy route on it's latest album by giving another helping of the guitar-driven psychedelia that was successfully received a few years back on the album Ta Det Lugnt. But rather than making the new record 4 a carbon copy, primary writer, multi-instrumentalist, and frontman Gustav Ejstes has made what is essentially an anti-rock record for the most part. There are a few tracks here and there that are chock full of effects-laden guitar solos, but things have taken a decidedly mellow turn on 4. If you're a fan of Dungen and don't mind Ejstes bringing out the flute as much as the guitar, then you'll appreciate 4's eclectic mix.
While Ejstes is essentially the band Dungen, the usual key players have shown up to offer their talents (Reine Fiske on guitar; Johan Holmegard on drums; Mattias Gustavsson on bass; Anna Jarvinen providing background vocals; and Fredrik Swahn on bass as well). That leaves Ejstes performing plenty of other instruments, with strings, flute, and percussion all on the list. Pretty much every song with lyrics on 4 is performed in Ejstes' native tongue of Swedish, but a language barrier is never a roadblock in listening to the record. There's so much going on instrumentally that the arrangements are usually in the spotlight - particularly since they seem to go in a direction that is akin to the easy-listening genre at times.
The opening track "Stt Att Se" is the perfect example, namely because it truly feels more at home in a smoky jazz club than any rock venue. The first minute is essentially a jazz track with it's cymbal-heavy percussion and subdued piano chords. There is a retrained electric guitar in Stt Att Se, and that in itself brings out more of a psychedelic sound to the song. It makes for a strange, dreamy combination when you combine the psychedalia with the jazz, and it's a suitable opener for a record that tends to never stay in one place stylistically.
For those who are fans of the Panda era of Dungen, you will get a few tracks that hearken back to that sound. Samtidigt 1 fades in as if to sound like the song has already been playing for quite some time. There's a distinct Jimi Hendrix vibe to the song, which is basically a rocking, 3-minute guitar solo. Between the mixing style and the guitar effects, you would almost think you've accidentally started listening to a Hendrix record - which is a good thing. The song's other instrumental counterpart, Samtidigt 2 takes on a completely different style in terms of the guitar work, but it's still equally impressive. At times you can hear a Santana influence, but that would be pigeonholing a solo that does go in a variety of different musical directions.
For as cool as those instrumentals are, 4 will likely test your own musical boundaries. Mlers Finest and Ingenting r Sig Likt are musically solid compositions, but they are truly as laid-back as they come. In fact, some might even compare Mlers Finest to elevator music. Honestly, it's impressive that Dungen went out on a limb and included the flute as such an integral part of their music. Will it click with everyone? Probably not, but Ejstes still deserves credit for not giving us the expected. // 7
Lyrics: While there is likely a source out there that does provide the full Swedish translations in full, we weren't provided with the specifics at the time of the review. There are several sung portions of 4, but they usually end up taking a backseat to the creativity that is happening via the instrumentals. // 10
Overall Impression: It's hard to immediately embrace the sound on 4, particularly if you were a fan of 2004's Ta Det Lugnt. Yes, Jethro Tull has whipped out the flute on multiple occasions and showed it was a feasible tool in a heavy album, but Dungen usually doesn't use the instrument as a means to rock. Ejstes has written some very mellow, although lovely, music on 4, and it's a noticeable change even for an experimental outfit like Dungen. // 8