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Boasting a blend of '60s-styled psychedelic rock, free jazz, Swedish folk, and instrumental ambience, Swedish collective Dungen is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Gustav Ejstes. With a band of like-minded explorers surrounding him, Ejstes consistently made records that expanded sonic boundaries and crafted songs that sounded like lost psych-pop hits from late-'60s Europe.
Raised in the small village of Lanna in Vastergotland, Sweden, Ejstes was weaned on regional folk music and '60s rock at a young age by his violin-playing father. He discovered the world of hip-hop as a teenager and quickly embraced the genre, later deeming it his "punk phase." An obsession with the science of sampling followed, and through his own experiments with the genre he was exposed to a wealth of '60s and '70s Swedish underground music. The organic nature of the recordings stirred something in Ejstes, who wanted to prove his capability in playing all of the instruments he'd previously been sampling. He subsequently moved to his mother's farm in the woods of nearby Smaland and began honing his craft in a studio in his grandmother's basement.
Ejstes made his debut with Dungen, an ambitious album that was released in 2001 by his friend Stefan Kéry's label, Subliminal Sounds. The record received enough attention from the underground community to attract the Dolores/Virgin label, and Ejstes found himself back in the studio to record a series of three Dungen singles, one of which appeared on the soundtrack for The Jungle Book 2. Dungen's breakthrough international album, Ta Det Lugnt, was then released by Subliminal Sounds in 2004, followed by a second release (this one accompanied by a bonus disc) by the American label Kemado in July 2005. Although Ejstes handled many of the album's instrumental passages himself, he also pieced together a lineup (including guitarist Reine Fiske, bassist Mattias Gustavsson, and drummer Fredrik Björling) to help him during the recording process. The Dungen collective then hit the road in support of Ta Det Lugnt, whose psychedelic sound had won the band a number of fans in America.
A follow-up effort, Tio Bitar, arrived in 2007, focusing on well-crafted songs as well as Dungen's traditional jams, and 4 appeared the following year. Featuring a newfound emphasis on piano, the album also included percussion from a new drummer, Johan Holmegard. The group toured in support of the album and played several dates with Fleet Foxes before returning home to work on Skit I Allt, which was released in 2010. Following a five-year gap, their seventh album, Allas Sak, which loosely translates to "anyone's thing," arrived in September of 2015.
In between Skit I Allt and Allas Sak, the band was asked to write and record a score for the 1926 film The Adventures of Prince Achmed. The all-instrumental piece was produced by Mathias Glavå, mixed and edited by hand onto analog tape, and finally released by Mexican Summer in late 2016 as Häxan. Norwegian space-disco producer Prins Thomas was asked to remix the album's sessions, and Häxan (Versions by Prins Thomas) appeared in September of 2017. A few months earlier, the band had been a part of 2017's Marfa Myths festival in Texas, where one of the other headliners was the band Woods. As part of the festivities, the two bands were given a chance to collaborate; Ejstes and Fiske teamed with Woods' Jeremy Earl and Jarvis Taveniere to write songs and record them free of outside pressures. The results were released by Mexican Summer in early 2018 as Myths 003. ~ James Christopher Monger
- Stockholm, Sweden
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