Dungen's (aptly titled) fourth album, 4, takes their previous records by the shoulders and urges them to pump the breaks and explore their jazzier side. Kind of like that month you spent in college getting into your inner beatnik, caking cigarette ash into your brand new mock turtle neck. The best part about this Swedish outfit's new effort is that it is nowhere near as urgently pathetic. Quite the contrary actually, this new album is full of mellow tracks that bring back a world of mystified underwater exploration (ala Sven Libaek's nature-themed soundtracks) and hazy sun drenched trips across the countryside in that project MG stored in the garage.
There are still elements of that psych-prog explosion captured so well on 2007's Tio Bitar, with tracks like "Samtidigt 1" and its sister "Samtidigt 2" but for the most part the Hendrix meets Santana, Swedish Mars Volta style raptures are confined to those two. The resulting experiment in jazz-rock is a spectacular album that might feel at home in the late 60s/early 70s as well as today.
Opener "Satt Att Se" is a lush composition straight out of a nightclub fogged with smoke. It is a lazy roll into the aural enjoyment of the rest of the album and a very well placed string section helps it along, adding the perfect amount of texture. The album then moves right into "Marleras Finest", a track that feels peeled off an exposed stock of 16mm film, where our Parisian hero might be found mid-montage. The dust speckles practically leap through the speakers.
Guitars still take center stage on 4, but this time around the keys are giving a bigger part, and that combined with a new jazzier take on drums (supplied oh so perfectly by Johan Holmegard) give the new album more of an AIRish feel, especially on tracks like "Ingenting Ar Sig Likt" and "Mina Damer Och Fasaner" (look out for the sensational guitar riffage on the latter).
With all this Swedish floating around you'd think that nothing but confusion would fill the minutes between 00:00 and 37:30, but Ejstes voice effortlessly and melodically fits into the fray to become just another instrument in the ensemble. If you know Swedish then I'm sure you'll laugh and cry and probably ponder, but if you don't, it's like Ejstes is singing in Hopelandic. That never hurt Sigor Ros one bit.
With 4, it seems as though Ejstes, the man behind the curtain, is picking little bits and pieces from earlier works and devoting entire albums to their cause. It's an effort that, if 4 is any indicator of, should not and will not go overlooked.