Music Reviews
Ta Det Lugnt

Dungen Ta Det Lugnt

(Subliminal Sounds) Buy it from Insound Rating - 9/10

Despite the tedious nature of the task and the insane amount of work involved, I'm starting to look forward to compiling our annual Top 50 Albums list almost as much as Christmas itself. Why? Because each and every time it manages to point me in the direction of some awesome new music, be it an obscure album that I haven't even heard of, or a mainstream hit that I wrongfully chose to overlook. There have been plenty of examples of each but this isn't the time to talk about those. Instead I'd like to discuss my final, and perhaps favourite, discovery of 2004: Dungen's Ta Det Lugnt.

Three members of the No Ripcord team included this psych-pop masterpiece in their end of year lists, helping it to a respectable #25 in our Top 50, an extraordinary feat for any album sung entirely in Swedish, let alone an independently released one with limited distribution and a tiny promotional campaign. And before you ask, none of the writers in question are Swedish, nor, to the best of my knowledge, have corresponded with one another. Hard as it is to believe, Dungen's amazing success is the result of a phenomenal, chiefly Internet-based buzz, something that only begins to make sense when you listen to Ta Det Lugnt itself.

A bit of background, then. Dungen ("clump of trees") is the nom de plume of Gustav Ejstes, a 24-year old songwriter/multi-instrumentalist from southern Sweden. Ta Det Lugnt ("take it easy") is Ejstes' third full-length album and, like his debut, is released on Stockholm-based indie Subliminal Sounds. His second full-length, 2002's Stadsvandringar ("City walks"), was the result of a brief and relatively unsuccessful stint in major-label territory with Dolores/Virgin, an arrangement that Ejstes claims "didn't feel either right or real". And while the details behind his return to Subliminal appear somewhat sketchy - i.e. was he dropped or did he walk? - the results are anything but.

Opening with an audacious twenty-second drum solo, Panda is Ejstes' bold statement of intent, a celebratory psychedelic anthem that manages to sound at the same time familiar and brand new. Sure, I have no idea what he's singing about (Pandas? Do they even have those in Sweden?) but maybe it's better this way; during my research for this review I stumbled upon quite a few negative forum posts accusing Dungen's lyrics of being "naïve" and even "annoying". But can the opinions of these faintly critical Swedes be trusted? Ask me in about twenty years when I've finally mastered the damn language...

With a chorus comprised of powerful drum fills and reverb-heavy guitar lines, Gjort bort sig ("Made a fool of oneself" if my pocket English-Swedish dictionary is to be trusted) utilises a familiar formula to Panda and, though clearly less energetic, is undeniably impressive. Festival and the supremely infectious Du E För Fin För Mig ("You are too nice for me") offer a welcome change of pace before the epic title track implores us to "take it easy". The mischievous keyboard riff and messy hi-hat beats of the verses are followed by a chorus of jagged, almost Deerhoof-esque guitars, which in turn gives way to a three-minute saxophone-led psychedelic jazz freakout! If there was a more gloriously diverse song in 2004 I certainly didn't hear it.

After such an ambitious centrepiece, most albums would fall apart at the seams. Not Ta Det Lugnt. Rather than resting on the laurels of such a flawless first half, Ejstes continues to push the boundaries back with a mixture of guitar-driven rockers (Bortglömd), wonderfully understated instrumentals (Det du tänker idag är du imorgon, Glömd konst kommer stundom ånyo till heders), string-drenched ballads (Lipsill), and even experimental, almost dance music (Om du vore en vakthund). Sickeningly, he even remembers to cap the collection off with a suitably brilliant finale in Sluta följa efter ("Stop following").

Ta Det Lugnt isn't a fashionable album: it's sung in language that less than 10 million of the world's population understand; it doesn't boast any "killer singles"; there are even a few drum solos; it's definitely not the kind of music an average 24-year old would make. In this era of Winamp and the iPod, when supposedly devoted music fans can't even be bothered listening to entire songs let alone albums, Ta Det Lugnt is that rare joy, a work of art that both demands and rewards your attention. Now all you have to do is find yourself a copy.