Mon Oct 3
Doug Fir Lounge
830 E Burnside
It's rarely good news when a story about a band sidelines into their relationship with a major label. For all the support the big guns supply their rosters, there's also the horror stories about industry purse strings becoming nooses, strangling a band's artistic output and putting the importance of shifting units above intelligent development.
While that's obviously not always the case, even bands outside the clutches of US labels aren't immune. The industry's vast machinery nearly cogged Sweden's Dungen early on, hitting stumbling blocks with Virgin Records that caused frontman Gustav Ejstes to consider giving up music as a commercial endeavor.
If that were the end of it, you may never have felt the Dungen groundswell bunching record store clerks' panties today. Luckily, Ejstes chose the path of DIY over the path of despair. He holed up at his mother's farmhouse, attended an intensive Swedish folk school for two years to study violin, partnered with an indie label (Stockholm's Subliminal Sounds), and absolutely flowered musically—releasing a couple of soon-to-be underground classics, including the import 1999–2001 and Ta Det Lugnt, one of this year's most spiritual, soulful, and sweetly psychedelic pop records. Listening to Lugnt (released domestically by Kemado this fall with five bonus tracks) is like witnessing a jungle full of rare wild buds blooming simultaneously. Acid rock, church-organ melodies, delicate flute interludes, and free-jazz excursions color a vivid palette of Hendrix-attuned rock. Together, these loose genres mingle to perfume pop with a gently, elegantly experimental air.
It's a sound that dovetails nicely with the current crop of LSD-leaning bands foraging in previous generations' hippie-dipped stash. Acts like Green Milk from Planet Orange, Comets on Fire, and Acid Mothers Temple are just a few choice artists whetting the public's appetite for breezy song structures, high-minded melodies, and generally psilocybin-friendly instrumentation.
Given the translations for Dungen (pronounced doon-yen, meaning "grove of trees") and Ta Det Lugnt ("take it easy"), it makes even more sense that Ejstes's work would come from an earnest, organic place. The son of a fiddle player (with whom he still occasionally performs), the unconventional 24-year-old has seemingly always daydreamed beyond his confines. As a teenager growing up in a 17th-century farmhouse in the small town of Lanna, Ejstes was originally attracted to hiphop, rapping in faux American slang and working the turntables. After mastering everything from the flute to the violin and fiddle, Ejstes still maintains some fascination with hiphop.
With the first US Dungen tour underway, Ejstes is currently concentrating on bringing his sprawling pop to the public.
"I have been taking it one thing at a time because last time it was a lot of talking and not so much happening," says Ejstes of the new appreciation for his music. "And this time it's incredible. We have this one-man label in Sweden (the guy is also our manager). There aren't five people doing promotion and five people doing radio; it's one man and the record has been all over because of word of mouth. There were also no producers; I did the music just the way I wanted it. When it starts to sell, that's interesting, too. It's advice for all musicians to just do their own thing; that's the best way."