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Swede devotion
Gustav Ejstesís one-man Dungen
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Dungen's official Web site

Nick Sylvester reviews Dungen's Ta Det Lugnt.

Twenty-five-year-old Gustav Ejstes is a hunky, courteous-sounding Swedish gentleman who writes and records beautiful psychedelic folk rock as Dungen (rhymes with "onion"). Ta Det Lugnt ("Take It Easy"), the album he released in Sweden in 2004, is his best: a minor miracle of sweet guitar fuzz, airy flute, yearning vocal melodies, and rambling Keith Moon drums. Ejstes captures more than the mood of the moment that separated í60s flower-power rock from í70s heavy metal; he also gets its tone, replicating the cardboard-box drum sound and analog warmth familiar to followers of record-nerd reissue scenes.

The album could in fact pass for a compilation of out-of-print material by a handful of ancient Scandinavian bands. And had that been the case, there would have been the same buzz that built up around Ta Det Lugnt late last year at hip record stores like New Yorkís Other Music and on indie-rock Web sites like Pitchfork. Savor the possibilities: a previously untapped scene to dig into alongside Brazilian baile funk or South American post-punk!

Yet in addition to being alive and well at the moment, Ejstes hasnít much use for the concept of a scene. "I donít follow music that much at all," he says over the phone from Sweden, a week before departing on a tour thatíll bring Dungen to the Middle East this Wednesday. "I know what I like, and I have good records at home, but I donít buy so much music. I donít care so much about new music or bands or following everything." So he cares about old music then? "I donít know ó that depends on what you mean. I have favorites from the í90s. I have records from the í60s and I have some records from the í80s, and some records even from last year. Good records show up all the time. But Iím not digging the charts or following like that. If thereís something I like that comes my way, I pick it up."

Ejstesís working method backs up his isolationist claim: he says he recorded and engineered Ta Det Lugnt mostly by himself over 12 months, with the help of a lead guitarist named Reine Fiske and handful of others. The tracks sport an embarrassment of details: stereo-field whooshes, miniature solos, reverbed fiddle thrums, tightly double-tracked vocal harmonies. Ejstes doesnít just sound like someone from 40 years ago ó he sounds like five or six someones from 40 years ago.

"The thing is that from the beginning, when I started out, I did everything by myself," he explains. "Then I met people during the years, but itís been kind of loose ó like different constellations. The recording process I have always been working by myself. For the second record [2002ís Stadsvandringar], we were like a group and did all the recording as a four-piece band. Then I just decided for many different reasons to go back to how it all began. I just want to do it all by myself and invite people for special occasions." He observes that he often begins a recording "with the drums, but it could also be a rhythm guitar. But often itís drums."

As for the touring outfit, he says itís "pretty tight" and that working by himself and working with a band "are two different ways of making music. I love both ways. I think when I have time to do recordings now, Iím gonna continue the way I have been working. I will do it by myself."

On August 2, the New YorkĖbased indie Kemado Records will give Ta Det Lugnt its official American release. But hipsters have been buying the import on Swedenís Subliminal Sounds for the better part of a year. (There may also have been a copy or two downloaded.) "We were really surprised" by the American attention, Ejstes says, "but of course we felt happy about it." Is he excited that the record is reaching a new audience? "Yeah, of course."

Dungen | Middle East upstairs, 472 Mass Avenue, Cambridge | July 13 | 617.864.EAST

Issue Date: July 8 - 14, 2005
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