Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dungen at The Echo

Wednesday (November 12, 2008) I got a healthy dose of dreamy, screamy, hyper-hypnotic, spacey psychedelia in the form of Swedish band, Dungen. Making only their fourth L.A. appearance in their rather short, rather prolific career (four albums), they already have a fanatical fan base. This includes a few Eastsiders, lots of new hippies, assorted musicians, some music executive-types and more than enough very tall frat jocks to keep the place full of violent head bobbers who kept it up for the first few songs (until the coke wore off...then they stood like statues).

First up was Life on Earth in the person of Dungen bassist, Mattias Gustavsson, who explained that he was performing as a soloist, since his band wasn't with him. He promised not to bore us, and he didn't. He played guitar and sang some nice folk songs in English, with no trace of an accent, that sounded kind of like Mason Jennings crossed with Devendra Banhart. Odd, quirky little story songs and excursions into the imagination. If not inspiring, at least it wasn't boring.

The venue was slowly filling up and I could tell from the crowd outside when I came in, that it would be packed. I stayed up close to hear the next band, Women. They have a couple of selections on their myspace page that I liked, so I expected some nice music from this Canadian ensemble. They seem very serious musicians and their sound featured some wonderful plucked bass and roiling guitar work, but I was never able to locate a cogent melody. Technically impressive, but it left me feeling like I was suspended in midair. It was like Pinback, without an anchor. Pinback's tremendous sense of melody allows them to get away with all kinds of technical virtuosity, without seeming obvious or self conscious. For me, Women just lacked direction so it became little more than an empty cerebral exercise.

Locating Sam Fowles halfway back in the crowd, I pulled myself over to him, as the room began to resemble a tin of sardines. He was the only person I knew in the room, so we chatted until fellow Parson Red Heads member, Evan Way, showed up. Fresh from his solo gig up in Los Feliz at Tangier, on a program with Frank Fairfield, he had raced down to The Echo to catch Dungen. I shouldn't have been surprised to see these two here as I often run into them at the best shows. They have unfailing good taste. It completely coincides with my own. It was also fun to catch up with what's going on in Parson-world.

My good will was beginning to crack as the band took a while to get out on stage, and the oxygen in The Echo was waning fast. But all was forgiven when they did appear and launched into the first number off their new CD, 4, "Satt Att Se". At least that's what I think it was, but as they don't sing a word in English, I can't be sure. They sounded great. That tidal wave of sonic excess was here in all it's glory.

They reproduce the sound of their CD's to perfection. Lead singer, Gustav Ejstes, writes songs that are either guitar based, piano based or guitar/flute based and he plays lead on each one as well as the major vocal duties. He is a wizard on each instrument and the rest of the band keep right up with him. Reine Fiske handled the other guitar and contributed amazing vocal support, as did bassist, Mattias Gustavsson Their drummer, Johan Holmegard keeps the whole thing throbbing and introduces a lot of jazz-percussion into the mix..

I have to admit, I had been looking forward to hearing the enormous sound this band produces in the rather intimate confines of The Echo, only to find their popularity turned the place into a sweatshop, making enjoyment sporadic.

They played most of 4 and a good deal of Tio Bitar. their last release from last year, as well as audience appreciated selections from earlier CD's. In fact, the audience was fairly ecstatic throughout the length of their set. As much as it was a pretty terrific show, I was glad to hit the street and the fresh air after that.


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