BEST OF 2015: 26. Dungen ‘Allas Sak’

When I lived in Derbyshire, I made a point of trying to visit as many record shops as possible whenever time permitted. I needed the exposure to variety and the unknown and, once Selectadisc had breathed its last, there was little to enliven the ears in the local vicinity. Any holidays were accompanied by a studious consideration of Yell.com and the indie retailers page in Mojo. Vinyl was at its lowest ebb and it wasn’t so easy to lay your hands upon what you wanted as it can be now. Since moving to the south west of England, my uncontainable sense of discovery has wilted, primarily because my location allows me to visit Rise in Bristol and Raves From The Grave in Frome often, along with semi-regular trips to Spillers in Cardiff. In addition, at several points in the year I make the always satisfying voyage down to Totnes for some quality time and quality tunes in the company of the good folk of The Drift Record Shop. It was there, in October, that Jenny caught me eyeing up this record’s remarkable cover and advised me that I needed to hear what it contained. It is a prime example of why indie stores are still here and why we need them more than ever. Without that recommendation, I doubt I’d have ever heard this release.

Dungen

Allas Sak’ is a very difficult album to describe. It’s sort of jazz-prog-fuzz-garage-psych-electro. And they’re Swedish. There you go.

Franks Kaktus’ builds up and drops down several times, bongos and flute rampaging around flurries of acoustic guitar like some sort of early Seventies obscurity you might catch Gilles Peterson raving wildly about one wet Saturday afternoon. It is flat out brilliant and if you need a way in to this record, that should be it.

En Gång Om Året’ offers a different path, kicking off with reverb-drenched backing vocals as Gustav Estes’s lead seems to fracture into ascending pieces. The drumming across all of ‘Allas Sak’ is noteworthy and there are some belting drum fills on this particular track. It brings to mind the glorious Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve remix of Midlake’s ‘Roscoe’. ‘Sister Festen‘, meanwhile, is one of the most joyous tracks I’ve heard all year and I have literally no idea what Estes is saying at any point on it. Intense strumming and euphoric percussion make for an irresistible burst of melody.

It often feels like you’re in the studio with them, the immersive rhythms and rather magnificent soundstage consuming the space in the room. It’s an uplifting, riotous record that, so far at least, suits all moods. The guitar work on ‘En Dag På Sjön’ soars as the rhythm section seems to cast around excitedly beneath it. The sense of eavesdropping on some sort of all-consuming frenetic jam is hypnotic, the joy of the musicians passing through the speakers.

Having opened with its title track, which sounds like two excellent songs playing at once, the eight and a half minutes of ‘Sova’ ensure that the multiple personalities present on ‘Allas Sak’ combine at its close. A gradually escalating indie-psych track collapses into a sprawling, noodling drone piece. It’s a suitably odd way to end a bizarrely brilliant album. Several reviews have made mention of Tame Impala, largely suggesting that Kevin Parker has gently lifted several parts of Dungen’s act, and it’s possible to identify a little of their DNA on his earlier offerings. However, it feels like a public service to make it clear that ‘Allas Sak’ has little in common with the unrelentingly limp, slightly pissy puddle in a car park stairwell that was ‘Currents’. Maybe it’s just easier to describe what it’s not.

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