The scope of Häxan is as ambitious as it is intriguing. The members of Dungen were asked to soundtrack the 1926 film, The Adventures of Prince Achmed by artist Lotte Reiniger. The film is the oldest, in tact animated feature film in existence and Dungen’s score sees the band branch out of their ’70s widescreen psych on several admirable levels. They immerse the all instrumental album in lush soundtrack swells embracing strings like never before. They roll out many of the psychsploitation tropes evident in the Finder Keepers ranks, leaning especially clost to the scores of Jean-Bernard Raiteux and Jean Rollin. The rest of the score patterns itself after ’60’s and ’70s Library Music motifs that prove the band has more than done the homework to meet the challenge of this project. Of course they can’t resist just a bit of their own signature stamp, and the score’s culmination in the thundering “Andarnas Krig” has many of the hallmarks that would befit a regular album release for the band, though it’s inclusion blends quite well with their psychedelic Papier Mâché world.
The score provides a sweeping counterpoint to Reiniger’s animation, built around her rich color palette and painstakingly blocked animations. The album is presented non-sequentially with regard to the film’s narrative, but they’ve drawn their inspiration and tone from her story, while fitting their pieces into an arc of their own. They imbue the whole album with a rich nuance, but as the title might suggest (Häxan means “Witch”) the scenes of The Witch give them the most to work with and they find in the character the kind of explosive, crackling energy that fuels their most psychedelic urges. Though, if it were just some limp interludes in between amp fry, Häxan would fail out of the gate. It never feels like they’re waiting for the next explosion, dripping the rest of the pieces in as much shading and texture as those dealing with their favored subject, just with the intensity rolled back.
Dungen have long been a band working with a level of skill that’s set them apart from your standard psych shredders, but with the academic approach and immersive scope of Häxan they knock themselves into a more serious tier of composition. They truly give Reiniger’s work a new life and create a standalone statement that’s worthy of collectors who trade in psych cinema’s aural ephemera. Check out a clips of Reiniger’s film Act 1, Act 2, Act 3, Act 4, Act 5 to see how the score adds to her style.
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