The live album occupies a lot of facets in a band’s catalog. If it rears its head, it can act as a placeholder, a preview of a new dawn and shift in direction, the requisite a cash grab or fundraiser, or a beacon of a band’s true place beyond the studio. For Dungen, in 2020, it seems to act as a beacon, but not of the band transforming their catalog by padding out or pushing the boundaries of their normal material, rather as a mercurial showcase for their musicianship beyond their established works. If Haxän proved anything, it’s that a band known for psychedelic prowess and studio savvy was also interested in expanding the horizons of genre by injecting an experimental spirit into their catalog that put aside notions of commercial draw . While this is not quite the seismic shift that led to a soundtrack for an obscure Russian silent film, it is imbued with the same experimental impulses. On Live they transform their acument into an album of whirlwind motion, psychic interplay, and virtuoso solos.
The record showcases the band over two nights in November 2015, at Stora Teatern in Gothenburg and Victoriateatern in Malmö. In addition to the consistently searing guitar work of Reine Fiske and the flute of Gustav Ejstes, the set features their Allas Sak collaborator Jonas Kullhammar laying down some fire on the sax. With a turbulent sea of rhythm behind them these three set loose a psychedelic dervish that’s spun sound into a dizzying conjunction of psychedelia, jazz, and acid rock. The band is at their peak on these recordings, not bound by notions of what Dungen has been defined by in the past, but building something that stands as a singular document of instrumental fortitude. It’s Dungen, in as much as the players are all there, but aside from lingering recurrent melodies from their past, this is a powerful document of players pushing themselves to redefine psychedelia in the live setting. This album, paired with the recent live album by Mythic Sunship from their Roskilde appearances sets a new bar for where the live record can reach. If there was a time that Dungen sparked a fire in your soul, then let this rekindle it yet again. The band’s never lost a step, but this some of the soundest evidence how exactly they’ve kept psych vital.
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