Release Date: Nov 25, 2016
Record label: Mexican Summer
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Neo-Psychedelia, Soundtracks, Stage & Screen, Original Score
Häxan is Dungen’s eighth album, but their first wholly instrumental set. It evolved from the Stockholm quartet’s score for Lotte Reiniger’s 1926 silent animated film The Adventures of Prince Achmed, and takes its title – the Swedish for “witch” – from one of the characters. Their psychedelic jazz-rock evokes 70s Italian giallo horror movies, or perhaps Popol Vuh’s soundtracks for Werner Herzog.
This far into Dungen's long run of making brilliant psychedelic music that relies as much on the soaring atmosphere they create as it does on their melodically entrancing songs, it's surprising that they never did any soundtrack work. The release of Häxan changes that. Sometime between the release of 2010's Skit I Allt and 2015's Allas Sak, the Swedish quartet was asked to provide a score for the 1926 animated film The Adventures of Prince Achmed.
Though firmly rooted in ’70s progressive and psychedelic rock, Dungen has never felt like a tribute act, throwback or genre exercise. By offering up honest-to-god great songs with memorable vocals leads, fluid performances, killer arrangements and an unflinching love of the flute, they nail the vibe of their beloved era while always sounding like themselves. On Häxan, the group presents a recent scoring of the 1926 animation classic The Adventures of Prince Achmed, replacing the original’s crackling symphonic score with fourteen interludes, rave-ups and mini-suites that nod knowingly to the past while remaining fresh.
Music tagged as psychedelic rock frequently aims to elicit the feeling of rocketing into the cavernous interior of a black hole, a pitch-black, ultra-dense space vast enough to get lost in. Swedish outfit Dungen have produced plenty of profound soundscapes of intense depth, but often times they go to places airy, soft-hued, somewhere in the upper atmosphere. Their records, dating back to their 2001 self-titled debut, have always felt more familiar and welcoming than a lot of its psych rock brethren.
It seems that the five-year silence between 2010’s Skit i allt and last year’s outstanding Allas sak must have been as hard to bear for the band as it was for their fans, as Dungen return with uncharacteristic haste with Häxan. To be fair, this isn't exactly a standard-issue Dungen album. The Swedish quartet were invited to compose a soundtrack to the oldest surviving animated film, 1926’s The Adventures of Prince Achmed.