Tio Bitar [Kemado]

Fuzzy guitars, jazzy flute, and trippy swirls of electric piano signal that Sweden’s Dungen just has to be a kitschy psych-rock throwback. Right? No way, baby. Dungen’s sound is an inspirational, forward-looking mélange of pop songcraft, sonic explorations, and beautifully twisted guitar playing courtesy of Reine Fiske. His incendiary guitar work flaunts perverted fuzz workouts and heavy doses of whammy bar abuse, as well as brilliant raga-infused acoustic 12-string excursions. Even with their pop sensibilities, you never know where a Dungen tune is going to end up, as it could slowly ascend to dizzying heights of feedback-laced cacophony, or gently touch down into beds of swirling keys and acoustic guitar. Tio Bitar could be considered a throwback in one respect, however. The record sounds wonderful and real, with actual air between the instruments, rather than the compressed-to-death wall of noise that mars nearly every rock release these days, rendering them un-listenable after a while. Why aren’t any American groups even getting close to doing anything this good?
—Darrin Fox