Dungen's Home-Grown Psychedelia

When I first heard Ta Det Lugnt [Kemado] by Swedish acid-rockers Dungen, I thought it was almost certainly a reissue of an album recorded in the late ’60s by the Pretty Things or some other seminal psych band. From the raging Fuzz-Faced guitar lines, to the vintage keyboards, to the soaring vocal harmonies, to the Keith Moon-like drumming—all gloriously drenched in tape echo and spring reverb—the music poured forth with true psychedelic authority. Imagine my surprise when I discovered Dungen’s music was not only post-Millennial, it was also recorded on a portable, 16-track digital workstation.

Dungen (pronounced “doon-yen”—Swedish for “a cluster of trees in a meadow”) is the brainchild of 25-year-old Gustav Ejstes, who, in addition to writing and recording most of the music on the album, played nearly all of the instruments. Lead guitarist Reine Fiske—who cites influences from Hank Marvin to Jimi Hendrix—added ultra-tasty melodies and solos to ten of the album’s 13 tracks, and a handful of other musicians contributed cameos, including Ejstes’ father, who played violin and composed string arrangements for two songs.

“We recorded the basic tracks for all but two of the songs on a purple 16-track recorder [Editor’s note: We’re guessing the unit might be a Korg D1600MKII. Somehow, the specifics eluded them!] in my mother’s farmhouse,” explains Ejstes. “I mixed a few songs on it, but most of the tracks were transferred to Apple Logic Pro at Konst & Ramar and Bergstromska studios, where we overdubbed vocals and a few other parts, and did final mixes. ‘Panda’ and ‘Festival,’?? were entirely recorded and mixed at the studio.” A classic Neve console and a huge assortment of vintage outboard gear—including an old Fender spring reverb unit—imparted additional analog coloring.

Ejstes and Fiske’s guitar parts were usually tracked directly into the “purple” workstation using a Line 6 POD-XT or a handful of pedals that included a ’60s Fuzz Face, an MXR Dyna Comp, a vintage CryBaby, and, most importantly, a late-’50s Klempt Echolette tape echo unit (which was used as a tube preamp even when the echo was bypassed). Several amps were also employed, including a vintage 50-watt Marshall with an 8x10 cab, a Vox AC30, and an ancient Hagstrom—all typically miked with a Sennheiser MD421. Ejstes played an Epiphone ES-335, and Fiske played a Fender Stratocaster assembled from early-’60s parts. One particularly interesting feedback effect was achieved on “Sluta Folja Eiter” by routing the guitar through a stereo hi-fi cab to get the almost headphone-like feedback.

As to how they were able to capture so much emotional range and power using such modest gear, both guitarists agreed that the environment was far more important than the technology.

“Recording in an old farm house with two dogs running around the whole time was a very special, and almost haunting experience,” mused Fiske.

“The ‘vibe’ of where you record really comes out in the music,” concurred Ejstes.