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The world of psychedelic rock is an odd one. It does have its moments, though. Swedish psych band Dungen makes some of those magical moments come to life in their new album, Häxan.
Häxan isn't the traditional psychedelic record. It's an homage and a soundtrack of sorts; it's following a recent trend of artists going back and making their own soundtracks for past films. Häxan is an original score for The Adventures Of Prince Achmed, the world's oldest surviving animated piece. Thus, this record is full of different moods and different levels of excitement.
Being a score, this album has plenty of filler tracks. Certain movements are slow and dreamy, such as 'Aladdins Flykt Över Havet' and 'Achmed Och Peri Banu.' Some songs also prove to be groovier and jazzier, setting a more sensual tone: see 'Trollkarlen Och Fågeldräkten' and 'Achmed Flyger,' the latter of which sounds like it could be from a video game soundtrack with its adventurous vibe.
This album is peaceful and not overly flashy, as is meant for a score. What's great about it is that you don't need the film playing next to it to understand the record, or the movements of the film. The emotions are set very clearly, the tone doing all the talking. You can tell when climax and events occur, tracks like 'Wak-Wak's Portar' and its distorted guitar and flutes ringing with urgency and without regard for time. The same is true for the closing track, 'Andarnas King,' a jam conclusion with a Lightning Bolt flair.
Häxan is an interesting record. It's a score, but it stands on its own as an interesting record full of events. It does what a score should do best - tell the story independently from the film through sonic interpretation. If anything, it makes you want to see the film in order to understand the tale of the record. Dungen's brilliance shines bright on this record.
Favorite Track: Trollkarlen Och Fågeldräkten
Least Favorite Tracks: Grottan, Den Fattige Aladdin, Aladdin Och Lampan
Rating: 70 / 100
Electronic and indie don't normally come together, but when they do, it makes something great. Such is the case of The Radio Dept.'s fourth record, Running Out Of Love.
The Swedish trio dealt with a lot leading up to this record. It's their first since 2010's Clinging To A Scheme as a result of legal battles with their record label. The album was delayed by the battle, but it seems to have made the product all the more passionate. The album is about life in Sweden, and has a wide array of sounds to share.
The most notable part of the record is its electronic influence. The band has always had an alternative edge to them, but electronica definitely takes a more prominent stance on Running Out Of Love. 'Swedish Guns' is the first track to bare its sounds, beginning with urgent, bouncing synths as the track flows into its dark instrumental and melodies. The song's about the Swedish army's massive arms industry, despite it being one of the most peaceful countries. The song's summarized by the lines "If you want something done / Get Swedish guns," commenting on how the country's guns pose an ominous threat to its citizens and competitors, a statement on life in Sweden. The urgency of the synths that constantly punch in and out of the song are a testament to the mood.
There's a lot of cool instrumentation in 'Swedish Guns,' such as strings and woodwinds that appear in various parts of the song. There are a lot of little moments like that interspersed throughout the record that really give you something to look out for, keeping the album sounding fresh. The horn synth in the prechorus of 'We Got Game' is one example, the dark synths carrying on the chill vibe of 'Guns.'
This album has two "states," as it were. There's happy and there's dark. Happier tracks include the sweet 'This Thing Was Bound To Happen,' its bassline carrying it above warm synths and a dance vibe. The melody is sweet and knowing, as if what he's singing about was inevitable. It's followed by 'Can't Be Guilty' with it's Radiohead synth beat and sweet acoustic guitar and bright, splashy synths. The music is peaceful and feels like a gentle mist settling on a garden in the early morning. There's 'Committed To The Cause' which sounds like it has more a conviction than darkness, the groovy bassline and bluesy guitar dancing in a threatening but intertwining dance. It has a lot of drive to it, with sweet synths and punchy pianos giving more punch.
Darker tracks include single 'Occupied,' its clapping percussion and synths providing both energy and an aesthetic to the track. It's dark, yet it is packed with energy that gives it a brighter overtone. It's more danceable than other tracks may be. It runs for seven minutes, building up with urgent synths and atmospheric bass synths. Much is the same for closing track 'Teach Me To Forget,' which takes the record out with gentle melodies and trap influences.
Running Out Of Love may have been long overdue, but the wait was worth it. The Radio Dept. has crafted a strong and eclectic record that seems to capture both the hard and the lovely times of living in Sweden. There's a lot of depth and a lot of atmosphere in the song, giving it a very wide texture that just doesn't get boring. It's a big record for The Radio Dept.
Favorite Tracks: Swedish Guns, Occupied, This Was Bound To Happen, Teach Me To Forget
Least Favorite Track: Running Out Of Love
Rating: 85 / 100