It is utterly compelling and maddening to listen to the opening "intro" off Swedish psych-prog outfit Dungen's third album Tio Bitar (which translates as "Ten Pieces/Songs"). It begins roaring out of the gate in a wall of guitar squall, but sounds like it's the middle of some long jam you missed the first half of. It squeals and roils with drums a batter and guitars in the middle of some freewheeling freak-out before it settles a bit and other, more textured sounds come into play before it simply fades. Tio Bitar, which, as its predecessors did, combines elements of trippy, sprawling psychedelia with traditional Swedish folk elements and prog rock offers this bit of irony at the beginning of its most focused offering yet. They've dumped the longer, jam-oriented tunes of their first two efforts Dungen and Ta Det Lugnt -- admittedly the latter was an excellent if still sometimes excessive step in this direction -- in favor of well constructed songs. Gustav Ejstes, Dungen's founder, producer, singer/songwriter -- and for the most part only member -- played many things here himself with the aid of Reine Fiske doing many lead guitar and bass tracks; other musicians participated in elementary roles. It's a pasted together project to be sure, but not in the usual sense. Ejstes works his tracks in seamlessly. His influences are so obvious he doesn't even try to hide them and it's far from necessary because this mash of the best of psych, folk, hard rock and prog now belongs to Dungen alone. One of the album's best tunes "Gör Det Nu" allows the free-form freak-out vibe to work its way into the actual melodic body of the song. As the wall of guitars builds itself into a frenzy, Ejstes sings effortlessly, melodically and unhurriedly. While there are no real hooks in it, the tune is hummable while melting your brain from the power of its sonic scree. "Mon Amour" is pure riff-driven hard rock (think Blue Cheer) with beautifully layered vocals and harmonies that, while doing nothing to thwart the heaviness it contains, make it somehow more accessible, even though it builds into a tower of guitar noise courtesy of Fiske in the middle and becomes a driving mindscape of guitar and electric piano effects as drums thrum and propel. An organ begins to sound in the distant backdrop, following another route of investigation, and a tune that's under six minutes feels like a full-length jam. On "Så Blev Det Bestämt," seemingly an indie rock tune, acoustic instruments, piano, violin, and guitar blend with electric guitars and a literally humming bassline to craft dreamy, arty pop songs which open onto a full prog rock inquiry with a huge church organ and rolling snares and cymbals. The track enters an Eastern modal frame and feels, because of its production, like it's slipping under the surface of water. The organ prevails but there's an acoustic 12-string solo that's a mind blower for its rootedness in bluesy raga rock. One can hear the influence of both Can and Donovan in "Svart Är Himlen," but only for a moment, as those big pulsing drums open onto a majestic, if distant, terrain of a choir, organ and guitar throb playing in a pronounced, march-like tempo before the Can riff comes back to alter its surface once again. The middle of Jimi Hendrix's "Third Stone from the Sun" makes an appearance in the opening moments of "Familj" before the hands of ELP wind their way in and displace it and the beautiful harmony vocals of the Jefferson Airplane begin to play an open-ended, cloudy mix that touches on jazz, ELP, and even the Move before extracting itself to become an indie rock psychedelic anthem. Everything on Tio Bitar reaches beyond itself into some unknown, where the lines between Ejstes' influences cease to matter because what one is hearing is most assuredly Dungen's own brew that is at once ambitious and intimidating, yet so utterly dreamlike it floats by even as it draws you into its complex, convoluted, and indulgent center. Despite the hordes mining the past for clues, Ejstes has found all he needs and has found a way to create something utterly strange and beautiful with them, leaving his own signature firmly planted on the finished product. Tio Bitar is Dungen's most realized album yet and should resonate with anyone who likes rock music at all. This is psychedelia in 2007, defined, articulated and offered in an array of rainbow colors that bleed into a swath of great rock power and beauty.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek