MUSIC REVIEWS: Dungen, Green Memories, Stephen John Kalinich, Steve Lawler
Dungen, roughly pronounced “DOONG-un,” is a Stockholm-based band that prides itself for its combination of the finer points of psychedelic rock, progressive, indie, classic rock, and Swedish folk music. Dungen’s latest release titled 4 is a little pill of music that slow-releases cathartic melodies into the musical vein. The band’s frontman, Gustav Ejstes, can be credited for 4‘s palatable compositions as well as the lead vocals. Omnipresent in Dungen’s work, Ejstes is also behind most of the instruments on recordings despite the fact that Dungen plays as a live four-piece. Is this a case of “if you want something done right, do it yourself?” Perhaps so, however there is little evidence to deem Ejstes’s micromanagement as ‘poorly spent.’ While the entire album is in Swedish, the instrumentals speak the universal language of Rock and Roll. “Fredag” expertly combines the light sound of a piano with the edge of a head-tripping guitar with what sounds like a shuck-and-jiving xylophone. Whatever the combination, Ejstes and his band have put together a fine album worthy of any day-tripper. The only shame of the album is that it’s not long enough to accommodate the stamina of what the band really is: a Swedish jam band.
Sound designer Shahrokh Yadegari, an intellectual composer with a Ph.D. in music and a Master’s degree in Media Arts and Technology, and took on a pair of fellow Iranian-American collaborators in order to create an aural portrait inspired by late Persian poetess Forough Farrokhzad’s “I Pity the Garden.” Yadegari compliments Keyavash Nourai’s tense, scraping violin and Azam Ali’s ethereal voice with a self-invented instrument/computer program called Lila, which manipulates acoustic sounds into a dense weave of textures. The resulting compositions, like the opening soundscape “Vidya,” occasionally recall for the lay Western listener ambient recordings like Brian Eno’s Music for Airports and that Boards of Canada song used in David Firth’s “Salad Fingers” flash animations. At other moments, the digitally manipulated frenzy of string sounds and soaring vocals are entirely insular.
Yadegari’s source material was chosen due to its early foresight into impending environmental devastation and call for humans to reconsider their relationship with the natural world. The concept, and its result, is a fascinating exploration of not only the overlapping of Western and Middle Eastern musical modes, but the synthesis of electronic and organic sonic elements.
In a single night in August 1969, poet Stephen John Kalinich got together at Brian Wilson’s house (yes that Brian Wilson) and recorded A World Of Peace Must Come.
Kalinich had already contributed songs to a Beach Boy’s album and Wilson was known to associate with a wide variety of artists on the CA scene, so Wilson producing this collection of 13 songs comes as little surprise. Of the ‘tunes’ here, most bemoan the state of the world with occasional deep pleas to god, like the sprawling “I am Waiting/Birth Of God.” Personally, I like the tracks that have some light instrumental backing; Kalinich’s voice isn’t truly the best to deliver some of the longer works (sorry, but it’s true, he has a slight lisp that can get tiring when it’s all you hear in a tune). Medieval flavored tries like “Lonely Man” and “Walk Alone With Love” are probably the best. “If You Knew” has a really cool percussion backing, almost a Middle-east flavor with what might be Kalinich’s best poetry and in “Be Still” we get the added aural treat of hearing Kalinich talking with Brian Wilson, a real moment-in-time little snippet of studio chit-chat.
The closest we get to any real Beach Boy’s moment-and when we really know Brian Wilson is behind A World Of Peace Must Come-is on the title track; all the various voices and harmonies of this one make it a nice Beach Boy-like opening.
A World Of Peace Must Come is not going to be hitting the top 40, most downloaded on iTunes anytime soon, but it’s a nice piece of history.
Viva Toronto is a two disc compilation hosted by house music producer and DJ, Steve Lawler, featuring several artists including Miss Fitz, Mathew Jonson, Alex Tepper and Joel Mull. Extremely airy and not so big when it comes to overall sound, “Viva Toronto” could possibly be the most enjoyable yet minimalist house production to date. Amongst almost 30 tracks, an element ties each song to the next. Nina Simone-esque vocals lift up Miss Fitz’s sunny “Drifting On,” that continue into Nivek Tsoy’s sci-fi “Time & Space.” Both discs, one titled “Inside,” the other, “Outside,” barely rise to any element of surprise and that is its own beauty. “Viva Toronto” simply unfolds as a tapestry of ambient glides consisting of small-minded synthesizers, beat machines, soft padded kick drums and flighty keyboard. There is the occasional enticing wind of club-style bass riffs over the sound of water drops and sunken echoing snare taps. The absence of a more boastful sound allows the songs to expand and softly complement late night solitude or even a club atmosphere.