Friday, 10 December 2010

Dungen / Wolf People / Jim Molyneux – Islington Academy, 16 November 2010

Jim Molyneux plays to an exceedingly sparse crowd, but few though we are, we appreciate the way his fingers fly over his accordion. Molyneux plays folk songs old, new and Richard Thompson, and is joined at points by chums on violin, thumpy cajón/cuban box drum thingy and for one song, some excellent combined violin playing/clog dancing.

Prog – eww! what? Growing up in the 80s with my musical landscape dictated by the year zero-ness of punk, I avoided prog and all that crazy hippy shit for a v. long time. Psych was okay, but prog? long old rambling guitar solos, stuff about elves and giants? Jeez! Now though, I have accepted prog into my life. Dungen have probably contributed a lot to my appreciation of this long-time maligned form. And Wolf People have helped me see the light too. I am exceedingly pleased that they are playing tonight as I have been digging their fuggily storming LP 'Steeple' a fair old bit. They have lyrics about raising a glass to sulphur skies, and putting arms around the weather. They have heavy guitars with great funky bits, such as the evil truckin’, whole lotta lovin’ ‘One By One From Dorney Reach’. They sound like Yes, Focus and Black Sabbath. When they play ‘Silbury Sands’ people cannot stop themselves head-banging a bit, because it sounds immense and well rockin’. A large, be-stetsoned man air-guitars like a mental and we know what he means.

Dungen are flat-out amazing, an act of wonderment, and it’s a massive mystery why this gig isn’t packed to the gunwales. Still, the crowd is eager and fanatical, and the hour-long set speeds by.

Singer / main man Gustav Ejstes twists between sitting centre-stage at the piano, piping wiggily on a flute and jumping up to freak out mightily with a tambourine. Hair bear bunch bass player Mattias hunches over his guitar battling a few amp problems (Wolf People shuffle on discreetly with their amp as a replacement) whilst on the other side of the stage guitarist Reine creates eerie and elegant sounds. The set leans on the jazz-tinged skyscape of latest LP ‘Skit I Allt’.

Dungen sound luminous. Their songs wheel and slide, rhythms glancing and changing, underpinned by Johan Holmegard’s furious, complicated drumming. It’s a pleasure to behold a band playing so skilfully together, and not in a widdly guitar hero way - during the fast bits they skim around each other like swallows on a summer evening. This isn't difficult, chin-rubbing music, this is a band letting their creativity fly whilst keeping a tight hold on the tunes. Sometimes they’re languorous, floating through the skies, sometimes they crunch and fuzz, like on old fave ‘Panda’. The high points (and there are LOADS) are firework displays and cloud bursts. Dazzling.

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