The overwhelming acclaim accorded to Dungen’s Ta Det Lugnt was baffling. Sure, Dungen main man Gustav Ejstes achieved a pleasant enough mix of exploratory psychedelia, 1969 edition, and nascent prog under challenging one-man band conditions, but once you got past the impressiveness of its construction there wasn’t much to savor. Its successor Tio Bitar was much better, even if the theft that went into its creation was much more obvious. Even though you could name the 13th Floor Elevators, Cream and Jimi Hendrix cuts they nicked, they were pretty sharp tunes, and the playing more closely approximated the feel of a live band even though Ejstes still played nearly everything besides Reine Fiske’s orgasmic fuzz-tone guitar leads.
4 spares us the overt quotes and takes the group dynamic a bit farther; Ejstes confines himself to keyboards, leaving the guitar, bass and drums to his back-up combo. But that doesn’t make that much of a difference since Ejstes’s distinct recording style decisively overrides any hints of player-to-player exchange. He juxtaposes lovingly recreated vintage tones – Electric Prunes guitars, Soft Machine keys — with a compressed, separated and bass-boosted production style that is decidedly post-millennial. Fiske still makes his mark; his hair-whipping riffs on “Samtidigt 1” and the air-cleaving feedback that opens “Finns det någon möjlighet” are amongst the record’s most satisfying moments.
But it’s still very much the bandleader’s show, and now that he’s conducting mostly from the piano rather than playing every instrument, parts of 4 stray in a more chord-heavy, soft-rock direction. The intro to “Ingenting är sig likt” would better serve the Association or Dionne Warwick than some freaky flag-waver, and the flute-piano unison that punctuates “Minda damer och fasaner”’s chugging bass figures puts a great big daisy in the song’s rifle barrel. Even the more urgent moments feel more lush; the tight orchestration on the instrumental “Fredag” sounds like some ‘70s cop-show theme re-tooled for frosty Swedish back roads instead of some California highway. And speaking of Swedish, that’s still the only language passing from Ejstes’ lips onto the tape. On 4, he tinkers a bit with the trim, options and manufacturing methods, but leaves Dungen’s styling fundamentally unchanged.