Album reviews: Dungen, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Julianna Barwick

Album reviews: Dungen, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Julianna Barwick

Dungen

Allas Sak (Mexican Summer)

Dungen, meaning “grove,” is a suitably organic tag for this Swedish band, though its prog-and-folk-inflected psychedelia invokes the cerulean as readily as the sylvan—think early-’70s Genesis or Caravan. The band is a classic four-piece, with bandleader/singer Gustav Ejstes sometimes laying aside his guitar in favor of piano, flute or violin; his thoughtful arrangements give Dungen a lean yet bounteous sound. So do his bandmates’ chops—especially guitarist Reine Fiske who shimmers throughout. Lyrics lovers who don’t understand Swedish might feel frustrated, but the focus here is on tasty, concise improv. And as with all Dungen albums, some songs on Allas Sak are straight instrumentals, including highlights “Franks Kaktus” and “Flickor Och Pojkar” (as well as “En Dag Pa Sjön,” the album’s lone misstep). Though not a knockout on the order of 2004’s colossal Ta Det Lugnt, Allas Sak is another fine entry in one of rock’s most consistently satisfying catalogs. Lockn’ might be months away, but on June 8, Dungen fills the Southern with bright and heady vibes.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

Nonagon Infinity (ATO)

In case the band name doesn’t convey it, this fuzzed-out sextet from Melbourne wears its virtuosity lightly. Which isn’t to call them slackers—Nonagon Infinity is the group’s fifth full-length in two years that have also seen steady touring. Similar to Thee Oh Sees, King Giz ably switches fields between krautrock, psychedelia and a punky onslaught. Nonagon Infinity features the latter: It’s tight, cranked and something of a stunt—nine songs that play out in an endless cycle as each flows into the next, and if you’ve adjusted your playback settings, the metallic closer “Road Train” loops seamlessly back into the opening “Robot Stop.” Along the way, there’s a welcome change of pace via the organ-driven mutant boogie of “Mr. Beat,” but the band is relentless throughout, turning even the lopsided 5/4 rhythm of “Wah Wah” into a headbanger. The attack of Nonagon Infinity might not be the best introduction to this fertile band, but it’s a marvel in its own way, and another album is probably right around the corner.

Julianna Barwick

Will (Dead Oceans)

Another sort of headiness comes from Julianna Barwick, the Brooklyn artist who was raised in Louisiana but wafts into the room like a ghost from an English cathedral. She’s drawn comparisons to early Sigur Rós and This Mortal Coil, but those bands sound like ELO next to Barwick. Her mostly wordless vocals float in an amniotic haze of synth strings, muted piano and drony sounds of undetermined origin; listening to Will feels a bit like watching a bedsheet billow and swirl deep beneath the ocean surface. However, the songs have definition within the wash: The retro-futuristic pulse of “Nebula” does indeed invoke the cosmos, while Barwick’s voice suggests a tentative hopefulness on “Heading Home.” “Someway” even flirts with a lyric, though it’s so obscured it feels voyeuristic to try to decipher it. (It’s also one of two songs featuring guest vocalist Thomas Arsenault, whose mawkishness is unwelcome.) Will is another affecting realization of Barwick’s austere but lush aesthetic.—Nick Rubin

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