Dungen - Haxan (Versions by Prins Thomas)

by Bill Golembeski Rating:10 Release Date:2017-08-25

Record reviewers beware: I once read a review from a writer in Melody Maker who, when given the chance to comment on John and Yoko’s Wedding Album (which included a copy of their marriage certificate and a picture of a piece of wedding cake) pretty much dismissed the proper recordings which was probably a fair thing to do, but he extolled in great minimalistic detail the virtues of the second sides of the two disk set with their “subliminal uneven beats.” As I recall, he raved about the slight tone variations in each side-long electronic “epic.” Unfortunately, he was reviewing a white label pressing which in the old vinyl days had the actual music on one side of the record while the second side contained the engineer’s test signals, or in layman’s terms, pretty much blank grooves. Apparently, the guy really enjoyed the sound of blank-grooved oscillating nothing. And then he really enjoyed the sound of even more nothing on that other flip side.

So I will be careful with this one and just say that while it does at times subscribe to the commandments of ambience and minimalism (both of which I renounce with some religious fervor), it also contains some of the most glorious instrumental proggy space music these ears have heard since the great French band Pulsar played its narcotic notes on albums such as Strands of the Future and Halloween. I love those albums, and I love this one, too.

Now, this record is titled Dungen-Haxan (Versions by Prins Thomas), a Norwegian musician, producer, and DJ, who goes by the name of Thomas Moen Hermansen in real life. But this isn’t his music. It’s the “recorded, remixed, rearranged, chopped, screwed, glued, and partially reproduced” ‘Version’ of the band Dungen’s instrumental album Haxan (more about that later) which also is a new soundtrack Lotte Reiniger’s 1926 The Adventures of Prince Achmed, the oldest surviving full length animated silhouetted film (more about that later, too).

Prins Thomas is certain to point out that “this is Not a ‘Dungen’ album, but more like an exploration of the raw material, in some places using a single sound or two to construct something new…” What Prins has done is taken the music, removed much of the guitar-flute heavy workouts, slowly expanded the breath of the sound, layered various melodies, and highlighted the deep beauty of Dungen’s original Haxan album. Despite some advance comments, it’s not “disco, boogie, or funk.” And no, the songs are not in the same order as the original. I suppose it’s similar to what George Martin and his son Giles did while creating the musical Beatles collage Love. It should be noted that while Cirque de Soleil performed to the backdrop of The Beatles soundtrack, they have never, to the best of my knowledge, choreographed a show to the music of the Swedish retro, prog-pysch, and really cool band Dungen.

I would like to suggest both the original and this ‘Version’ of the album may well appeal to fans of the seminal band Jade Warrior during their Island instrumental period and the non-vocal bits from their Vertigo recordings.

By the way, in the original Adventures of Prince Achmed, the story line tells of a sorcerer who makes a magical flying horse. He wants to swap the horse to King Caliph for his beautiful daughter Dinarsade. Caliph says, “No.” Then somehow, Prince Achmed (who is the hero of the story) gets hold of this magical horse and tries to fly it. He then lands the beast smack dab in the midst of several attractive maidens. Achmed, because he is a hero, manages to quell his passions and fly off to where Pari Banu is bathing. He steals her flying feather costume from her, and then gives it back. So she falls in love with him. By the way (again), Pari Banu is the beautiful ruler of the land of Wak Wak.

Just so you know, this album is also somewhat similar to the slow paced Pink Floyd cosmic excursions such as “Saucerful of Secrets” or “Echoes.” This is deep space rock music. But thankfully, it never traverses any wormhole to be engulfed in the realm of Tangerine Dream or Klaus Schulze.

Meanwhile, that sorcerer, the guy who made the magical horse in the first place, has been in prison because he wouldn’t swap that horse for anything other than fair Dinarsade, who by the way is the sister of our hero Achmed. Then that sorcerer escapes by changing himself into bat.

Now the story gets murky.

Apparently, some witch (Haxan in Swedish means witch, hence the title of the original album), who just happens to be the sworn enemy of the sorcerer, rescues Achmed (who has somehow been pinned under a big rock). Achmed, with lovely Pari Banu, returns to the gates of Wak Wak. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Aladdin (Yeah, the guy with the famous lamp) shows up, and he is fighting a monster. Achmed lends a helping hand, as heroes do, and kills the monster. Then there is the necessary flashback which details the history of Aladdin’s lamp, which is a bit like Bilbo Baggins finding the ring in Tolkien’s epic saga. And, in the end, the witch has the lamp, kills the sorcerer, saves Pari Banu from certain death, destroys a hydra, gets an album named after her, and sets the stage for a happy ending in which Aladdin marries the fair Dinarsade; and our hero Achmed has won the eternal love of Pari Banu, who still, apparently, has that magical flying feather costume.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: All of this is like the plot of a progressive rock concept album that was rejected because it sadly lacked the necessary convolution in its story line.

While that may be true, I will simply suggest all of the following:

First, watch the original Adventures of Prince Achmed, a “silhouteen film” and enjoy the fruits of humanity’s often forgotten imaginative bounty.

Then, listen to Dungen’s album Haxan which at times manages to conjure vintage mellotron King Crimson and rock the roll out of the dark matter out in several universes with tunes like “Wak Wak’s portar” and “Andarnas Krig” which are not on the new “Version.” This is a great instrumental prog rock album.

Finally, listen to Prins Thomas’ “recorded, remixed, rearranged, chopped, screwed, glued, and partially reproduced” ‘Version’ of the album. This is a great instrumental space rock album.

I don’t know, but all of this somehow allowed me to claim membership in this club called the human race. That’s not always an easy thing to do these days. So full points and many thanks to all of artists involved, and, if Cirque de Soleil ever choreographs a show to fit the saga of Prince Achmed as witnessed through the music of Dungen and Prins Thomas, get ready for a wonderful show. Trust me. There will be no blank grooving oscilations that night for those in the house to hear.

 

 

  

 

Overall Rating (1)

5 out of 5 stars
  • Jon Burke

    Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    Bill,

    Excellent review! As a result I plan to listen to this today. I'd never heard that story re: Wedding Album but it seems like a fair assessment from my experience with that record. Similar to the way exactly one half of Double Fantasy is a singular type of shit.