Häxan is Dungen’s eighth album, but their first wholly instrumental set. It evolved from the Stockholm quartet’s score for Lotte Reiniger’s 1926 silent animated film The Adventures of Prince Achmed, and takes its title – the Swedish for “witch” – from one of the characters.
Their psychedelic jazz-rock evokes 70s Italian giallo horror movies, or perhaps Popol Vuh’s soundtracks for Werner Herzog. There are many beautiful tracks, such as the haunting Peri Banu Vid Sjön, or the creepy Kalifen, whose broad organ chords carry a whiff of Procol Harum. There are disorienting moments too, such as Wak-Wak’s Portar, which seesaws across the stereo, or the title track, which begins with looming shapes before dissolving into a lysergic mist.
Often their prettiest melodies are sometimes only glimpsed, such as on the 30-seconds-long Den Fattige Aladdin, but it’s enough to give them space for more challenging pieces, such as the improvised freakout Andarnas Krig.
Drummer Johan Holmegard is fabulous throughout, propelling Jakten Genom Skogen forward with a cymbal-heavy gallop while strings swoon above.