Dungen's 'Haxan' is a rich musical adventure at the Warhol
March 19, 2017 11:04 AM
Swedish band Dungen.
“The Adventures of Prince Achmed” on the screen at the Warhol Saturday night.
By Scott Mervis / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Should you find yourself in the market for a group to score your animated adventure film, do put Dungen near the top of the list.
The psych/prog band from Stockholm, Sweden, took fans at the Andy Warhol Museum on an amazing journey Saturday night through a netherworld of princes, sorcerers and demons, performing “Haxan” (“The Witch”), its new live score to the world’s oldest surviving animated feature film.
German filmmaker Lotte Reiniger created “The Adventures of Prince Achmed” in 1926 using silhouette animation inspired by Wayang shadow puppets and color tinting.
Over its 90 years, a number of orchestras and groups have performed live scores for the film, including a recent one by New York surf-rockers Morricone Youth. As part of its Sounds of Silence project, Cinematheque at the Swedish Film Institute commissioned Dungen in 2012 for what would be the group’s first film score and first instrumental album.
Dungen, which debuted in 2001 and came to light with 2004’s widely acclaimed “Ta Det Lugnt,” previously played Pittsburgh once, at CMU in 2005. This time, the four members were seated in the dark, split between opposites sides of the screen.
The 65-minute “The Adventures of Prince Achmed” would be hypnotic viewing even in silence. Dungen’s soundtrack had a sumptuous range from quiet, organ-drenched ambience for its placid moments to full-on noise-rock freak-out with distorted guitar for its scenes of violent battles among monsters and men. It beautifully fused psychedelic and progressive rock, with elements of jazz and even metal, and strong hints of Procol Harum and early Genesis. Some of the finest playing was the supple-to-thunderous work of drummer Johan Holmegard.
After a cacophonous climax on “Andamas Krig,” the frightening adventures of Prince Achmed, Aladdin and Peri Banu came to a tranquil ending and then a standing ovation in the sold-out Warhol theater. Dungen lingered a little awkwardly on the stage as if there might an encore with a few of the band’s “hits,” but that was not to be. The Warhol will need to have them back another time for that.
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