Dungen and Woods are a natural fit.
Every April, Brooklyn record label Mexican Summer brews up an intoxicating brew of mixed media art in the seemingly sleepy town of Marfa, Texas. With so many young artists set on indebting themselves to the major city grind, it’s easy to forget that some of the most interesting art is born out of isolation on the fringe of the fringe. Located in the far west of Texas’ Trans-Pecos desert, Marfa’s population is estimated to be a little under 18,000 people overall. However, ever since artist Donald Judd bought two hangers and declared the desert to be the home of some of his permanent installations in the ‘70s, it has attracted artists looking for a lot of space and little else.
In collaboration with Ballroom Marfa, a non-profit art space whose strikingly simple exterior mirrors Judd’s passion for minimalism, Mexican Summer has been putting on the Marfa Myths music, arts and film festival since 2014. This year’s music lineup boast a mixture of some of music’s unsung heroes (Suzanne Ciani, Wire) and forward thinking up and comers (Circuit Des Yeux, Drugdealer), though perhaps its most compelling element is its musicians in residence collaboration program — a rare chance to give like-minded artists both free reign to improvise and explore sounds and textures and a welcoming audience. Lucky for us then, as Mexican Summer has taken to releasing each collaboration as a celebration of another year of Marfa Myths.
For their third release, Mexican Summer teamed up the rather likely duo of Brooklynite folk heads Woods and Swedish psych rockers Dungen. Having already toured together in 2009, the duo displays a unique chemistry. Unlike the first two volumes of Myths, this selection of seven songs is presented with a more unified approach. Past versions, while compelling in their own right, felt more like simple collaborations — Connan Mockasin and Blood Orange dueting over a slinky beat or Weyes Blood and Ariel Pink swapping styles. Myths 003 finds Jeremy Earl and Jarvis Taveniere of Woods and Gustav Ejstes and Reine Fiske of Dungen seamlessly fold together and induce a vividly hallucinogenic take on Marfa.
For the most part, Myths 003’s mostly relaxed demeanor reflects Marfa’s gentle, artistic vibes.
In “Marfa Sunset,” lazy and eerie vibes abound as high pitched squeals echo away in the background over a lolloping bass and busy xylophones tinkering away. With everything draped in a laid-back ’60s mysticism, “Morning Myth” lazily winds down as harps, piping flutes and a reverb heavy guitar paint a dusty visage.
Dungen and Woods are an excellent match, a quasi-supergroup presenting jazzy psychedelia and sometimes fiery, desert heat induced jams. In “Loop,” stakes run high with a frantic bass fuzzed up and thrashing about over humming guitars that rush along with it. Woods singer Earl takes the lead in “Turn Around,” allowing Gustav’s heaving mellotrons to flow freely across Marfa’s hazy landscape.
“Jag Ville Va Kvar,” featuring Gustav on vocals and a bright chiming piano lead, finds the duo from Woods doing their best rolling, Dungen-esque rhythm that wouldn’t be out of place from 2015 Dungen release, Allas Sak. Meanwhile, “Saint George,” with its tight drums and liquid piano gulps of melody, acts as a showcase for Dungen’s Fiske, one of the most underrated guitarists in modern psych rock. Wah guitars drone on in the background as he teases out sharp jolts of distortion and fuzz that bend and warp around Taveniere’s increasingly chaotic rhythms.
For the most part, Myths 003 is an absorbing listen however, much like its parent festival, will only appeal to a niche audience. Dungen and Woods are a natural fit and their mutual love of warm psychedelia allows them to evoke picturesque visions of Marfa’s minimalist architecture and endless plains of uninhabited desert. With another year of Marfa Myths fast approaching, Myths 003 presents a weighty argument in favor of those isolated vistas.