Swedish singer-songwriter Nicolai Dunger debuted with two albums of
surreal songs, that sound influenced by
Tim Buckley and
Songs Wearing Clothes (Telegram, 1996) and
especially Eventide (Atrium, 1997), boasting neoclassical arrangements.
His Van Morrison-ian voice blossomed on the more regular songs of
This Cloud is Learning (Dolores, 1999 - Overcoat, 2005).
A mixed blessing, the songs are rarely capable of capitalizing on his
(If I Were A Little Star, Independence, Songbegging).
Dunger persevered in the original underground project with Blind Blemished Blues (Hot Stuff, 2000), the first part of a trilogy completed by A Dress Book (Hot Stuff, 2001) and Sweat Her Kiss (Hot Stuff, 2002).
In the meantime, Dunger the mainstream singer delivered
Soul Rush (Dolores, 2001),
enhanced with lavish arrangements of strings, horns, piano and percussion
(mostly by the Esbjorn Svensson Trio).
This album achieved the fusion of soul, jazz and rock that Dunger had been
looking for, while retaining a more or less traditional song format
most of the time
(I'd Rather Die, All the Love Days and Tears, Soul Rush,
Dr Zhivago's Train, Something New).
The final triptych of the
six-minute Ballad Of A Relationship, the
seven-minute Where Harmony Is Heard and the
six-minute closer Pass The Chains
upped the ante, introducing a new master of introversion.
Far less ambitious, Tranquil Isolation (Dolores, 2002 - Overcoat, 2003)
wasted the intuitions of its predecessor in a rather trivial alt-country format,
with the notable exception of the
six-minute Last Night I Dreamt of Mississippi.
Just like Tranquil Isolation, something is missing from
Here's My Song You Can Have It (Universal International, 2004 - Zoe, 2006),
compared with the achievements of Dunger's early career, as if he had suddenly
become afraid of his emotions and his musical intuitions.
Backed by Mercury Rev, the album is mostly devoted to shorter songs
(the piano-driven Country Lane,
the horns-infected Way Up High,
the lyrical Wild White Horses)
except for the eight-minute The Year of the Love and Hurt Cycle.
The album continued to reduce his ambitions while emphasizing his emotions in a
way that, willingly or unwillingly, resembled the path followed by Van Morrison.
Nicolai Dunger's experimental alter-ego A Taste Of Ra delivered two confused
A Taste Of Ra (2005) and
II (2006), but then converged on
Van Morrison's blues-jazz-folk fusion for small chamber ensemble with the
six-movement suite Morning Of My Life (2007).
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