Somewhere a year or so after the release of their excellent Ta Det Lugnt, I lost a bit of my interest with Dungen. When I heard their recent Tio Bitar, I could recognize it as another solid piece of songcraft, but with the initial excitement of discovering the group for the first time, it played out largely like a retread of their second album, leaving me with little interest in listening to it instead of their previous effort. As it turns out, Dungen member and multi-instrumentalist Mattias Gustavsson had been working on his own solo project since 2003 as well, and the eleven track Look!! There Is... is the result. Like his other band, there's a definite retro psych-rock / folk vibe going on here, but Life On Earth is much more open and airy, with a lot less crunch and a lot more pastoral beauty.
Gustavsson sets the stage for what's to come from the first few seconds of the release, as a distorted flute solo slices for about a minute before the rest of the band fills in behind. Once everything is locked-in, the track takes a bongo-laced rhythm and rolls up some acoustic guitar, breathy flute, and two-part harmonized vocals along with everything from chimes to fuzzy guitar jams during five minutes that never stops moving and shifting. "Sell Your Soul To Me" curls some smokey sitar around more heavy strummed acoustic guitar into a heady mix before acid-laced guitar jams blow things open in places.
Just about the time you think the whole album is going to be a study in finely-focused freakouts, along comes the heady "City By The Sea" and gets even more trippy. After a first half of orchestral pop that sounds straight out of the countryside, the second half of the track melts into a haunting, ambient folk chant that features Mia Doi Todd on vocals along with Gustavsson. A slightly more upbeat variation on this theme follows, as wordless vocals, quiet sitars, and swirling backwards instrumentation lilts upward slightly on "Endless Variety."
With tracks like "Bubble Of Magic" and "Barefoot On Tiptoe," it's probably easy to get a sense of the sort of carefree, swirling music that is Life On Earth. At times, it had a tendency to get a bit overindulgent. At nine-minutes "You Are There" feels largely aimless, breaking down into collage, field recording, and improv sections), while "Last Chapter Of Dreaming" is a short swirl of backwards masking that doesn't really add anything to the release. That said, the eleven (or twelve, if you include the thirty-minute hidden track of ringing improv hand percussion) song album is just about perfect for hot summer days.