An electronica duo at heart, Norway’s Mungolian Jetset is certainly an interesting band in ambition, mythology, and execution. Prolific and experimental, their releases are often a hodgepodge of remixes, originals, and other assorted treatments that run the gamut stylistically from “house and disco inspired cheekiness via shameless dabblings with soft rock/westcoast, Balearic, dub and ambient, [and] psychedelia and techno”. If “Imagination is pretty much the key to Mungolian Jetset’s aural ingredients,” then their newest output, Mungodelics, defines them well. Although it can be a quite tedious and repetitive at times, its vision and color definitely warrants attention—at least for a little while.
Fusing their skills into wildly creative mixes, DJ Pål “Strangefruit” Nyhus and producer Knut Sævik are certainly onto something with their collaboration. Similar to the fictional backstories for bands like Parliament and Magma, Mungolian Jetset comes with its own folklore. Nyhus connects the music to “a parallel world of Mungsters, an ancient breed of intergalactic travelers in sound…” In addition, the group is apparently connected to a rich and eccentric history of similarly weird characters and clashes. Of course, none of this matters if their releases aren’t worthwhile, and depending on what you’re looking for, Mungodelics will either frustrate or fascinate you.
Opener “…presents Jaga Jazzist vs. Knights of Jumungus – Toccata” is intriguing immediately—a profound melody (played on bells) overlaps programmed syncopation and various oscillating contributions. It possesses a level of emotion and lusciousness that most music in the genre lacks; to be honest, it sounds similar to something Sufjan Stevens might do if he took LSD and made mixes for popular NY City clubs. Sadly, like just about every other track here, it doesn’t evolve enough to earn its duration (so you’ll probably grow tired of it before you’re supposed to); still, there’s no denying how colorful and intriguing it is at first.
“…vs. Mung’s Picazzo” opens with a profound and beautiful texture as piano and other percussion builds slowly. As it progresses, more elements are added, which eventually lead to a bit of a tribal feeling that includes horns, vocal harmonies, and odd sound effects. “Mush in the Bush” carries over from the previous track and reinterprets some of the same elements in a more clubby way. It’s not as fresh, though. Also, “People on Strong Stuff” is the most straightforward track, as it has the most form and direction. It’s also the only track that has an actual song within it, and the guitar work in the middle is very impressive. Truthfully, it’s a bit reminiscent of Neverending White Lights.
Not everything here is equally listenable, though. “…vs. Unni Wilhelmsen – Revolving Door” is colder and sharper; it feels processed and inauthentic (which is largely due to its ’80s synth sound and vocals). Truthfully, there’s not much to connect to here, and unfortunately, the same could be said for “Smells like Gasoline” (which incorporates a bit of harsh industrial aesthetics to the mix) and “…presents The Sjukt – Ghost in the Machine” (which feels overly aggressive, noisy, and shallow). Although there are plenty of pleasant bits here, there are definitely some ugly ones, too.
In the end, Mungodelics is more remarkable for its chance and experimentation than its accessibility and enjoyment. While the duo should be commended for doing something relatively unique, bold, and extremely creative, these factors don’t always lead to something that’s listenable for very long. The best way to experience this album is in quick bursts by skipping around—you’ll hear all the innovative aspects without experiencing the maddening redundancy and sterilization.