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Mungolian Jetset – Mungodelics

Mungolian Jetset’s Pal Nyhus, aka DJ Strangefruit, is one of the unsung heroes of Norwegian electronic music. While nowhere near as celebrated as compatriots Hans-Peter Lindstrom, Prins Thomas and “Todd” Terje Olsen, he’s been the glue that’s held the Oslo disco scene together for the best part of a decade. Originally a DJ on Norwegian national broadcaster NRK – he hosted Norway’s equivalent to Pete Tong’s Essential Selection – he broke free of the shackles some years back and has progressively got odder ever since. No trip to Oslo is complete without an audience with the elder statesman of Norwegian electronic music; it’s a thrillingly debauched experience.

Nyhus’ real genius is his eccentric and esoteric approach to music. Long before the “Scandolearic” disco explosion of the late 2000s, Nyhus spent his time collaborating with leading jazz musicians and joining the dots between DJing and live performance. Then, he teamed up with studio don Knut Saevik to form Mungolian Jetset. Initially, the duo made curious, off-the-wall electronica. Then, as cosmic disco began to take hold in Oslo, they made the leap to the dancefloor. Since then, they’ve not looked back, delivering a string of thrilling remixes and quirkly albums that join the dots between a myriad of musical styles. Nyhus and Saevik have also developed a penchant for dressing up in very strange outfits. Given that Nyhus readily admits that art-pop pranksters the KLF are a huge influence, it’s perhaps not that surprising; they rather enjoyed wearing silly outfits, too.

The “Mungs” major breakthrough was 2009’s We Gave It All Away, Now We’re Taking It All Back, an expansive album that collected together the best of their brilliant remixes and collaborations (including that now infamous Bob Marley cover, the nightmarish hip-hop-goes-psychedelic oddness of “Could You Be Loved”). They followed that up with last year’s Schlungs, their second full-length proper (the first slipped out on Jazzland in 2006). As gloriously kaleidoscopic as you’d expect, it thrillingly veered from atmospheric, bleep-influenced darkness to camp super-disco in the blink of an eye. It was, all told, quite bonkers. For Mungodelics, their latest full length, they’ve returned to the format of their breakthrough 2009 set. That means a string of collaborations (Balearic types Athana, Norwegian pop singer Unni and electronica/jazz fusionists Jaga Jazzist all feature), a handfil of strange new pseudonyms (Knights of Jumungus anyone?) and the occasional original production. Really, though, it could be a brand new Mungolian Jetset album proper; it doesn’t sound like anything else.

Fittingly, Mungoldelics starts with a bang. Opener “Toccato”, a hook-up with the aforementioned Jaga Jazzist, starts off sounding like a cosmic disco take on Steve Reich’s Music For 18 Musicians, before morphing into a thrillingly scandolearic fusion of spinetingling marimba melodies and trippy, darkroom electronics. “Smells Like Gasoline” is, if anything, even better. Formidably hypnotic and aimed squarely at the dancefloor, it magnificently tiptoes that fine line between melodic nu-disco greatness and overblown pomposity. It’s reminiscent in some ways of Lindstrom’s grandiose Where You Go, I Go Too, but with greater use of shuffling disco percussion. The stargazing synth melodies are particularly memorable. There’s a slight pause for air in the form of the Athana collaboration “Mung’s Picazzo” – a slo-mo stumble through off-kilter, darkroom Balearica – but Nyhus and Saevik are soon back in dancefloor pastures. It’s a wise move; while their more downtempo efforts are never less than solid, they don’t sparkle and excite in the same way as their more uptempo compositions do.

The album’s final three tunes certainly sparkle. There’s a touch of cock rock pomposity – admittedly with a cosmic disco pulse – in the shape of “People On Strong Stuff”, before we’re finally sent into orbit with the mesmerising “Ghost In The Machine”. Simultaneously intense and breezily loose, it works its way to a thrilling crescendo via breathless percussion, bassbin-busting low-end frequencies and the zaniest of guitar lines. Though relatively short by their usual epic standards at a little over seven minutes, it sounds like another one of their trademark cosmic disco rock operas.

Then there’s closer “The Dark Incal”. Built on the intoxicating foundations of dark tropical disco percussion, it snakes its way to a thrilling climax via the subtle introduction of all manner of cosmic elements. Marimbas? Check. Winding synth melodies? Check. Vintage analogue noises? Check and check. By the time the main melody line morphs into a breathless, hands-aloft sprint to the finish line, you’ll be losing your mind. Listen on the bus and you might get a few funny looks – gurning on public transport has always been frowned upon. Mungodelics doesn’t have the “wow” factor that was such a feature of We Gave It All Away, Now We’re Taking It All Back, or even the inspired lunacy of Schlungs. But it’s still a fine set: even when they’re not at the top of their game, Mungolian Jetset are still miles ahead of everyone else.

Matt Anniss


1. Mungolian Jetset presents Jaga Jazzist vs Knights Of Jumungus – “Toccata”
2. Mungolian Jetset vs Unni Wilhelmsen – “Revolving Door”
3. Smells Like Gasoline
4. Mungolian Jetset vs Athana – “Mung’s Picazzo”
5. Mush In the Bush
6. People On Strong Stuff
7. Mungolian Jetset presents The Sjukt – “Ghost In The Machine”
8. Mungolian Jetset presents Knights Of Jumungus – “The Dark Incal”