CAMBRIDGE — It’s not just any rock musician who earns cheers for pulling out a flute. But Gustav Ejstes, the mastermind behind Swedish psychedelic rock band Dungen, has got something special going on. Downstairs at the Middle East Thursday night, he held a good-size crowd rapt during an hourlong set, sung entirely in Swedish, that blended gnarled guitar rock with the kind of highly produced ’70s lounge pop an audience of modern rock aficionados might be expected to snub.
But the conviction with which Ejstes and his three-piece band attacked their instruments morphed these elements into something fresh and exciting. The night’s richly textured drama was established when the band took the darkened stage to the sound of dreamy ambient music and chirping birds.
As it launched into the enormous bass line, funk-flavored drums, and light rock melody of the title track of its breakout US release, ”Ta Det Lugnt,” Dungen musical exuberance was reminiscent of late ’60s rock jams. Throughout the night, Ejstes was a whirlwind of whipping hair, shaking shoulders, and flashing tambourine. He played flute, guitar, and keyboards, but more often, he simply danced as if possessed.
Songs varied from the moody, musical theater vibe of ”Bortglomd,” to the battlefield intensity of new song ”Damer & Fasanen,” which alternated elegant flute with squalls of guitar. Fans applauded the jaunty, harmony-laced rocker ”Festival,” as if it were an old favorite and seemed charmed by the band’s jovial English banter.
The band’s tour companion, singer/songwriter Mia Doi Todd, didn’t fare so well. She displayed operatic vocals and romantic lyrics during a lovely set, but repeatedly chastised the audience for talking.