If you've heard anything about these psychedelic Norwegian disco oddballs, you've probably heard that their music is an eclectic mixing pot of influences. Pop sensibilities, funk, postrock, and '70s cop show soundtracks rear their heads at different times throughout We Gave It All Away, Now We Are Taking It Back. However, the flavour of We Gave It can (very roughly) be described as disco, filled largely (more or less) with Asian/world music instrumentals and keys, and progressive rock structures.
When I realised the extent to which the latter point was explored on We Gave It, I was one excited guy. As a fairly obsessive prog fan, and after years of listening to albums like Dark Side of the Moon, there's nothing like listening to an album that takes you on a journey: When it takes you up, teaches you a few lessons and then leaves you with a sense of clarity and deeper fulfillment. We Gave It does just that—it's excellently sequenced and mixed into two halves, although with the way the tracks sometimes carry into each other, or are sometimes joined by little ambient afterthoughts, it bridges the gap between a mix album and a concept album, and it's sometimes easy to forget that it was cobbled together from a variety of sources; older remixes, and newer solo material, as well as some collaborations.
The album opens with a gong, record crackle and strange readings in an African (?) language, and then it launches into "Creepy," which sets the scene for the rest of the first disc. With chaotic percussion, grandiose moments and frequent changes in motion, the track meanders through different sections, with little to hold them together. They've got a 303 as well, which they use generously, but avoid any sign of cliché. After settling into a disco groove (the only thing that's standard throughout the album, to its slight detriment), the halfway point comes after leaving us on a sweet note with a rather "Any Colour You Like" meets Supertramp number, and the afterthought "Sometimes it pays to keep your eyes closed," along with a comical falsetto shriek to prevent the listener from taking them too seriously. As if they needed it.
The second disc is more accessible, reaching the accessibility and euphoria that the first half was avoiding. Almost reaching, that is—"Ocean 0304" shows the way they always, in a self-conscious manner, stay at least a shade away from full-on mainstream mode. As is the case with many experimental acts, Mungolian Jet Set show a great talent for melody when they simply let the emotion shine through. This is shown most clearly near the end, in "Original Highway Delight"; it has more energy, seriousness and funk than the rest of the proceedings, it's peak time disco material. But especially in "Glitches N Bugs," which is rich, lush and lovely. "It's OK, glitches and bugs can take the pressure, can take the blame" is the wisdom offered, and after the album finishes with a Lamb Lies Down-style positive, all's-well feeling and another final thought, the comic touch reminds us not to think too much about it all. Sublime.
CD1: We Gave It All Away...
01. Mungolian Jetset - Y Lenotokone Mungo
02. Mungolian Jetset - Creepy
03. Pizzy Yelliot vs. Mungolian Jetset - Could You Be Loved
04. Mungolian Jetset - Madre Epics Part 2
05. Mari Boine vs. Mungolian Jetset - It Ain't Necessarily Evil
06. Ronny and Renzo vs. Mungolian Jetset - Big Smack and Flies (Medievel Knievel Mix)
07. Lindstrøm vs. Mungolian Jetset - A Blast of Loser (9406 Version)
08. Mungolian Jetset's 16th Rebels of Mung feat. Lindstrøm and Dominique Leone - Clairevoyage
CD 2: Now We Are Taking It Back
01. Mungolian Jetset - Whatever Keeps Your Daisies n Glory
02. Athana vs. Mungolian Jetset - Ocean 0304 (Cruisin With The Henleys Mix)
03. Eivind Aarseth vs. Mungolian Jetset - Murky Lambada
04. Ost & Kjex vs. Mungolian Jetset - Milano Model (A Thrilling Mungophony in Two Parts)
05. Nils Petter Molvær vs. Mungolian Jetset - Darker (Metro Mix)
06. LSB vs. Mungolian Jetset - Original Highway Delight (Miami Camp Mix)
07. The Shortwave Set vs. Mungolian Jetset - Glitches n Bugs (Awaiian Spaces Version AM)
08. They Came From The Stars vs. Mungolian Jetset - Moon Song (The Gospel According To Mung) (2012 Live @ The Hacienda Version)