Rikard Sjöblom is a Swedish multi-instrumentalist who has been very busy in the last two decades releasing a total of twenty one albums. Rikard Sjöblom exists. Gungflies do not exist but fortunately Sjöblom has taken it upon himself to create one. Alone Together is the twenty second release in his catalogue. A progressive rock odyssey, it tackles the feeling of “being sick of the sugar-coated reality of social media where we think everyone else is living fuller and happier lives than ourselves just because they happen to post a happy picture whenever they do something”. At least that’s the intent according to the band.
Together with brothers Petter (Drums) and Rasmus Diamant (Bass) they have produced something really special. They have not given into the temptation to add dozens of layers into the mix but instead allow each instrument to have its own voice, it’s own space and a very clear purpose.
The album opens with Traveler, which might be daunting to some listeners with its length being in excess of thirteen minutes, but I assure you it is worth the investment of your time. Lyrically it resonates with me in a similar way to WISHBONE ASH and PORCUPINE TREE. The words twist and turn along pleasant melodies between morphing into something new to keep the listener engaged. As an example take these lyrics:
“I became a traveller,
And found it hard to leave,
My wings were never broken,
it was always up to me.
So I became a traveller,
even though I hate to go.
I thought that I was trapped here,
But how was I to know?
That I was always free,
Perhaps it has hit me at the right moment or perhaps it resonates with something deeper? The want, the need for change and the apprehension to enact it that we all tend to feel.
Happy Somewhere In Between took me a moment to realise how much it sounds like it could have been off FREAK KITCHEN’s Land of the Freaks. When I did have this revelation, I had to go and check that Sjöblom hadn’t actually performed vocals on that album. But with its similar irreverent temperament and eccentric but enigmatic style I think this might be my favourite song on the album.
From Afar has more in common with a country or folk song than a traditional prog rock offering. A winding acoustic guitar and a very drawn out almost cowboy feel to the vocals. It is so different to the other tracks and yet it serves an important purpose, giving breathing space to the listener. The album is filled with these captivating little breaks, Clean as a Whistle sees a mellow piano section midway through that takes on an easy jazz like feel.
Overall this is a really fun and interesting ride, you can see inspiration from prog rock legends old and contemporary. If you are new to the genre and the idea of fifteen minute songs does not scare you off then you could have a far worse entry point. As someone who has enjoyed the realm in which this album inhabits for quite some time it has inspired me to go and look into Sjöblom’s past work.
Words: Jacob McCrone
Alone Together is out now.
Find RIKARD SJÖBLOM’S GUNGFLY on Facebook.