What another cracking year for music in the Prog world.
Am I still able to say that –‘ Prog’? Some people are too cool to want to associate themselves with it.
And yet there have been some fine releases in 2017 that are proudly ‘Prog’, with a capital ‘P’.
Not least the excellent ‘From Silence to Somewhere’ from Wobbler and the Tangent’s ‘The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery’. I know that there will be many lists out there soon enough- ‘My favourite top 10 of the year’ and ‘here’s a picture of all my vinyl’, posts are imminent across the web and social media.
To that end I have really narrowed the best of the year to one release.. and it really is one of the most outstanding albums in a rich and varied career to date.
It’s no secret that last year there was much gnashing of teeth (mine were gnashed) and lamentation at the announcement that Beardfish were disbanding, in fact there is a little torch still lit in a hope that someday they will reform.
However on the strength of ‘On her Journey to the Sun’ – Rikard Sjöblom has stepped out of the shadow of his former band and produced a triumphant body of work that highlights his impressive skills and craftsmanship, both in composition and performance.
It would be remiss of me to not refer to the outlet that Sjöblom worked under for this release. Using the Gungfly project, his mission statement for the style of music was laid out. Previous Gungly albums have been eclectic, self-reflecting and unafraid of what genre they are associated with. In a break from some of this though, Sjöblom has made an album that captures the spirit of prog with a fresh, vitality that even the diehards that renounce prog and all its perceived crustiness, would struggle to deny.
Don’t just take my word for it, critically the mainstream press in the UK – namely the Guardian, recognised the album as one of their best for 2017 and placed it alongside the likes of Richard Dawson, Drake and Paramore. What they thought of it is the reason it stands out. On her Journey to the sun may be prog but it has a pop sensibility about it. See Steven Wilson also this year for attempting this. But rather than follow Wilson’s plan to emulate his heroes of Talk Talk and Gabriel, Sjöblom keeps them more subtle in the delivery. The fantastic Polymixia combines the level of epic complexity you would expect from Sjoblom, and mixes it skilfully with a funk groove-clavi section that comes straight out of classic Stevie Wonder
What is joyful about the album is the superb voice of Sjöblom. His delicate ethereal falsetto combines with passionate soulfulness and sometimes a grittiness that packs a punch. Adding to this is the weirdly bonkers, sometimes trippy vibe that inhabits this album as it does a lot of his work, especially the Beardfish prime albums. It’s this level of sophistication that sets this above his peers and keeps the album spinning on and on…