Saturday 18 October 2014

Epic Instrumentals

The instrumental track has been a regular feature of Dayglo Fishermen albums since the band’s inception.  From soaring symphonies to sparse and often bizarre percussive experiments, the range of styles and moods explored demonstrates the breadth of creativity that has always been present in the band’s music.  And such tracks also reveal the band’s shameless desire to regularly allow self-indulgence to take control.  And there are a select few that can be quite comfortably described as epic.

Love's a Dangerous Language
The history of such epic instrumentals actually starts on the ‘Solo’ albums that Richard Burton and Peter Fothergill, two of the current band members, continued to work on for a while after the formation of Dayglo Fishermen.  They were both keen to compose longer and more experimental tracks which at the time did not fit with the early Dayglo Fishermen ethos.

The first of such instrumental tracks appeared on the 1990 solo album ‘Love’s a Dangerous Language’.  Divided into two parts, ‘Ivory (Part One)’ and ‘Ivory (Part two)’, the first part is slow and smooth with a powerful but sparse drum beat.  A gentle acoustic guitar strum constantly while an ambient and almost oriental-sounding keyboard melody comes and goes.  Part two was recorded entirely live in a single take, which included the drums, played by guest artist Keith Hurst on his Simmons electronic drum kit.  Due to a lack of space in the main studio, the drums were set up in the reception hall, which caused some technical challenges.  Never the less, the track is a remarkably fluid layer of stirring piano, synths, and guitar.

What is still probably the most epic instrumental yet is ‘Betaübung’, which features on ‘Opium’, the final ‘Solo’ album, released in 1994.  At almost sixteen minutes in length the composition is by far the longest recorded.  It begins with a long intro of piano and flute, with strings and trumpet eventually making an appearance.  Percussion doe not arrive until a few minutes later, and then the bass kicks in.  And then it changes completely several minutes later.  A melancholic out-of-time bell distorts the entire feel, closely followed by a harsh layer of bass and guitar that fills the sound space.  And then, totally unexpected, a gentle and quite beautiful piano and wind finale closes the piece.  This is an example of self indulgence at its most potent, and an example of what most bands would never consider doing, or have the courage to do.  It's inspiring stuff.

What the Hell
It was not until Dayglo Fishermen’s sixth album ‘What the Hell’, released in 1992, that such an epic instrumental track made an appearance on one of the band’s albums, and it was probably no coincidence that it was the first album after all the band members, except Richard and Peter, had left.  With the creative process now totally under their control the duo put together a smooth and generally upbeat collection of songs, a refreshing contrast to the harsh and disturbing ‘Magic Organ’ album released just five months earlier. The instrumental track in  question, ‘Shades of the Visionary’, starts with the sound of cars passing by on a highway and then soon develops a dream-like feel, especially during its sparkling middle section, which blends perfectly with the rest of the album’s songs.  It is certainly the ideal antidote to the previous album.

A year later the ‘Animate’ album featured the curiously titled ‘Nag Lisa’.  The intro of the track is dominated by a dense synthesiser melody and pulsing bass that alternates with a lively guitar riff, all of which is played live. Soon the sequenced drums and bass kick in, resulting in an energetic and almost relentless composition, apart from the ethereal middle section with a quiet voice reading astronomical data, that is.  The track finishes the album on a dramatic high.  It is definitely the stand-out piece of music on the album, and arguably from the band’s entire back catalogue. The band were so pleased with ‘Nag Lisa’ that a year later two new and quite distinct versions of the track were released.  Named ‘Lisa’ and ‘Lisa Composed’, both tracks concentrated on the melodies and feel of the live intro sequence of the original.  The tracks were released as part of the ‘Big Spoon’ album.

Big Spoon
The ‘Big Spoon’ album, released in 1994, featured several instrumental works.  Apart from the two ‘Lisa’ tracks mentioned above, and the menacing and almost disturbing 'Shakopee', the most notable is‘Wait for the Dream’. It starts at an almost inaudible level, building slowly with guitars, percussion and synths, then it breaks to slowly build again, this time with flute-like synths first, a deep bass and a harder drum sequence.  The guitar also becomes harsher and more imposing.  Like many of the tracks on this album, it merges with the next and before the listener realises the song 'Data Knight' begins.  At close to nine minutes in length ‘Wait for the Dream’ is unfortunately the last of the long instrumental tracks. Later albums feature shorter works, but the influence of their lengthy ancestors is ever present, and the epic feel often manages to persist.

Painting Aliens
It was another four years before the next epic instrumental materialised. ‘Irritating Cliché’, the closing track on the band’s popular 1998 pop album ‘Painting Aliens’, begins with a strange alien breathing sound and quickly builds to a rich symphony of strings and fast percussion.  Half way through it changes to something slower and less dramatic.  The guitars are now smooth, and the strings transformed into a mellow synthesiser pad.  It ends as it began, with some alien breathing.  Although not the albums title track, such obvious extra-terrestrial sounds tend to link this composition with the cover artwork more than the other songs. This track is featured on the soundtrack of the animation film ‘The Creature From Devil’s Gorge’.

Comet Nerdlinger
In 2001 Dayglo Fishermen released ‘Comet Nerdlinger’.  That album’s offering, ‘Picasso in Bed’, starts of with some quite eerie tribal vocal samples, but soon transforms into a gentle composition of swelling synth pads and drifting piano.  Some lengthy arpeggios give the track a more hypnotic feel, and what sounds like bird song makes an occasional appearance.  It's an altogether rather pleasant piece of music, and at just over five minutes in length it's over far too soon.

On the most recent albums the instrumental tracks tend to be short and snappy, and far from epic.  The very shortest is ‘Selfish Bitch!’, featured on the 2003 album ‘Queen of the Sunset City’.

I Can See a Boat ... It No Longer Floats
One notable exception is ‘Memories of Eden’ from the 2006 album ‘I Can See a Boat … It No Longer Floats’. At close to fourteen minutes in length it is truly epic, but the strong vocal content during the first five minutes discounts it as a true instrumental track.

Dayglo Fishermen have considered the possibility of doing a totally instrumental album.  Such an album is not currently planned, but judging by the tracks described above it would certainly be something exciting and special, and definitely epic.

One day, perhaps…


  1. An instrumental album would be interesting, moving away from the verse-chorus-verse of recent albums. Vocals could be used as instruments - in a more choral way using effects, taking the focus off lyrical content.


  2. An instrumental album would certainly be my preference for the next one.

  3. Yes, I think it's about time for one : )

  4. The next album will be instrumental, nice to move away from traditional pop song structure. Would like to do something ambient and sparse.