Wednesday, 9 March 2016

TX81Z - Vintage Synth

Over the decades since they formed Dayglo Fishermen have used quite a number of different synthesisers. Some come and go within a few years.  But a couple have stayed with the band from the beginning, and are still in use today. Let's have a look at just one of those: the Yamaha TX81Z FM Tone Generator.

The actual Dayglo Fishermen Yamaha TX81Z FM Tone Generator

The band's Yamaha TX81Z sound module was actually purchased in 1987, three years before Dayglo Fishermen formed. It was used in Artlite Studios on all of Peter and Richard's early work that was the precursor to Dayglo Fishermen. As part of the studio's core equipment at the time it was destined to become a major element in the band's music. And that is indeed what happened.

The TX81Z nestled within an equipment stack at Mammoth Studios in 2012

The module itself became very popular in the 1990s with hip-hop and dance music producers, mainly for its bass sounds, most notably 'Lately Bass'. That bass sound was most famously used for the bass line on Madonna's 'Vogue', and also on several Dayglo Fishermen songs, such as 'Minneapolis', the opening track of the 1994 album 'Big Spoon'.

The TX81Z module has featured on every one of the Dayglo Fishermen's albums, and on hundreds of their songs. Here are a few of the many tracks where the module really stands out:

Nine Point Nine Five

Featured on the 1992 'What the Hell' album, 'Nine Point Nine Five' utilises one of the TX81Z's fine bass sounds, which makes good use of the module's portamento effect as the bass line often slides from one note to the next. The higher keyboard sounds are also classic TX81Z tones, including the bell-like intro sound that is featured throughout the song.

The bass sound mentioned above is also used to excellent effect on 'Words and Pictures', from the band's debut album, 'Drenched'.

Church on the Hill

'Church on the Hill' is one of the more unusual tracks on the band’s 1993 ‘Animate’ album. Apart from some Korg M1 piano and strings, all of the keyboard sounds, including the percussion, were generated solely by a Yamaha TX81Z FM sound module, highlighting its versatility.

For a further example of a TX81Z rhythm track try 'Stairway to Hebburn' on the 1991 'Strange Plaice' album. Take care, though. This track is quite odd and potentially irritating, so you may not make it to the end, despite the fact that it's just over three minutes in length.

Angel City

The 'Queen of the Sunset City' album, released in 2003, featured a huge variety of music, and the TX81Z is exhibited on most tracks. The rasping bass line on 'Angel City', one of the album's standout songs, is an excellent example of the module's range of sounds when compared to the smooth bass line on 'Nine Point Nine Five' mentioned earlier.

Also listen to 'Turning Gold' on the same album to hear the module's take on a bass guitar.

Sinking Deeply

The module was used most recently on the 2015 album ‘Midnight Souls Still Remain’. On 'Sinking Deeply' it provides the main keyboard sound, the sound that is featured from the very start of the song. This proves that, with the help of of a decent dose of effects, the TX81Z is still able to produce original and compelling sounds such as this, even after almost 30 years of use.

If you're familiar with the sound of Yamaha's FM synthesisers you should be able to spot the TX81Z in many of the band's songs. Just pick an album and see what you can find.

That simple little sound module has, without most people knowing, had a significant influence on the evolution of Dayglo Fishermen’s unique sound. And as long as its incredible internal battery lasts, it will continue to do so in the future.