Wednesday 1 January 2020

'Time' Has Come

In November last year Dayglo Fishermen released their much anticipated new album, 'Time'.

Just over two and a half years in production, the album marks a departure from the relatively conventionally structured collections of songs that the band usually releases. Largely instrumental in nature, the new album is vast and epic in its scope, and has been described as "a remarkable cinematic journey through the lightness and darkness of existence", and "an immense soundscape that straddles worlds and dimensions".

The CD cover image for Dayglo Fishermen's album 'Time'

As the album plays, and as each track seamlessly blends with the next, there is a clear impression of sophisticated progression; like a complex story unfolding as its tapestry of plot lines and twists weave together in an often unpredictable, but ultimately satisfying, fashion.

The album begins with the rush of waves as 'First Light' eases us into that story. The gentle sound of water as it shifts sand and pebbles is incredibly soothing. A mellow keyboard pad joins the mix as the waves slowly intensify, and then a thoughtful guitar melody takes control. The guitar evokes images of deserts and salt flats; an intriguing contrast to the waves that continue to ebb and flow all around. The track's intention, perhaps, is to issue a warning that our planet's current oceans will one day become arid and lifeless. That may be reading too much into a beginning that, for most, will having nothing but a calming effect. It's a perfect start to the album.

'Time Out From This World' comes to life with an indecisive drift through random radio stations. A luscious synth pad begins swelling back and forth - a fine complement to waves of the previous track. A gentle bell-like arpeggio begins, and then drops away as a rich bass sound take charge, accompanied by a soft jazz drum section. Guitars build, and the bells return, almost whistling at times as the multiplex of textures intermingle: and all of this progresses at a leisurely pace, instilling a sense of security and peace, and feelings of confidence and serenity with the accomplished ease we expect on any band's 20th studio album. As things drop away an almost vocal synth begins a regular punch of the sound space. A muted trumpet, a familiar sample to those that have listened to the band's previous albums, plays mournfully, eventually followed by a more optimistic piano that lifts the mood with a beautiful melody, and then the main sequence returns. As a distorted guitar builds and slides up in pitch the track drops back to skim through some radio stations once again. Here we are left to drift awhile, unfocused, until a lonely voice asks 'Can you hear me?'.

North African flutes play through the introduction of 'Before the Storm' evoking thoughts of deserts, campfires and deep sunsets. A hypnotic drum sequence soon kicks in, followed by a rasping synth bass sound, and then layers of guitar begin to build as keyboard pads swirl in the background. An unexpected synth melody suddenly appears as an interlude, but it's short-lived. The main theme returns, this time with a wandering bass guitar line in the mix as the guitars layer up once more. As the keyboards build in the background a distorted guitar takes over to create the track's final crescendo. And then things drop back until the drums cease and a brief whisper of voices is heard; an eerie hint of what is to come later on.

The CD inside cover image for Dayglo Fishermen's album 'Time'

A rich rhythmic synth riff, drifting left and right across the aural landscape, heralds the start of 'The Heavens Opened'. As the soft synth bass drum sequence begins two bass lines, keyboard and guitar, play along, matching the bass drum. Ever so gently a guitar joins in, strumming slowly and sweetly, and then a high and pulsing staccato synth cycles through the octaves as it fades in over several bars. An orchestral flourish rushes in to signal the start of the second and highly melodic section. Everything picks up as full drum sequence and a compelling synth melody takes over. Things repeat, building in intensity, before dropping back to the rhythmic synth riff. Whale song makes a surprising appearance here; A classic Dayglo Fishermen ploy, and then a pulsating synth introduces itself. A guitar plays around, until the orchestral flourish launches the final act. The pulsating synth takes control this time, playing through its addictive melody. As the key rises a powerful distorted guitar harmony joins the fray, lifting the track up to its glorious finale before releasing the listener back to how it started. It's an incredibly energising experience.

The whisper of voices returns, their words incomprehensible, mysterious, even ominous. At a remarkably slow 30 beats per minute 'Cracks Appear' begins. A lonely bass drum, accompanied by a plucked double bass, maintains the feeling of dread as a distant distorted guitar comes into play. A sparse piano plays chords on the beat, and soon some light cymbals manage brighten things just a bit. The voices return on occasion to remind us of their presence, and a whirling section of strings building during the sparse middle section, both of which remind us that there is something sinister lurking just beyond our comprehension. Everything works together to instil a chilling and almost hopeless sensation. As the track draws to a close with melancholic piano and a short guitar melody, the voices make a final appearance and repeat their unfathomable message.

A pulsing synth bass and gently chugging guitar brings us back from the brink of darkness as 'Ghosts in My Life' kicks in. Soon a simple, soft synth melody captivates the listener.  After brief and sparkling bridge section the synth melody plays again, this time with some interesting interplay with another synth and guitar. And soon we are in new section, with vocals, accompanied by powerful sustained keyboards that fill the background with a broad and rich sound. A simplified first section plays again, and then we enter a sparse middle section as an unusual synth sound plays, interspersed with some heavily distorted guitars, building until the vocal section returns and brings everything to a close.

Dominated by a loosely tapped cymbal rhythm, 'Darkness Falls' ends the first half of the album with a softly hypnotic piece. Despite its title, the track feels light and soothing as guitars and smooth keyboard pads drift around. Some deep chanting voices appear now and then, which are slightly unsettling, if only for the briefest of moments, but those moments are forgotten as uplifting vocals take over. A distorted guitar leads the listener out of the track and on to a moment of silence in preparation for the second half of the album. Its an outstandingly fluid composition.

The CD back cover image for Dayglo Fishermen's album 'Time'

'An Enchanted Evening' begins with a mellow and sustained synth sound. The curious and soft hooting of birdsong is soon heard, captivating the listener as a gentle and sparse guitar starts to play. And so it continues, drifting beautifully without purpose and structure, drawing the listener in, and closing out the world beyond. It's as if nothing else exists, and nothing else matters. It's quite possibly one of the purest moments of pleasure on the album, made all the more remarkable due to the absolute simplicity of the track's arrangement. Perfection.

A mid tempo drum and bass rhythm, complete with the crackle of dust on a stylus, lead us straight in to the wonderful 'I Returned Her Glance'. Gentle guitar and mellow keyboards ease things along until the vocals, softy spoken, begin, and then a superb instrumental section builds, with a loosely played high synth arpeggio twinkling all around until a guitar melody takes over. The vocals return briefly, and then another instrumental section, featuring an exquisitely played piano melody, takes the piece to its conclusion. This track stands out as not only one of the finest on the album, but as one of the band's finest ever. It is impossible to praise it enough.

A fast and complex rhythm of cymbals, both acoustic and synthesised, takes us in to 'No One Home'. Guitar and keyboard bass lines kick in with the drums and after a bizarre trumpet plays a brief solo a soft keyboard melody begins; a comfortable contrast to the oddly timed and staccato synth bass. All the while a gently strummed guitar, and later a distant distorted guitar, provide a subtle but vital depth to the sound. As the track progresses we are treated to a mix of sections featuring a walking lead synth backed by organs, and a longer part with a simple but effective guitar melody - essential as always with the bass line as it is. Vocals appear briefly in the later stages, providing a satisfying human presence in the lead up to the finale.

With its synth dominated melodies 'Fight or Flight' is the perfect companion to the previous track. The melodies evoke more tension this time, and the more unusual drum rhythm and a sustained bass guitar over the synth bass line enhances that feeling. Numerous lines of guitar - plucked, sustained, distorted - build as the piece progresses, dropping back on occasion to make room for vocals. The concluding section intensifies with a rich distorted guitar melody that provides an immaculate harmony to the ongoing keyboard melody beneath it.  As the guitar slides up into a wash of reverberation we are left alone, expecting a moment of contemplation. But it is not to be.

Photos from inner sanctum of Dayglo Fishermen are very rare nowadays. This one was taken in the band's primary production facility, Cozmic Studios, sometime in 2018 as the album 'Time' was being recorded. The new Korg Kronos Workstation is shown, along with some of the band's vast collection of guitars, all of  which feature heavily on the new album.

An interlude of sorts follows. 'Exorcising Ghosts' is a brief return to the vocal section of 'Ghosts in My Life'. Most of the orchestration is stripped away leaving nothing but the guitar and voices. Despite its familiarity it is still an unexpected shock that creates a moment of confusion, jarring us out of the mood created by the previous two tracks. We are being set up for something quite different.

'Surfing on a Cloud' starts with a short vocal before a simple up-tempo drum sequence begins. We are teased for a while with bursts of synth bass and a deep chorused pad sound, drawing us in until the fast bass arpeggio kicks off. Distorted and clean guitars build along with the keyboards as this relentlessly shameless and unapologetic dance track does exactly what it's supposed to do; get our bodies moving and our minds freed of inhibitions. It's so refreshing, and utterly addicting.

The sound of random radio stations returns. 'Time's Up' takes us back to an earlier track for a while; the final section of 'Time Out From This World'. There's an additional guitar melody in the mix, subtly lifting the mood and circling us back to our experience an hour ago.

Smoothly, and without a sign of tension, 'Barefoot Through My Heart' begins. The final track on the album is a canvas of soft and sustained synths, with a sparse echoing melody dancing in the high notes. Now and then a slow breath eases in and out, and then a bass guitar booms into existence. As the piece draws to a close guitars suddenly join in creating a short rhythmic section that soon drops back to the soft synths. The arid guitar from the very start of the album returns, and then the ambience of the seashore drifts back into our consciousness. The music has gone. We are left standing in the foaming water as waves crash and sand rushes around our feet.

'Time' is an extraordinarily mountainous experience of emotions. At its peak we feel the joyous delight of life, and in its deepest valley we are grasped tightly by tension and dread. It is by far Dayglo Fishermen's finest ever concept album.

All the tracks of the album flow together beautifully, and that's how it should be experienced. If you are lucky enough to own the CD version then that is the best way to play it, but if not the following links will allow you to hear the album as it's meant to be heard - as a two-part experience.


'Time' Part One - Tracks 1-7 Linked

'Time' Part Two - Tracks 8-15 Linked

1 comment:

  1. 30 years!! Seems like it was only yesterday. Glad that that you've kept DGF going and hope you're well.