Way back in my high school years, circa late 2001, I got into prog rock. I became rather enamoured by the likes of Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson, Rick Wright and the much underrated David Sinclair, and the way keyboards could be used as a lead instrument in music.
I also became fascinated by the idea of concept albums, with a single narrative thread or musical throughline running throughout.
I did not have any musical skill, having never shown much interest at that point in playing an instrument. My sister had a little keyboard however, a small Yamaha. It was fun to mess around with it, but it really was little more than a toy. The keyboard was polyphonic, sort of. Some voices, especially the split voices, were actually monophonic.
I also had a portable Sony cassette recorder I had inherited from my father. I always had a fascination with recording things and listening back. I used to just walk around recording stuff until the tape ran out. It’s funny how that obsession has evolved to the present day.
In the summer of 2002, I thought it would be fun, for a joke, to record some dumb music for my friends, kind an homage or send-up of some of the stuff I loved to listen to. So I borrowed my sister’s keyboard, placed it on the floor in my bedroom, put the cassette recorder next to it, and pushed record. What followed was entirely improvised from nothing.
After a while I decided to stop recording what would be the first part of The Deyllfysh and create a different middle-section, a kind of intermission. So I started hitting things in my room with pencils as percussion, played avant-garde recorder, kazoo and harmonica, and then stopped the tape once I ran out of potential instruments in the immediate vicinity.
I pressed record for a second keyboard section, much like the first. No preparation or musical training, just freeform nonsense.
Once I finished recording it, I ran the tape deck through a line-in cable to the family PC, so I could copy this exciting musical creation to a CD. I realised however that it was probably too long to listen to in one sitting, so I chopped it up, roughly each time I changed “instruments”. The end result was that I had a 33 track album, even if most of them were ridiculously short. I went about naming them, and came up with a silly story about a Cthulhu-esque monster taking over the Earth, Lots of dumb things like the cringeworthy exchanging of i for y in words just because it looked cool to me back then. Ugh.
I let/forced my friends listen to it, but I don’t think it was really as funny to them as it seemed at the time I made it. It was just dumb and boring and of no value to anyone.
I moved on, and for years the Devyllfysh wasn’t really available for anyone to hear but me. The Devyllfysh was recorded before Snowman Made of Mud came into existence, but I have retrospectively included it under that umbrella, because it came from the same conceptual place as later SMOM work. But I have a fondness for it, because it’s the purest kind of expression. The way some recurring themes seemed to just appear in my playing was thrilling at the time, and now seems remarkable, considering how bogged-down I get in the minutia of music-making these days.
Now on bandcamp I have released what I hope is the definitive version of The Devyllfysh, in all its stupidity, preserved for future listeners who might just want to hear a dumb record a talentless 16 year old non-musician made. I reconnected the different tracks into three sections for ease of use; the first half, a musical intermission and the second half. Unfortunately this loses all the gibberish titles I came up with, but perhaps that’s for the best. I also took the opportunity to give the album some art, which it had never before had. Nothing fancy, but some typographic inspiration from Alien posters in there.
You probably shouldn’t listen to this because it is TERRIBLE.
If you do care about the original movement titles though, here they are for posterity, read them and giggle:
- Hyll of Despayr
- Devyllfysh I (Overture)
- Devyllfysh II (Welcome to Earth)
- Knight’s Prayer to the Water Sprites
- Slow Burn
- Dance of Birds I (The Travelling Owl)
- Chant for Safe Passage
- Devyllfysh III (Repent for Sins/Hot Foot)INTERMISSION
- The Somewhat Primitive Rain Dance of the Water Sprites
- Fanfare for the Return of the Devyllfysh
- Dance of Birds II (The Dying Owl)
- Ode to Comfort
- Rally the Troops (Sudden Impulse)
- Rally the Troops II (Fanciful Mistake)
- Dance of Cats
- Dance of Rabbits
- Devyllfysh IV (Impudent Little Animals/Our Fears are Confirmed)
- Forced Will (Éclair de la Lunatic)
- Power Result I (The Stars are Lamenting for the Dawn of a Fearful New World)
- Icycles From Beyond Time
- Power Result II (Morph)
- Last Cathedryll to the Devyllfysh
- End Machine (“Abort abort…”)
- The Final Retreats of Life (The Silencing of Time)