You need to listen to LONG SEASON

LONG SEASON is an album and the name of its only track, produced by the Japanese dub group Fishmans in 1996. It’s the spiritual successor to their ’96 single, ‘SEASON’, which is similar in tone but not in ambition. LONG SEASON is a well-known piece among indie circles and online music forums, and certainly Fishmans’ most popular album outside of Asia. Not only this, but it’s also a piece of art, a trickling stream of ear-tingling instrumentals and wonderful transitions. If you hadn’t guessed, I love this album. It’s probably dream-pop, but also neo-psychedelic, and definitely a constantly-shifting surprise. Let’s break it down.

Officially, the composition is comprised of five parts, averaging around six to seven minutes each. The first part features heavy use of the piano and accordion, building to a crescendo as the vocals whirl around the instruments and fades behind the instruments. Its slow build-up ensures an effective climax, and a masterful transition into the next part, which begins with a piano drone, soon accompanied by a guitar and muffled vocals.

This second part feels more of an extension to the first than a standalone section, but this only reveals the album’s three-part structure, with two and four acting as interludes between the longer and more sonically interesting ‘tracks’. The end of this section brings in drums and reduces the song to the sound of water droplets and a faraway beat accompanied by ethereal singing. The expert interweaving of these sound effects is one of my favourite parts about the whole project.

This third section feels melancholier than the first two, and certainly heavier and more complex. Drums are more prominent, as the piece transitions from a spiritual vibe to a ferocious assault on the ears – a good thing from where I’m sitting. Its ending is equally appropriate and eases us into the fourth section with its acoustic guitar and wistful soundscape. It is distant and dreamy, slowly coming into focus and reminding me of a long-forgotten dream re-emerging.

The fifth and final section begins with a discordant violin, flowing into the piano drone used earlier. Then come the vocals and then the guitars. It all feels rather epic once it reaches its conclusion, with multiple instruments interacting in appealing ways, and an awesome guitar mostly-solo.

Fishmans’ LONG SEASON is a slice of music history and a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience. There’s melancholy, longing, passion all wrapped up in complex instrumentals and haunting vocals. LONG SEASON is a must-listen.  

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James Ward

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May 2022
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