Thursday, March 11, 2010

MikeD's Ten Instrumental Songs You May Have Never Heard

On Monday, Scooter posted his Top 10 Instrumental Songs. Using his criteria (listed below) I compiled my own list.

No themes from movies or television are allowed. (Love Theme, Peter Gunn theme, Guns of Navarone, TSOP)
Not a single word may be said during the whole song. (Reel Big Fish's 241, Tequila, Wipe Out, The Hustle, Daft Punk's Musique)
Lyrics may not exist for the song upon recording. (Jeff Beck's A Day in the Life, SRV's Little Wing, Sing Sing Sing)
No overly campy songs featured prevalently in media. (Dueling Banjos, Star Wars Cantina, The Entertainer, Soul Bossa Nova)
Cannot predominantly feature a solo as the majority of the song. (Moby Dick, Eruption, I Know You're Here)

Music is a powerful tool that I think helps exemplify many aspects of life, whether ones life experiences, hardships, celebrations, or misery. I've always had a interest in instrumental music though, even at a young age when I first bought my first Metallica album, actually cassette Master of Puppets in 1989, which features of course Orion, which Scooter mentioned in his post. (Which you can purchase on the left in it's amazing lo-fi sound.)
It's emotional impact ran deep even without words you get a keen sense of what kind of moods they were expressing throughout the passage. Since then I have greatly expanded my musical influences; whether it's traditional folk, classical, jazz, rock, metal, electronic or anything in between. I like music that takes me on a journey, something to ponder, or simply zone out to.

Words never meant much to me too often in music because I think of them as more personal to the artist, unless the subject is more historical. This is probably one reason why I got very into heavier death and black-metal as the vocals were used more as instruments of rage and fury.

This post is not intended to be a 'best of' by any means. This list was sort of thrown together from bands off the top of my head that I greatly enjoy. These also are not listed in any particular order. I could probably go on and list 50 more ranging from all different genres but I'll keep this short and to the point. Hope you may find something you enjoy. If you do, check out their albums or buy them HERE.

Russian Circles – Death Rides A Horse - (Enter)

Rocking three piece from Chicago caught me off guard once live when they opened up for Pelican (and in my opinion blew them off the stage) They writes songs that rarely get too drawn out. Heavy riffs, sick time signatures, especially in the drumming department keep things interesting, fresh and attentive.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Moya (Slow Riot for New Zerø Kanada)

Starts out awfully slow like a lot of 'post-rock' songs, but
if you are ever in a desolate mood, this song (and GYBE in general) will bring those apocalyptic visions of a crumbling society rotting from the inside - built around a slowly rise to climax of destruction, death, despair and anguish to beauty, hope, and irony of what life is to a noisy ensemble ... Umm.. well that's the sense I get, and I enjoy it a lot.

Do Make Say Think - Do (Other Truths)

Another instrumental rock band. (who now have a couple songs with vocals) They also like to use a variety of instruments. I think the last time I caught them live they had 8 people in the band, ( two drummers, guitars, bass, keys, violin, trumpet, sax) Often start off soft, and end loud but never too noisy.

King Crimson – Red (Red)

From the album Red (1974), this stuff was heavy. Dissonant, rocking, progressive and dark. Highly influential band that probably should get more credit. Robert Fripp also has an amazing solo project of all soundscapes recorded using a multitude of affects on his guitar.

Camel – Snowgoose – (Excerpts)

One of my favorite bands of all time, and often overlooked. This album from 1975 was their first conceptual album based on a short novel with the same name, and also the only one to be completely instrumental. Since most of the songs on this album flow together into one piece, I thought it would be best to pick this awesome live version from various excerpts from the album.

Zombi – Spirit Warrior (Spirit Animal)

Dynamic two piece with a great progressive approach. Obviously influenced a lot by Italian band Goblin who were famous for making horror soundtracks for Dario Argento in the 70's. Lots of analog synths mixed, rhythm bass loops and real drumming. Impressive to watch live because of their multitasking abilities.

Estradasphere - Colossal Risk – (Palace of Mirrors)

This band does it all. Jazz, rock and roll, Flamenco, deathmetal, middle-eastern, a capella, etc Their early material is definitely more schizophrenic with their approach, delving into all the styles one after another when you lease expect it, while their latest material – Palace of Mirrors – creates a a more refined album from start to finish, entirely instrumental, and symphonic. Definitely an album you must listen to from start to finish. Catch this band LIVE!

Nest – Moonbow (Trail of the Unwary)

This one may put you to sleep, but if you manage to listen to the entire thing I think you will enjoy it. Nest from Finland create some amazing soundscapes prominently utilizing a very old and traditional Finnish instrumental called the Kantale. It's sort of like a dulcimer, a stringed instrument like a harp. This isn't just some folk music though, Nest incorporates some soft bass, drums and synth in the mix to great a great atmosphere. Most songs are slow building, somewhat simple melodies although elegant playing of the Kantele makes for a very sad, sorrow filled sound. I sort of like to zone out to these guys when I'm feeling down.

Mogwai - Friend of the Night (Mr Beast)

Mogwai from Scotland makes some great rock music, which is mostly entirely instrumental. Some heavy, some somber, but very dynamic. They are probably one of the more well known bands to remain instrumental.


Frank Zappa – Son of Mr. Green Genes (Hot Rats)

There was nobody like Zappa. He seemingly crossed all different genres with ease. Mix of genius songwriting, and an inexplicable sense of humor, with messages of social, political corruption and critic of organized religion to name a few. Perhaps most importantly was his fight of free speech, eventually testifying for the Senate. This number from one of his more proggy entries Hot Rats. Most people should be somewhat familiar with Mr. Zappa so I'll add this just because he ruled!


  1. I think Camel was my favorite entry of these ten. I just may be getting into their music in the coming weeks, that was badass!