Monday, November 26, 2012

Behold! The Kaleidocosmicorgrig - The Strangest Instrument EVER?!

I don't usually pay $10 for obscure old records - that's like real money - but how could I resist this description from the back cover: "This is a recording of The Kaleidocosmicorgrig... it is 35' in length, 12' tall, weighs approximately 2 tons... a contrivance of pedals, keyboards, pulleys, mousetraps, electrical wires, wind machines, magnets, bellows, fishing weights, stovepipes and bicycle wheels, arranged so as to control a parlor piano, 30 tuned bottles, 13 10-foot tuba pipes, a fine bass drum, 2 tambourines, a mariachi marimba, a wooden xylophone, Swiss glockenspiel, castanets, maracas, wood block, cymbals, bonkers, zonkers, and taxihorn."

Sounds too good to be true? Many eye/ear-witnesses have testified to its one-time existence, in a Shakey's Pizza Parlor near Disneyland, California. This 1970 album, recorded live, consists largely of frantically energetic instrumentals (with a lot of Greek influences for some reason); great versions of two Latin classics, "Tico Tico" and "MalagueƱa;" a few originals; some silly lyrics (from what I could make out - the vocals are not well recorded, but it hardly matters); and a final group sing-along that does not feature the giant whatsit. The album is on red vinyl, and originally came with a strawberry-scented incense stick (did I mention this was 1970?)

Orchestrions - mechanical music orchestras - were popular a century ago, before recordings became hi-fi. I have other albums of this sort, but this beast is clearly the granddaddy of 'em all. Featured here are the old-fashioned tunes you'd expect, but also recent soundtracks hits like "Zorba The Greek" and "Never On Sunday" (see what I mean about the Greek influence?) that suggests that Nick O'Lodeon (aka Nick Cornwell) was actively programming his machine by punching new piano rolls, creating new music boxes, and building the robots necessary to play contemporary music. Unless it was all theatrics, and Nick was playing live, but I don't think so - sure, he was playing and singing some live, but the rapid-fire piano and xylophone sound like they're playing too fast for human hands.

So what's it sound like? Pretty much like what you'd think it would sound like - berserk circus music filtered thru a '70s California hippie sensibility. It's a lot of fun, upbeat, and to say the least, unique. Who knew such things existed in our universe? Far out, man!

Nick O'Lodeon Plays Actual Music On His Kaleidocosmicorgrig


Pierre said...

Nice version of La MalagueƱa.
Sometimes this album reminds me of The Residents' "High Horses", though less insane of course.

Mr Fab said...

Was not familiar with "High Horses" but am listening now - The Residents make music for riding a merry-go-round while on acid. Crazy!

Dirk Bill said...

Oh no! Mediafire es no completo! Please re-post this; I must hear it!

There was at one time a strange old barbecue place in Clewiston Florida that was full of ancient mechanical instruments, and the trick was to get them all going at once, creating your own kind of Rube Golberg + John Cage experiment. What a blast! There are a lot of recordings of various mechanical instruments on the Avant Garde Project site if you're interested. I love the timbre of metal in the morning.

Mr Fab said...

Yes Dirk, mediafire (and Rapidshare) cruelly dumped me. That Fla bbq place sounds awesome! Probably gone, eh?

Will try to get your reqeusts up this evening.

Dirk Bill said...

Thank you to no end, Mr. Fab!

Yes, the barbecue place was actually burned down last time I drove by, and the only reason I had to go up around Lake O was because some dummy on the way to a Phish New Year's Eve show off Alligator Alley fell off his rv's running boards and was squashed. I wonder if the instruments were toasted too. I'll probably never know. But your post will no doubt keep those memories alive.

Dirk Bill said...

There is a god. A big metal musical sculpture god. Can't thank you enough for this!