Optiganally Yours

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An Optigan is a toy organ manufactured by Mattel in the early '70s. By optically reading LP-sized celluloid discs, using a process similar to that which couples motion pictures with sound, the device awkwardly recreates the sound of real instruments. Musicians--including Ralph Carney and Patrick Warren--have exploited the unique and often bizarre sound of the Optigan, exploiting its limitations much like the experimental filmmakers who film feature-length movies with Fisher-Price Pixelvision cameras.

Few projects have taken the idea as far as Optiganally Yours, the duo of Pea Hix and former Heavy Vegetable and Thingy front man Rob Crow. Hix and Crow sidestep the smarminess of the misguided "exotica" revival by avoiding covers--except for a straightforward rendition of Jimmy Webb's "Wichita Lineman"--in favor of their own catchy pop songs. They take full advantage of the Optigan's limited abilities and strange quirks. But, as a credit to the duo's solid songwriting, SPOTLIGHT would have made for an excellent album even if it had been performed with traditional instruments.

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