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"The Stylophone is a miniature analog stylus-operated keyboard. Invented in 1967 by Brian Jarvis, it entered production in 1968, manfufactured by Dubreq." (Wikipedia)

KINGSTON UNIVERSITY STYLOPHONE ORCHESTRA - Stylophonika (Pink And Blue Cosmic Swirl vinyl LP) (2022)

And here's the reason I had to wait for last year's Hieronymus Dream record a couple of months. I ordered it with this odd but surprisingly enganging novelty: an album fully devoted to the sound of the stylophone.

Simple backstory: Kingston University gets a donation of all kinds of historic and modern stylophones by the manufacturers Dubreq - and you've got to do something with those, right?

So on this record you hear students, ex students and staff of the university as an electronic orchestra based on these most primitive of synthesizers, but also adding a couple of other elements like sequencers, theremin and choir vocals.
Some of the eight tracks on here are original compositions, others are covers by the like of Brian Eno, Jean-Michael Jarre and Vangelis. And as an almost too obvious choice, the album also features the single most prominent stylophone song of all times (besides Kraftwerk's "Taschenrechner"), being of course "Space Oddity", which David Bowie famously had written on the small instrument.

Where Bowie raises his head, one Tony Visconti isn't far away, so the congenial legend himself not only produced the track, but let the orchestra record the whole record in his studio.

Given all this information it shouldn't come as a surprise anymore that the concept of a stylophonic ensemble evolved into much more than a gimmicky nerd idea. Instead "Stylophonika" has become a more than just notable homage to the instrument and several pioneers, but also a highlight of atmospheric electronic music in itself.

This is a phenomenally good an listenable album, which still leaves room for future improvement. A successor confidently raising the amount of original songs could be that, for example.
But until then I'm perfectly happy with this beautifully packed hand-numbered gem, released - untypically on vinyl instead of tape - by Spun Out Of Control.

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