David Bowie used it on Space Oddity, and now A.S. Swanski has a new single completely recorded with a Stylophone. The title is Made In China. Just like today’s Stylophone.
Made In China is not part of the Safari project I’m hoping to finalize this summer. It’s a track that stands on its own and I wrote and recorded it right after I completed work on my Deckare album.
A couple of days after Christmas I got myself two Stylophones, the reissue of the old model and the newer beat box version. Made In China was written and recorded within a few hours after opening the boxes, using only these two machines plus my voice. The next day I made a video, and now there’s a single.
Stylophone Pocket Organ
So, what is this Stylophone thing? The original model, marketed as “pocket electronic organ”, was the first low budget synthesizer on the market. The reissue is an updated version with two more sound options. A stylus is used to generate tones from a tiny metallic keyboard. Hence, the name.
No bigger than a paperback book, it was seen as a toy instrument when it appeared in the late 1960s. But any toy can become a beast if you’re a little creative. Just take David Bowie who used the eerie sound of the Stylophone in his classic Space Oddity (and even on later tracks, including some of his most recent albums). For many years Kraftwerk performed their 1981 hit Pocket Calculator live with a Stylophone.
A few years ago Dübreq, the British manufacturer of the Stylophone, launched the Stylophone Beat Box, a drum machine that follows the original Stylophone principles.
For Tiananmen’s Tank Man
Made In China is basically an improvisation, even when it quickly became more meaningful. I was stunned by the potential of the Stylophones and loved the primitive grooves you could make with the Beat Box. The sound of the regular Stylophone is also quite special, particularly if you manipulate it with effects.
And thus, my first 2014 single was born with a raw and powerful vintage electro sound.
The lyrics are nothing but historical propaganda slogans from the Chinese government. I removed them from their original context which might pretty much spoil my chances of ever playing behind the other side of the Chinese wall but who cares. So now that’s settled, why not dedicate this song to the Tank Man of Tiananmen right away?