In praise of the Omnichord

Monday, 10 September 2007, 16:02 | Category : Uncategorized
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Last week at work I was having a conversation with my colleagues about the Omnichord (that sort of thing happens – it’s fun to work there sometimes), which has led in a roundabout way to this post. For those who don’t know the Omnichord, it’s a hand-held electronic instrument, which has buttons for chords and a touch plate which is strummed with a rubber plectrum to make a sort of electronic harp sound (more photos here if you’re interested). I remember my friend’s parents having one back in the 80s, and us sitting in his lounge playing the Omnichord. We had a limited repertoire, but it was fun.

The Omnichord Wikipedia page has a list of the instrument’s contribution to pop music, and it’s not inconsiderable. There are a number of bands and artists listed, though there’s not much info on what songs they used the Omnichord on – what use it that? Most notable of those which have more specific info is You Are What You Love by Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins from last year’s excellent Rabbit Fur Coat album. Listening to it again, the sweet sounds of the Omnichord are unmistakable.

More substantially, The High Fidelity (a band led by former Soup Dragon Sean Dickson) actually recorded a whole album using the Omnichord in 2001, and unsurprisingly called it The Omnichord Album. It’s pretty impossible to find this online though, so I’m going with the next best thing which is a 5-track EP on the fine instrument by northern electro-indie oddball Pagan Wanderer Lu (more on him very soon)*. Two tracks here, but more available from the well-endowed downloads section of his website.

Then there’s Asthmatic Kitty artiste, and part-time member of the extended Danielson Familie, John Ringhoffer, who under his Half-Handed Cloud alias has recorded a number of leftfield delights. His latest album Halos and Lassos features the Omnichord prominently, so it would be rude not to include him too.

Finally, the Wikipedia page lists Arcade Fire’s Ocean of Noise. I’ve listened to it again, and maybe there’s something wrong with my hearing, but I can’t hear no Omnichord there. But I’ll post it anyway because it’s a great song, and maybe you can point it out to me.

Download: Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins – You Are What You Love
Download: Pagan Wanderer Lu – kk44 Omni
Download: Pagan Wanderer Lu – Winter Gardens
Download: Half-Handed Cloud – Feed Your Sheep a Burning Lamp
Download: Arcade Fire – Ocean of Noise

*given that I’m off on holiday in the next few days, ‘very soon’ most probably means in a couple of weeks’ time.

2 Comments for “In praise of the Omnichord”

  1. 1Jon

    Listen to the instrumental break halfway through the first verse of “ocean of noise”.

  2. 2Anonymous

    You can view the Suzuki Omnichord System TWO Model OM-84 at: http://seabrent.tripod.com/omnichord.txt
    Great images of the packaging ,tuner ,instrument and instruction manual

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