The Furby Organ

furby-organ-2

We’re cheating a little this week: The Furby Organ is an instrument, not a band. But it’s too awesome for us to ignore. And hey, from a Furby’s perspective, it’s a 44-member band, right? Just one in which the 44 members have been dissected and wired up to do one mad overlord’s bidding — “kinda like The Matrix, but without the bad sunglasses,” as the aforementioned mad overlord aptly puts it.

The overlord is Sam Battle, a London musician and analog synthesizer geek who goes by the handle Look Mum No Computer. He builds all sorts of cool contraptions, like a “mega drone synth” with 100 oscillators and a guitar synth made from a fidget spinner, but his crowning achievement is clearly the Furby Organ, which has justifiably been blowing up all over the internet since he announced the project’s completion with the video below this past Sunday. Some people have been calling it the stuff of nightmares, but we think it’s genius. Judge for yourself.

Keening Furbies aside, I think what I love best about the video is Battle’s infectious enthusiasm for the whole thing. It’s one thing to spend several years collecting Furbies and soldering them into a giant synthesizer, but to present it on YouTube like it’s the greatest invention since the ShamWow is a rare and remarkable talent, indeed.

If you want to support more of Sam Battle’s LMNC projects, we highly recommend supporting him via his Patreon page. He also says he’s collecting more Furbies for upcoming projects, so if you have any of the little critters stashed in a box somewhere in the back of your garage (and who doesn’t?), by all means dig them out and ship them off. Who knows what demented and delightful uses for Furbies he’s scheming up next.

As an added bonus, we’ll leave you with the “Furby Gurby,” another furby-powered analog gizmo that Battle says was the inspiration for the Furby Organ. Once you hear this thing, the Furby Organ sounds less like the stuff of nightmares and more like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir of talking children’s toys.

P.S. Thanks to our friend and reader Tommy Salsa for first alerting us to the Furby Organ’s magical existence. As one of the guys who suffered through my attempt to create a Furby bike at Burning Man one year (to no one’s surprise except me, it became insufferably annoying after about 30 seconds), he correctly surmised that I would greet the arrival of the Furby Organ the way Steve Jobs cultists greet the release of a new iPhone.

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Bloody Death Skull

Bloody Death Skull

Sometimes we get so excited that people in Poland or Brazil or South Africa are reading our blog that we neglect the weirdness in our own backyard. Yep, Los Angeles is a city full of freaks, contrary to the image most of y’all probably have in your heads of tanned, wannabe actors rollerblading between juice bars and Pilates classes (we have those, too, but no one here cares about them). And in their own, adorable way, Bloody Death Skull are as freaky as they come.

Musically, BDS aren’t all that weird, at least not in a hit-you-over-the-head way. Their songs are shaggy and shambling and cutened up by head Skull Daiana Feuer’s jangling ukulele and guileless, girlish vocals. Lyrically they can get pretty dark, with songs about death and prostitutes and drowning Mormons in swimming pools, but the grim subject matter is always served up with a wink. (Actually, depending on your point of view, I guess a song about drowning Mormons in swimming pools could be right up there with Pharrell’s “Happy.”) They cover lots of old murder ballads and doo wop love songs, which makes sense, and Ying Yang Twins, which doesn’t, but somehow works anyway.

Their live shows delight in the unexpected. They plays shows at strip clubs and former zoo animal enclosures. They dress up in elaborate costumes with inscrutable themes. When I saw them opening for Bob Log III, the theme was “things you might encounter in the forest,” which in Bloody Death Skull’s world includes alien princesses, soldiers in gas masks and a woman in a head-to-toe burqa representing “darkness.”

They have four core members—besides Feuer, there’s Donna Suppipat, Beth McSelf and Gerard Olson—but their live incarnation can have as many as 10 people onstage, many of them sitting cross-legged on the floor surrounded by xylophones and toy pianos and various things to bang on. The effect is both childlike and somehow psychedelic—by which I mean, they kinda look and sound like a bunch of people on heavy doses of psychedelics. Like, “Mind if I sit? ‘Cause my legs seem to have stopped working” doses.

(For the record: I’m pretty sure no one in the band is actually high. When they were done with their Bob Log III opening set, they all stood up and left the stage in a very orderly fashion, fastidiously picking up their giant collection of instruments as they went. But they sure do a convincing job of seeming out of their gourds during their set—except Feuer, who presides over the chaos with the wry charm and patience of a den mother for a particularly low-functioning Girl Scout troop.)

I’ve done as much as I can to explain the weirdness and adorableness of Bloody Death Skull without showing you some videos, so here they are. First up: a sweet desert murder lullaby called “Psycho,” starring a ravenous tiger/panda. I believe the technical term for such a hybrid creature is “tiganda.”

Next, here’s a little taste of their live show. They did not have the tap dancer when I saw them, but they did have a Theremin. They like to mix it up.

And finally, the video that is quite possibly their masterpiece (at least so far): “Girls Like You,” which uses stop-motion Barbies to tell a heartwarming tale about prostitutes and the non-prostitutes who love them.

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Weird of the Day: Bloody Death Skull, “Girls Like You”

Bloody Death Skull

When we saw Bob Log III on Friday night (review coming soon), there was a local band opening for him called Bloody Death Skull who gave him a run for his money on the weird-o-meter. With no fewer than 10 people onstage, half of them sitting down and playing toy instruments, they played a chaotic but catchy mix of ’60s-style girl-group pop, garage-rock and ukulele-led freak-folk. They wore an assortment of costumes that were alternately adorable and menacing: a guitar player in a gas mask, a backup singer in a burqa, a wolf, a frog, a forest nymph with green hair and a fake bird perched on her shoulder. It was sorta like watching The Raveonettes play at a daycare center on Halloween.

We couldn’t find any videos that do justice to their charmingly odd live show, but we did run across this video for their song “Girls Like You,” which sums up their cutely dark (or maybe it’s darkly cute) style quite nicely. It stars a bunch of Barbie dolls who can really work that pole. Enjoy.

For more Bloody Death Skull, check out their Bandcamp page.

Igor Krutogolov’s Toy Orchestra

Daniel Tchetchik

Lots of bands make use of toy instruments, but apart from our old “toytronica” friend Twink, we’ve never met anyone more committed to toying around than Igor Krutogolov. His 10-piece group plays all of their music exclusively on stuff aimed at the six-and-under set: toy guitars, toy drum kits, toy clarinets, teeny little accordions and xylophones and glockenspiels and things that squeak when you squeeze them. All of which sounds adorable, right? Except they somehow manage to twist those instruments into infectious but slightly menacing grooves with hints of punk, jazz, klezmer and even metal, over which Krutogolov groans and growls like an old blues singer with lungs full of cigarettes. It’s like a Tom Waits concert broke out at Toys “R” Us.

Krutogolov’s band, alternately referred to as the Karate Band or the Toy Orchestra, is based in Israel and released their first album, Children 4 Muzik, back in 2005.  Then they went on a long hiatus so Krutogolov could focus on other projects, including his equally weird avant-klezmer band, Kruzenshtern i Parohod. But the toys kept calling to him, so this year he’s brought the Karate Band/Toy Orchestra back with a brand-new album, How to Be a Crocodile.

The music on How to Be a Crocodile is so much fun we can hardly stand it: playful, dark, funny, funky and nasty-sounding in a way that totally defies its toy instrumentation. Here’s a video from one of the album’s recording sessions, for the song “Mad Medow.” Sounds like the best cartoon villain theme song ever, doesn’t it?

And here’s a recent live performance of the Crocodile track “Skeleton Dance,” which bears little resemblance to the Carl Stalling music from the old Disney cartoon:

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