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Record nerds and baby-record nerdlings of the world, unite and rejoice!

Thanks to an unlikely collaboration between a hand-milling enthusiast in the UK, the synth-pop/new wave band Hilotrons and their Ottawa-based label Kelp Recordsthe world’s first double-sided Fisher-Price record single is about to hit the shelves. Kids across the land are freaking out — or, at least their nostalgic parents are.

You might remember our post earlier this year about why the old-school analog Fisher-Price record players are so great — and that some guy in England had hand-made a few records that played the Star Wars theme?

Well, that “some guy” is Fred Murphy. Last summer Kelp Records founder Jon Bartlett came across his single for “Stairway to Heaven” – which Murphy had hand-milled to be playable on a Fisher-Price turntable – and the wheels started turning.

Bartlett already had an original music box record player that he’d purchased on eBay; his toddler son Emitt was asking his dad to play the “records” several times a day. “What if Kelp released one of our singles this way?” he wondered. Thus began an epic journey almost a year in the making.

Murphy had already made single-sided records but Bartlett wanted a double-sided one — an actual single. The process is complex: Murphy wrote an entire software program to convert the music into a playable record.

The acrylic records are also quite limited in the number of tones. “You basically have an octave to work with,” explains Bartlett. So he took the two songs for the Kelp single – Hilotrons’ slow soul jam “My Number” for Side A and “Not There Tonight” for the B-side – and rearranged the songs to fit Murphy’s requirements.

Making the single double-sided turned out to be the biggest challenge; Murphy went through four or five bits on his CNC mill as they drilled the grooves into the acrylic.

Only 5 copies of the Hilotrons music box single have been manufactured. Kelp would love to try to mass-produce something in the future, but would need a huge volume to do it. “It is Kelp Records’ 20th Anniversary next year …” Bartlett muses.

So for now the cost reflects the limited-edition appeal: the single is $99. The official release is this Saturday at the Independent Label Market: Toronto.

However, that price does include an ORIGINAL Fisher-Price Music Box record player to play it on (!) as well as all the original Fisher-Price records, and the vinyl and digital download versions of the Hilotrons sophomore full-length album At Least There’s Commotion

 

And that album is – can I say? – superb. I’ve been raving about it to anyone who crosses my path since it came out at the beginning of 2013 (Hear for yourself: “Runaway Heart” is my jam).

Here’s the promotional video. Cute.

 

 

NOTE: As Jason Tait explained in an earlier post, the new Fisher-Price record players do not operate in the traditional way: they require a battery and the sound comes to you via a digital recording – not the playing arm moving across those wonderful little grooves. The Kelp website notes: “This disc will only play on the ORIGINAL Fisher-Price Music Box record player from the 70s/80s, not the sad battery-operated knockoff versions available at Urban Outfitters.”

Helen Spitzer is senior editor at Bunch and unnecessarily nerdy about this stuff. #dadrock is an occasional column.

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