Friday, July 8, 2011


Song Title: "Two Alone by the Waterphone"
Artist: Between
Search Term: "Waterphone"

A waterphone is a Tee Ball tee-shaped musical instrument whose long, hollow neck serves both as a handle and a funnel into which water can be dumped if desired. There are a bunch of metal rods of different lengths that stick up from the waterphone's base, in a circle around the neck, and these are played with a bow to make resonant feedback sounds that sound like a peevish whale. If water has been poured inside the waterphone, the rods give off a psychedelic wah-wah sound as the liquid sloshes around inside. It's not an especially tuneful instrument, but for fans of ambient sound like me, it's a glorious invention. I learned about it on an episode of the educational program Storage Wars.

On this 1980 track from Between, Gary Lynn Todd scrapes out some rusty waterphone groans while Roberto Detree improvises a nimble deconstructed flamenco on a classical guitar. This turns out to be a perfectly peachy pairing, surprisingly enough. It's an atmosphere piece rather than a song that has discernible form or a melody that could stick to the mind of anyone but the world Simon champ, but as long as you don't press "play" expecting a meaty Cheap Trick hook, it is plenty creepy and bewitching.

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