by Bill Forman
A British collective called Vagrants Among Ruins began taking pre-orders last week for the wax cylinder edition of Now That’s What I Call Steampunk! Volume 1.
Wax cylinders, for those who don’t normally traffic in arcane and useless information, were all the rage in the early 20th century, six-inch obelisks that contained an unprecedented two minutes of lo-fi musical wonder.
“As far as we are aware,” notes the UK-based collective, “this special edition (limited to a run of only 40 cylinders, painstakingly recorded by Poppy Records in Bath) is the first commercial album to be released (at least partially) on wax cylinder for the best part of a century.”
The “partially” part alludes to the fact that, due to format limitations, the cylinder contains just one song from the debut album by steampunk band The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing. The full collection by "the band that puts the 'punk' back into steampunk" will be included on an accompanying CD, along with a special lyrics “newspaper” and “instructions from Professor Offlogic on how to build your own phonograph so that you can play it!”
You can find more info about the project, including an interview with the Vagrants folk, here.
If you want to get down-to-speed on the whole steampunk thing, go here.
And as if all that weren't enough, here’s a version of Rev. Gary Davis’ “Hesitation Blues” being recorded live-to-cylinder six months ago during a strangely fascinating demonstration on the lawn of Thomas Edison’s New Jersey estate: