began with Pea Hix
's (formerly of Tit Wrench
and Lucas & Friend
) fascination with the Optigan, a keyboard manufactured in the early and mid-'70s by Mattel. An "optical organ," the Optigan stores its sounds -- which range from organs and strings to drum loops and sound effects -- on a collection of celluloid optical discs. Hix
found his first Optigan in 1995 at a Salvation Army and eventually added a dozen more to his arsenal. He recruited his friend Rob Crow
and also a member of Thingy
, and Physics
) as a collaborator, and the duo's debut album, Spotlight on Optiganally Yours
, arrived two years later; its blend of spare, indie pop songwriting and production and strangely lush arrangements won critical acclaim from the likes of NME, CMJ, Melody Maker, and Cool & Strange Music Mag, among other publications. The group also contributed tracks to a benefit album for East Timor and March Records' Reproductions: Songs of the Human League
before releasing their second full-length, Optiganally Yours Presents: Exclusively Talentmaker!
, in early 2000 on Absolutely Kosher Records. On this album the duo played the Vako Orchestron and the Chilton Talentmaker, which were slightly varied descendants of the original Optigan.