A turquoise and red metal cylinder with a winding handle on top. It plays a plonking loop of just three notes – but that’s plenty. I’m increasingly drawn to machines that just do one thing well, like the original Kindle eBook, or my can opener. This little musical can is called Katarynka, a Polish word approximating to barrel organ, and it’s the latest from Pawel Romanczuk’s group Male Instrumenty (‘small instruments’). Since forming seven years ago, inspired by the soundtracks to old Polish animated films, Male Instrumenty have been performing their own music on a host of toy pianos, Swanee whistles and Fisher Price synths, in the spirit of Pascal Comelade, Pierre Bastien and Jacques Tati. The music box has always been central to their instrumentation, so now Katarynka sits alongside the last music box I bought, from Muji: a wooden tribute to London town, where a tiny tube train circles Big Ben until the sentimental tune runs out of pluck. +
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