Years ago in Toronto I found a pink Barbie Jam With Me keyboard abandoned at the side of the road. At home I found the battery terminals were finicky, but, like many electronics people throw in the trash, it wasn’t truly broken. “Hey girl, take a look at this cool keyboard!” a bubbly voice still greeted you when the batteries were jammed in just right.
The Barbie Jam With Me keyboard is inset with glitter and plays on four settings: piano, flute, synth, and organ, and includes a drum pad, sound effects, preset tempos like “cha-cha” and “disco,” a microphone with an echo setting, a built in speaker, and a memory card holding three snippets of pop songs from the early 2000’s.
Every track on Pink was recorded with the Barbie keyboard I found in the trash. The plan was to make one song, then circuit bend the shit out of the hardware, but once I started to really listen to the instrument I realized there had to be a larger collection of songs and sounds.
Some tracks will be obvious: Rose is the flute setting, Cherry Blossom the piano, Peony the synth, Amarynth the organ. The pop song snippets make their way in, but you won’t be able to make out Britney’s voice. Drum hits come both from the ready-made pad and from the static generated by wiggling the star-embedded volume knobs just right. On Orchid, Tasman Richardson was given all 8 tempo samples, and I believe in the end he used about 4 seconds of material to sculpt his rhythms and melody. Final track Lavender, a song I hope puts you to sleep night after night, has melodies entirely made out of feedback made by pointing the bendy green microphone at the speaker.
Pink began and finished during Toronto’s Covid-19 lockdown quarantine in spring and summer 2020. It was engineered in Bergamo, Italy, the early epicentre of Europe’s pandemic outbreak, by Davide Eseni. All photography and design is by Tasman Richardson, who lives 4 blocks from me in Toronto (thanks for everything, Tas). Finally, shout out to Steve Kirby and UK label Industrial Coast for releasing this tape and using the pink heart emoji for the first time ever.