Luke Daniels’ Revolve & Rotate utilises the Polyphon Machine

16th May 2016

Title: Revolve & Rotate

Label: Gael Productions

Daniels is an English folk singer songwriter with a texture to his voice that allies itself very easily to an effective, emotional delivery. His work with the melodeon is known but this album also brings in his implementation of a Polyphon machine from the 1880s. This machine can be seen, in part, on the CD cover of this album but is better surveyed on the image below it, with Daniels situated net to the machine. As you can see, it’s about waist high in height and installed in a wooden structure and was originally coin operated. The essence of the music making machine are those 19” steel discs that rotate and plays a fixed music manuscript etched into it as a sort of variation of the paper piano roll.

Daniels created a computer program that synced a digital time code with this clockwork mechanism plus foot operated solenoid switches to enable the disc to start and stop plus an optical sensor to the governor wheel that measures disc speed that is connected to a a MIDI unit.


In operation, the device has a broad, expansive music box effect that is both metallic, precise but also very musical. Its connectivity to a modern musical environment has resulted in a a sparkling dimension to Part 1 of the title track that is manipulated by Daniels. It is both naive and innocent in tone but also has an odd mix of Victoriana and orientalism that adds an ethereal dimension to his own folk pathways. The machine only makes guest appearances.

The rest of the CD features Daniel’s fine, rich voice, accompanied by organic instruments that produce a melliferous and earnest suite of performances from his finely honed songs.

In audiophile terms, the CD offers a pleasant master that allows the dynamic range of the Polyphon to be exhibited but also easily tracks the Daniels’ acoustic guitar while the lead vocal is both broad and nuanced.