Bookending the live premiere of Radiolab season four last night at the Angelika Film Center, a charmingly twee band called "One Ring Zero" played accordion and...something. It was like an accordion, but you blew into a pipe winding from the top. It made an intriguingly clear tone that sounded almost digital.
Turns out it's a claviola, an instrument designed by Ernst Zacharias (of musical equipment manufacturer Hohner) that was only available on the market for a few months in 1996. It's rare enough that a quick pass through eBay resulted only in listings of "craviola," a type of guitar. Too bad. I know I'll never learn to play the accordion, but I bet I could figure out how to blow into a tube.
You can hear claviola on its own at he beginning of One Ring Zero's "Mean Marcus," which can be streamed from their site. (And on most of their songs, too, but deeper in the mix.)
Update: Apparently I have no idea what the claviola sounds like. One Ring Zero's Michael Hearst tells me:
Mean Marcus" has hardly any audible claviola on it. "The Long Day," however, is all claviola playing lead at the beginning.