Halls of Wonder and Decay

Once every year or two since I began playing guitar in 2011, I have these revelatory moments (literally, moments, and on them I must act) where I suddenly need to unload what I’d previously believed were Very Important guitar pedals (or synth modules) and replace them with something different. Almost always, the pedals that need replacing are some expensive device that maybe does amazing things, but just does too much of them and ends up eating away at the attention that other devices might deserve. It seems like this is always a Strymon thing. It’s happened twice with the Strymon Mobius. Once with the Timeline (which I’ve since bought another that I barely use). Definitely happened with the Big Sky, which I guess sounds nice, but good lord.

Last week it was the Strymon Blue Sky and the Flint that were suddenly causing offense, and I replaced them. They’re both fine guitar pedals. If I was stuck on a desert island with a guitar, a Flint, and an amp, I’d probably starve to death with a smile on my face. The harmonic setting on the Flint is spectacular and the trem and reverb interact very nicely. The Blue Sky I liked the first time I owned one (my first Reverb pedal) and I bought this one last year planning to keep it on my desk to use in the send/return bus of my synth mixer. But I just didn’t use it much. I’ve noticed a particular sound that is of the Blue Sky — maybe of Strymon reverb in general — and I’ve noticed that when I’m working with synths I’m either using the spring reverb module and tank on the modular synth, or plug-ins. Reverbs with more character and personality, like Goodhertz’s Megaverb. The Blue Sky had made its way down to the pedalboard again, and really, who needs two Strymon reverbs on their pedalboard? Not me.

So let’s talk about that pedalboard. Mine’s been a mess for some time. Cables and wires everywhere, all rather haphazard. I’m not a plug-it-in-and-leave-it kind of guy, and I like checking out new things and trying new arrangements. I also have more pedals than can fit on my Pedaltrain 3, so swap stuff in and out at times. I’m not going to stop doing any of that, but I decided to really give it some thought and consider how I might work with these issues and make a flexible, capable board. First things first, get rid of the two Strymons… (the third Strymon is an El Capistan which is probably my all-time favorite guitar pedal, so it’s not going anywhere. It occasionally gets temporarily swapped out with a Volante or an EHX SMMH/Hazarai, but not often).

I replaced the two Strymons with three Walruses and still saved money. First is the Walrus Monument tremolo, which has the harmonic trem that I loved so much on the Flint. Second is the Slö reverb which I want to use for creating pads before the loopers, and last is the more straightforward Fathoms reverb to sit at the end of everything, including after the Infinity. I’ve never had a reverb after the Infinity looper before and I’m curious how it affects what I’m doing.

I’m waiting on a custom loop switcher and some new patch cables in order to get everything down, and will make a longer post about this process then. But I’ve got most of it down and so far running quite nicely. Two nights ago I started playing around with the expression pedals controlling the speed of the El Capistan looper and the Count to 5, with a big Slö reverb behind them, and just hit record on the Infinity looper (wasn’t about to get up and turn on Ableton, hit record, etc). I took the results and added some stereo compression via Goodhertz Vulf Compressor, and posted them on Soundcloud. I listen to a lot of Califone instrumentals and William Basinski while I draw. This is good for that, too, I think. Please enjoy thanks.

dance robot dance · Halls of Wonder