Archive for May, 2008

Crazy Cheap Digital Effects

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I love analog effects yo, but that stuff is crazy expensive. Lately, to satisfy my craving for audio mangling, I’ve been picking up unloved digital effects from the early ‘90s (and some of a more recent vintage). One of the best finds was from a couple of months ago: the Alesis Wedge, made for a short period of time circa 1997. The one I found on eBay was covered in grim, but it was also dirt cheap – I think around $35.00. This is a great little reverb box that lets you actually edit the effects parameters via four sliders, which is insanely cool. I’ve been using it to create these huge ambient washes. If you want an idea of what this sounds like in a mix, checkout this six minute jam with Mike Spicer from a while back. It’s mostly my Kurzweil K2000VX played through the Wedge. That other synth noodling is Mike playing his Casio keyboard through a tremolo pedal. Everything was tracked to an Alesis ADAT.

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The Wedge and a MIDIVerb III chained-up via a ProCo patchbay. The beginnings of my modular effects rack.

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Another, and newer, digital effect boxes I’ve picked-up recently is the DigiTech RP50. I got this one off of CraigsList for $25.00. It’s the crappiest constructed effects boxes I’ve ever come across, but it sounds great. It was designed for guitarists, so it’s really easy to use. I bought it because I love the older DigiTech whammy and pitch shifter pedals – but both of those are super expense on the used market these days. The RP50 has both of these effects, along with a ton of other ones like reverb and delay. And I think you can chain up to five effects at once. To make the whammy or wah effect work, I just hook-up my controller pedal. Apparently there is even a built in drum machine, but I haven’t tried that yet. And it has stereo inputs and outputs. And it works fine with a line level signal. The list of cheap awesomeness goes on and on. Here is an example of my K2000VX played through the Wedge with the RP50 in whammy mode at the end of the effects chain.

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I did make one extravagant analog purchase recently though. With some of my tax return money I bought a used Frostwave Resonator effects pedal. I wanted to by an Analogue Solutions Filtered Coffee from the UK, which features the filter, LFOs, and envelope follower of the Korg MS-20, but it runs about $500.00 new (maybe more because of the dollar’s continuing weakness against the Pound). For around $200.00, I bought an Australian built Resonator off of eBay, which just features the filter section from the MS-20. That means no crazy Goldfrapp style vocal effects, but still lots of fun. I’ve found this pedal is most useful when the knobs are not turned to “11” since the Resonator tends to get a bit wild and unpredictable when pushed to the edge. Rather, I’ve used the filter to give character to otherwise boring sounded synths. Here is my junky Yamaha TG-33 played through the Resonator. Here is an ARP Quadra sample on my K2000VX played through the Resonator (with apologies to Boards of Canada).

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Cholula loves the warmth of my Lexicon LXP-15. Unfortunately this one has blown capacitors, so I’m looking to replace it with the smaller LXP-1. Oh, one other thing I wanted to mention, Cholula is on Matrixsynth this week. My cat blogging continues unabated.

Add comment May 15th, 2008

Modern Classic: Kicking and Screaming

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I recently re-watched Noah Baumbach’s (The Squid and the Whale) 1995 film following the stuck-in-neutral lives of recent college graduates who can’t quite work-up the courage to leave the familiarity of college life. I saw the film when it came out, one year after I graduated college, and wasn’t crazy about it. The movie probably struck a raw nerve, since much of what the main characters go through over the course of the film mirrored what many college grads like myself faced in the early to mid ‘90s. There is Grover (Josh Hamilton), whose girlfriend Jane has left for Prague, but Grover can’t seem to bring himself to join her, preferring the more predictable existence of living with college buddies. Grover’s roommates include Max (Chris Eigeman), who hangs around the house doing crossword puzzles. Then there is Otis (Carlos Jacott), who can’t seem to muster the gumption to get on a plane to Milwaukee and engineering school (he also thinks a pajama top can pass as formal wear). And finally, there is Skippy (Jason Wiles), who doesn’t seem to have any aspirations other than reading all the American great short novels.

Kicking and Screaming
has actually aged far better than its contemporaries, like Ben Stiller’s Reality Bites. That film attempted to cover all those Gen-X issues Newsweek reported back in the day. I’m sure some compare this film to those of Wilt Stillman, but I think Baumbach is a better filmmaker. I certainly like the characters in Baumbach’s films better than in Stillman’s. Those guys in Kicking and Screaming are flawed in ways almost all of us can relate to — whether we want to or not.

1 comment May 7th, 2008


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