The world is full of overdrive pedals. Ibanez Tube Screamer clones abound. All claim to offer amp-like distortion; some claim to offer amp-like feel; some even come close to both. The H.A.L.O. in the name of the Alairex H.A.L.O. pedal ($399 street) stands for Harmonic Amp-Like Overdrive, and this one actually delivers both sound and feel to the maximum.
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Master modern guitarist Joe Gore has built a truly cool instrument and demos it with some excellent playing and looping. Check out his digital laptop looping at 4:57 for terrific sound design ideas.
The first profile I ever did for Guitar Player magazine was about Raoul Björkenheim. I had discovered his band, Krakatau, on ECM and was stunned by his Hendrix meets late era Coltrane approach. I had to talk the editors into letting me do it, but to their credit they let me interview this unknown (in America, anyway) Finnish guitarist. Since then Björkenheim has appeared on dozens of recordings under his own name and with projects like Scorch Trio and Umo Jazz Orchestra. Like Bill Frisell, he has a distinctive, recognizable style that nevertheless fits in a variety of contexts. It is a sound synthesized from a wide range of influences that he describes in detail here. It is worth noting that though these sources of inspiration are common to hundreds of players, here they disappear into a singular voice that is pure Björkenheim.
Guitar Moderne’s NAMM 2013 report spotlighted Moldover’s Robo guitar, an instrument festooned with MIDI controller buttons and sliders. Designed with the builders at Visionary Instruments, the guitar is available for custom order to those that can afford it. For those that can’t, or would prefer to add its controller capabilities to their own instrument, its offshoot Guitar Wing, designed in conjunction Livid Instruments, seems just the thing. For a mere $199 you can attach a unit that will offer on/off and continuous wireless MIDI control of software and hardware, including by motion sensor.
For more info, to purchase, and/or to check out demos go here
I inadvertently left KOMA Elektronik out of my NAMM review. They looked promising and I took a card, but didn’t get to spend as much time as I would have liked at the booth. Like Freaqbox (and MOOG long before them), the KOMA units are part of a trend towards creating effects pedals out of analog synthesizer modules.
Ville Aho was kind enough to contribute a way to make bass pedals, ala a Moog Taurus, by recycling that old MIDI keyboard you no longer use. You can get the instructions on blog site Electronic Melodist. If you have any questions email him at email@example.com.
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This year was the best NAMM in a while in general and especially for modern guitarists. Check out my extensive, modern guitar-centric report here.
“Cinematic” is an overused word when describing ambient music, but in the case of Sarah Lipstate, who records and performs as Noveller, it is thoroughly appropriate. Lipstate is a filmmaker who has been known to hand-stitch thread into celluloid to create visual experiences as unique and abstract as her recordings. Whether it induces external or internal images, her evocative record No Dreams is sure to take you on some sort of journey.