Top 5 Overdrives

Mags and blogs love lists. They are fun and sure to generate controversy. I was recently asked to write a piece on my top five overdrive pedals for Audiofanzine, a gear site out of France. You can read it here. Feel free to comment there or here, but keep in mind, these are MY top five. I am sure you have yours. My feeling is, if you are looking for an overdrive pedal, and don’t know where to start among the dozens out there, this will give a place to read about and hear some. It was fun to do and I hope it will be fun to read.

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Vauxflores Number 23

The Vauxflores Number 23 ($179, not including shipping and handling) numbers among the various fuzz-centric buzz-boxes with “heterodyned, atonal artifacts” that seem to be gaining popularity among modern guitarists. Like the Trombetta Tornita, Z.Vex Fuzz Factory, and a number of pedals at this year’s NAMM, in Feedback mode the Vauxflores Number 23 emits random self-oscillating pitches when the guitar volume is rolled down—I guess that’s what “heterodyned, atonal artifacts” means. The pedal is designed in San José, Costa Rica, and each one is hand-built.

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Spotlight: Harvey Valdes

It is hard to reconcile the young Harvey Valdes who grew up loving Napalm Death, and Sepultura with the man who plays sensitive standards like “April in Paris” on solo guitar. You might find the child more visible in the man who rocks his Trombetta FeederBone in duo with drummer Damion Reid.

In both contexts Valdes brings a personal approach that is tasteful even when it is being aggressive and a deep appreciation of tone as the starting point of music.

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Spotlight: Dan Phelps

Seattle guitarist Dan Phelps’  recorded output is minimal but choice. Modular, a record with the sometime Bill Frisell rhythm section of Viktor Krauss (bass) and drummer Matt Chamberlain is a feast of textures and rhythms, while his more recent solo EP offering, Death Under Rainbows, explores Torn-like distortion along with Phelps’ unique take on twang. That is pretty much it, but the music was intriguing enough to make me seek him out.

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