When I checked out the videos Matteo Liberatore sent me in his contact email, I was blown away by his take on creating abstract music in a similar way to early Stian Westerhus; that is, conjuring up highly electronic sounds without using a laptop or iPad, solely through the imaginative employment of effects pedals. Matteo was kind enough to consent to a Reader’s Rig, where explains his process in detail.
Before you enter the world of his new glorious noise project, American Winter, check out this imaginative reworking of the standard, “There Is No Greater Love,” in the Concepts Duo with bassist Jerry DeVore.
Now for Matteo:
“In late 2015 I started working on a solo performance called American Winter. My main goal was to create music that was informed by my love for guitar and the kind of sound manipulation usually achieved with synthesizers. What came out is a mix of free improvisation, contemporary classical music and electronic music, with an emphasis on exploring dynamics, timbre, texture and unconventional improvisational/compositional methods. Although it was born as a live performance, I started working on recording the material and I’ll release it by the end of this year.
I use a lefty 2016 MIJ Jazzmaster with a Curtis Novak P-90 in the neck and a Mastery Bridge. I split the signal at the end of my pedal chain, going into a Fender Hot Rod DeVille and a PA speaker or bass amp. I take the highs and mids out of the PA, so only the low end comes through. Many of the sounds I make have a massive amount of low end so the PA becomes vital. I have two pedalboards, one on the ground and one on a stand so I can manipulate the sounds in real time.
The floor chain is an Xotic SP Compressor into a TC Electronic Polytune Tuner. That goes into a Fulltone OCD overdrive to a TC Electronic Ditto X2 Looper, then to a Z.Vex Mastotron fuzz, and an EHX Chillswitch with a Red Panda Particle (with expression pedal) in its loop, finally to a small Ditto Looper.
On the stand, I have an EHX Pitchfork going into an EHX Superego, to a Z.Vex Fat Fuzz Factory, and then into an EHX Flanger Hoax, to a Moog Ring Modulator with an Expression Pedal. The ring mod goes into an EHX Holy Grail reverb and then into a Subdecay Prometheus filter, and finally into a Radial A/B Splitter to split the signal between the amp and PA.
I only use the loopers a couple of times during the set. On one “piece” (though improvised, some of the sections have a loose structure) I loop a fast pentatonic phrase and then overdub so many lines it eventually becomes a big mass of sound I can manipulate by freezing it, pitch shifting it and so on. I keep the Pitchfork before the Superego so I can pitch shift things, freeze [sample] them, then change pitch and freeze them again, creating big synth-like glissandos (see video below.)
Other times I layer and freeze different guitar voicings and chords in the Superego to create orchestral-like texture (Ligeti inspired) that I further manipulate.
In another improvisation, I use a bedspring and the Red Panda Particle in freeze mode, 100% wet, with the expression pedal connected. By rocking the pedal I can go from stutter to a two second loop. The variety of sounds and timbres I can get from this combo is amazing. Sometimes I also further record bits of it in the second loop and purposely make the loop slightly longer so after a couple of repeats it goes out of phase (Steve Reich inspired). Sometimes I use the Fuzz Factory to choke incoming sounds or loops thanks to the gate feature (see video below.)
The noisiest parts of the set happen when I combine the Mastotron, Fuzz Factory, Particle and bedspring. I can go anywhere from scratching, feedback, white noise, big low stutters, and blips. I always strive for clarity, even with the noisiest settings. Sometimes I create melodies and play them back in reverse while slightly rocking the Pitchfork pitch knob, creating random counterpoints (in teaser below).
My favorite pedal along with the Particle is the Flanger Hoax. Thanks to its highly tweakable feedback loop I can get nail biting sounds, huge low-end rumbles, extreme filtering and random feedback melodies that sound like giant whales—a truly amazing pedal. The blend knob is extremely useful to seamlessly bring in and out sounds. The same goes for the Ring Mod and the Pitchfork: they are always on and I blend them in at will. The Prometheus is the latest addition. I looked long and hard for a highly tweakable synth-like filter section and I think it is the answer.
Other objects I use, besides the spring, are alligator clips and a pitchfork. I am very happy with the current setup but I am always trying new pedals and combinations. The possibilities are endless!