Review: Catalinbread Antichthon and Talisman

Catalinbread is rapidly becoming one of those companies, like Electro-Harmonix and Earthquaker, whose product line consistently reflects a combination of weirdly wonderful new tones for modern guitarists, along with fresh takes on classic tones. Their Antichthon ($169.99) and Talisman ($209.99) models represent that combination admirably.

Antichthon 

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The word “Antichthon” refers to the ancient Greek idea of a “Counter-Earth,” 180 degrees opposite to Earth. This Earth would be invisible, as it always on the opposite side of the “Central Fire” (whatever that means) from the other Earth. As Catalinbread astutely points out, these days we have new notions of unseeable worlds like the multiverse: “big bangs” giving birth to new universes, and in these alternate universes the laws of physics we know may not be the same.

“This relates to the Antichthon pedal how?,” you ask. Perhaps in the sense that nothing on the pedal behaves in traditional ways; i.e. the guitar’s volume knob makes volume pulses speed up or slow down, or tunes a series of self-oscillating squeals and groans.

Antichthon’s knobs’ dark lettered labels on a dark background are very difficult to read. In just the right light, at a certain angle, I could discern what they said, yet remained unenlightened. Barring the self-explanatory Volume, I was at a loss to figure out what was meant by Gravity, Time, and Space.

Fortunately, I quickly realized neither of these things mattered. The series of sounds coming out of the pedal didn’t relate to any other effect anyway, and the only way to use Antichthon was to play with the interactive  knobs until I figured out which configuration produces which sound. Once that was achieved—pretty easily I might add, dialing in repeatable effects became simple, and reading the poetic but cryptic names unnecessary.

Set one way, Antichthon produced a dynamic fuzz tremolo or “fuzzolo,” where I could alter the speed of a tremolo effect by turning the guitar’s volume knob, and change the depth through the dynamics of my attack. These dynamics worked in reverse, that is: the harder I hit the strings, the less tremolo effect I heard. This proved an extremely expressive effect, much like a singer hitting a note straight, only to bring in some vibrato at the end. This same knob configuration also let me pick lightly tremoloed arpeggio rhythms, and then play single note solos unmuddied by warbling trem.

In another setting, Antichthon created self-oscillating sounds without touching the guitar. I could control these by manipulating the pedal’s knobs and/or the instrument’s  volume and tone knobs. On a Strat-style Fernandes wired with a master volume and two master tones sporting different capacitors, Antichthon reacted differently to the manipulation of each knob and they all interacted with each other. Playing with the three guitar knobs and the pedal’s Gravity, Time, and Space controls, a cornucopia of buzzes, hums, squeals, whistles and chirps were under my fingers.

Another combination of knob settings yielded more traditional, yet still distinctive fuzz sounds that sounded great alone or through a slightly distorted amp or overdrive pedal. Like a Fuzz Face, the drive cleaned up nicely when I rolled back the guitar’s volume knob.

Whether you are seeking sounds from this world or another, Antichthon offers a range of tones you can use.

Maestro David Torn was kind enough to allow me to use a couple of examples of him playing the Antichthon through a Catalinbread Echorec delay.

Talisman Plate Reverb

Perhaps, like me, you grew up listening to the ’70s sound of plate reverb on, well, virtually every commercial record that came out of that era. Plate reverb essentially replaces the springs of a spring reverb with a large (nearly 6.5′ x 3′ in the case of the EMT140), thin sheet of metal. A transducer at one corner drives the sheet, much like a speaker might. On the other end is a pickup to capture the vibrations of the metal, and a mechanical dampener to reduce plate vibration.

Plate reverbs were employed on most instruments and vocals to add a natural ambience without interfering with the original audio, and as a substitute for large rooms or halls. They sound good with electric guitar thanks to minimal early reflections that keep the reverb from sounding too obvious.

Their giant size made plate reverb units impossible to use on the road, but Catalinbread now lets you take this classic sound with you thanks the 479.99% smaller Talisman.

The Talisman also includes studio-style sidechain effects often paired with plates. These comprise controls for predelay, which delays the reverb by about 100mS, and a high pass filter, which rolls off the low frequencies of the reverb. These controls can help keep the effect from interfering with the dry signal.

My first test of a reverb pedal is to crank the mix up to full wet and see if it evidences any metallic harshness. The Talisman passed with flying colors, remaining warm and natural sounding, even at the extreme settings I use for volume-swelled pads. More subtle amounts ranged from barely audible air, to small rooms. Longer decay times with the mix set to drier signal, let me create ECM records-style ambience that would please even Herr Eicher.

Plate reverb is a specific sound that you may or may not want as your reverb flavor. If you do, you will be very pleased with how the Talisman pedal nails the color and character of this classic ambience.

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