The pedal world is rife with cryptic stompbox names that give no clue to what the pedal is or does. While the name on EarthQuaker’s new pedal, Astral Destiny, doesn’t specifically mention that it is a reverb, it’s description “An Octal Octave Reverberation Odyssey” does accurately represent the feelings this device will evoke: a literally awe inspiring trip through the cosmos. There are plenty of pedals with “shimmer” functions out there, but with its octave up and down options, and its stretch feature, which doubles the reverb length while adding an adjustable pitch bending effect, Astral Destiny carves out its own place in the firmament. A must for ambience lovers, it is also just a great sounding reverb. Thankfully it allows presets, as you are quite likely to find at least eight sounds you won’t want to lose. (See “more” for specs).
If anyone were to be into pedals it would be the modern guitarist. Granted there are a few who play only acoustic, and even fewer who exclusively play plugged straight into the amplifier, but the majority of modern guitarists are to some extent looking to find new sounds in the electric realm and pedals help them go there. The firmament of modern guitar heaven is filled with gods who use a plethora of stompboxes in their quest for sonic freshness. Adrian Belew, Nels Cline, Eivind Aarset, Stian Westerhus, David Torn, Nick Reinhardt, and others employ effect pedals as an essential part of their artistry.
For them, and guitarists of all stripes, this year has seen the release of, not one, but two books (actually three) devoted to these playable, collectable, fetish-encouraging devices.
Magnatone amps included vibrato in their amps as far back as 1957, but went out of business circa 1969. The effect was lost until Boss issued their VB-2 Vibrato pedal in 1982 to resounding crickets. But in the last couple of years the effect’s surge of popularity has caused Boss to reissued the VB-2 in Waza form, while Earthquaker Devices, T.C. Electronic, and others have also launched vibrato pedals. Even Magnatone is back in business. Nels Cline recently told me that he is afraid he uses his VB-2 too much. So, it is not surprising to see Electro-Harmonix enter the field. But first let’s clear up exactly what vibrato is, and is not.
The rollout of the Poly Effects pedals has been one of the slowest in memory. It was at least three years ago that Loki Davison unveiled his concept for a modular, programable, touchscreen, pedal. Now that his concept seems to be finally hitting the street, we see that like some Source Audio pedals, the basic housing allows either pedal to perform the functions of the other. Here are a couple of demos outside the noisy NAMM environment that show some of the fascinating possibilities.
Every now and then, a pedal comes along that embodies the concept of modern electric guitar. Hologram Electronics’ Microcosm is one such pedal. Here is modern guitarist extraordinaire Mike Baggetta’s “non-demo,” where he shows you how to make music with it. I also include Hologram Electronics’ specs and some other demo videos. Not a cheap pedal but not bad for something that is more like a musical instrument. Pre-order is now open for the second batch of Microcosms, shipping in late June 2020.