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End of April Pedal-Chain Update - Covid-19 Lost in the Post Edition

Ambient EffectsAnasoundsBitcrushing and Lo-FiBlues Breaker Style OverdriveBoostBoost and OverdriveBrown Sound DistortionChase Bliss AudioChorus and VibratoCooper FXDigital ReverbDistortionDr ScientistDriveDual-DriveEarthQuaker DevicesElectro-HarmonixEnvelope Filter and Auto WahFlangerFuzzFuzz Face Style FuzzGated and Velcro FuzzGermanium FuzzGFI SystemGlitchGuitar Synth and SequencerJackson AudioKlone and Transparent OverdriveMarshall Style DistortionMenatoneMetal DistortionModulated FuzzModulationModulation WorkstationMulti-DriveOctave FuzzOddball FuzzOddball ModulationOpAmp FuzzOverdriveRat Style FuzzRedbeard EffectsReverbReverb WorkstationShimmer ReverbSilicon FuzzSinvertekSpaceman EffectsSpacey ReverbThorpyFXTremoloTubescreamer Style OverdriveVA AudioVox Style Distortion+-
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So a lot has changed during the month of April - we’ve had some thoroughly exciting and invigorating new product launches, while three of my American acquisitions are seemingly lost by USPS - hopefully they will materialise some day, but for one of them there have been no tracking updates for over a month now - which is somewhat alarming. As the eternal optimist, I can only hope that things right themselves eventually. I had already determined that my pedal-acquisition would go on semi-hiatus during lockdown, and that was probably a sound decision in most ways. I did have some pre-existing commitments though before all this Coronavirus malarky - and I always try to be a person of integrity and stand by my words.

 

As before I’ve used the Orange > Yellow > Green legends, where Orange indicates imminent (-ish!) acquisition, Yellow indicates en-route (in the mail) and Green indicates already landed and on the board. There hasn’t been a huge change in status since the last one of these I did - the Anasounds Ages Harmonic Tremolo and Dr Scientist Dusk Filter both landed - while other packages seem somewhat tantalisingly out of reach.

 

Two recent product launches very significantly impacted my deliberations - with the Cooper FX Arcades Modular Multi-FX and Spaceman Sputnik III Germanium Fuzz both earmarking slots in the chain. The EHX Oceans 12 still doesn’t seem to have reached UK dealers, and I’m not sure how well the current circumstances will place me as regards the relatively pricey Chase Bliss Audio Automatone PreAmp MKII acquisition. Most likely that will be a later acquisition - may even transition into next year - difficult to say at the moment.

 

There are other things going on in the chain too which are less overt - I’m still deciding which or if either of the 2 new Thorpy’s will secure a more fixed spot, while at the same time I’m going through something of a Sludge Fuzz phase - so there is quite a lot of incidental and adhoc movement / rotation in the chain - this tends to be a fairly unsettled part of the year anyway.

 

Here follows a little more about each of the key changes - actual and forecasted :


Slot #4 : Filter / Auto-Wah!

One of only two April arrivals - the Dusk is everything I had hoped it would be. It rightfully takes its place and stakes a claim on slot #4. It is a very suitable stand-in for the Mu-Tron Micro-Tron III and frankly I could not be happier with this decision - one of the few bright sparks of hope/joy for April!


Slot #5 : Germanium Fuzz

I predicted the Sputnik III around a year ago on this very blog and created my own mock-up, which wasn't too far from the actual final version. I wasn't expecting this launch to be quite so early in the year, and initially I wasn't sure that the MKIII was a sufficient evolution and innovation to the format. But pretty quickly came to the conclusion that this was an essential addition for me. After all - its predecessor Sputnik I is one of my all-time favourite fuzzes - and this gives you a touch more than that - certainly in the ease of engaging the Drift / Scan mode. I'm just waiting for this to land with UK dealers and then I'll weigh up my current circumstances! In the meantime the slot is being occupied by another of my April acquisitions - the Signature Josh Smith Myriad Fuzz - which I obtained at a very good price from a gentleman in Paris,


Slot #10 : Tube Screamer / Blues Breaker Style Overdrive

I had a commitment with Brad Jackson to support the launch of this pedal, while I don't feel I was particularly well treated or reciprocated for my ongoing efforts in this area. We'll see how that all pans out during the rest of the year - obviously this fever season is impacting a variety of business decisions, and some individuals have become more fractious and unreliable than others as a result. I nevertheless still love these pedals, and the early demos were suitably stellar to cement my opinions in that area. I'm not sure of the wisdom of sending anything out by USPS these days - that seems destined for a whole different serialisation of 'Lost'. So mine was acquired from Reverb.com and is winging its way toward me at probably the slowest possible pace. No idea when this is likely to land - if it's on the same schedule as my Menatone trio then we're probably talking mid-summer!


Slot #14 : Various Twin Drive/Fuzz/Distortion Pedals or Multi-Drive

I'm still really looking forward to the launch of the Automatone PreAmp MKII, but fear this may be something of a delayed acquisition for me. Times are still uncertain, and moneys aren't really flowing in like they used to. I will definitely still be getting this some day, I just can't say for sure exactly when. Depending on how the year goes, this may well be an acquisition that gets pushed too much later in the year, or even passes into next year.


Slot #15 : Boosted Vox Distortion

This is one of my trio of Menatone dual-footswitch vertical edition pedals (+Fish Factory and King of Britains) seemingly lost in the void by the USPS. I was really hoping it would have landed by now - as it starts heading toward the two-month mark which is an almost intolerably long transition period. This is a tracked parcel, so no idea why USPS seems to have lost tabs on it - I still live in hope that it will materialise within the month of May - we can only wait and see. I the meantime the Bearfoot FX Emerald Green Distortion Machine is continuing to perform its stellar duties - regardless of the longer term outcome of this slot the EGDM will always be one of my favourite distortion pedals!


Slot #16 : Amp-Like Distortion

Seems like the Sinvertek Drive N5+ still isn't getting the recognition it deserves, while it lays down some fairly significant roots in my rig. I really don't understand some of the critics of this - they were much more forthcoming in praise for the significantly more complex Origin Effects RevivalDrive - which I have an love to - both these are exceptional pedals - but the Drive N5+ is significantly more compact. Far more players need to be taking this for a spin - this is truly one of the modern greats.


Slot #17 : JCM800 / Brown Sound Distortion

Another one of my Menatone transitionals currently lost in space supposedly - the dual-footswitch vertical King of the Britains. I am hoping my Menatone trio will magically materialise some time in May. This slot will also be seeing the Jackson Audio El Guapo JCM800 + Boost eventually - which is likely still some months out - looks like Jackson Audio will be busy with their Golden Boy through to early Autumn at least. In the meantime the exception MI Effects Super Crunch Box V2 still runs the show here - another all-time favourite of mine.


Slot #19 : Big Muff / Rat / Extreme Fuzz

Yes I'm still having plenty of fun with this Life Pedal - looks like it will extend its tenure on this slot for quite a while longer. For sure this pedal was hyped at the time, but I still derive genuine joy from its deployment - and I toy with utilising the Octave mode with other components of my chain - both upstream and downstream. From UK dealers too it looks like this isn't anyway near sold out yet, but there has still been a smattering on Reverb.com of some fairly silly priced ones. I never go with the hype, just my own judgment - and this pedal certainly stands up under its own merit.


Slot #20 : Rat / Fuzztortion (Typically)

I'm slightly hot and cold over the Field Marshall these days - as Andy Martin's demo attests though this is one great sounding fuzz - and it certainly has numerous sweet-spots on the dials, but like The Bunker - it can be occasionally somewhat fiddly to dial in. Some days I'm really loving this, other times not quite as much - I'm certainly still in the pondering stage with no firm conclusion yet. Possibly I'm slightly distracted currently by my Sludge Fuzz phase too!


Slot #22 : Plexi / Chewy Marshall-y Distortion

I think I'm generally coming down in favour of the Field Marshall in the head-to-head stakes for the two recent Thorpy releases. Not that The Bunker can't sound great too - but both pedals do suffer to a degree from dial-ability. In that not altogether dissimilar a way to the Fuzz Factory - you are typically reliant on dialling in 2 or 3 knobs in tandem - and switching modes means you need to re-calibrate everything all over again. Both pedals are still excellent, but I have such a number of great pedals already I need to weigh up a whole series of criteria to justify a pedal holding down its spot. I still really like The Bunker, but find the Sitek Wuffy Fuzzy Distortion a little more to my liking overall - so that is likely going back on the board as such. For a while I was rotating The Bunker, Vemuram Karen and Sitek Wuffy - and the last mentioned is the one that appeals to me the best overall - it just has some certain texture over and above those others - which are still excellent in their own right, and will of course no doubt be back in the rotation agains at some stage soon.


Slot #23 : Modern High Gain Distortion

The Redbeard Effects Honey Badger is undoubtedly my favourite of the recent batch of 'Thorpy' pedals and should have a long and fruitful tenancy on this slot. It is somewhat endangered by my current obsession with Sludge Fuzzes, as I will likely draft in the Blackhawk Balrog V3 at some stage - and have yet to decide whether it takes up residency in slot #22 or #23. The Honey Badger though will still be an enduring favourite and should see a whole load of action in the rig for years to come.


Slot #29 : Analog Chorus

I'm still really loving the VS Audio Alchemy - I probably have never used a Chorus more often than I am with this. I use it to bring extra brightness and definition to the chain at the time - as well as all those obvious and more subtle chorus flavours. This is a really great pedal and more players should definitely take it for a spin - it's a classic in the making!


Slot #30 : Analog Flanger

Same story with the Camoflange really as for the above VS Audio Alchemy Chorus - I've never used these effects more - they just sound stellar on everything. And while my Chase Bliss Audio Spectre was more of a bit-player really - the Camoflange puts in actually a very regular appearance - I can't recall a single of my recent sessions where I did not apply the flanger for some significant part of the time.


Slot #31 : Analog Harmonic Tremolo

Of my recent arrivals - this is the one that's getting most of the action. Tremolo has always been one of my favourite effects, it was my first analog modulation, and while it was always in play really, the Anasounds Ages has sort of rekindled my love for this format. I had toyed with the need for Anasounds smart Spinner expression control - but with the touch-sensitive dynamics of the Ages you really don't need any further expression control. Initially too I wasn't sure about the range or tape of the various knobs, and encountered some difficulties in dialling in the secondary Blue mode parameters - but that has all settled down now. This is a truly magnificent sounding tremolo and is pretty much everything I hoped it was. Again - seems like there is not too much traction on this pedal currently - more of you should definitely check it out.


Slot #33 : Glitch Pedal / Workstation

So Tom Majeski has finally brought my great Glitch Workstation hunt to a close with his new Card-based Modular Cooper FX Arcades Multi-FX unit. This is everything I was looking for in a Glitch Workstation - smart intuitive controls with onboard Presets and a broad range of quirky granular effects that were still relatively easy to dial in. There is so much clever innovation with the Arcades, and so much of it matches up to my own pedal philosophies and preferences. This was exactly the pedal I was seeking out during my Glitch pedal quest - and I'm glad I kept tabs on Tom's activities as he's been refining and improving his pedal format. It's a bit of a shame that I need to sacrifice all those Chase Bliss Audio pedals which otherwise occupied this slot - I don't feel they will get too much of a look-in once this lands. I'm sort of waiting to establish proper contact with Tom, and will probably wait for the stocks of the various cards to settle down before pulling the trigger - but we shall see!


Slot #34 : Stereo Digital Multi-Modulation Workstation

I'm still loving this pedal and can't wait to use it in combination with the forthcoming Cooper FX Arcades. Both of these pedals are the next level of pedal innovation and evolution - and are exactly the type of workstation multi-fx pedals which so appeal to me. We're still waiting for the 'March' firmware update - not sure why the delay - possibly those new modes are taking a fair bit more time to finesse, as Brian Wampler found out with his Terraform last year. Looking forward to checking out the Rotary and Arpeggiation modes when those finally land. This pedal has been getting a lot of traction - so it doesn't really need my support - but by all means check it out - it's the best of the Modulation Workstations out there currently as far as I'm concerned.


Slot #39 Stereo Digital Reverb Workstation

I keep scanning the airwaves for signs of this pedal in the UK. Still not materialised in the UK yet, nor Europe seemingly for that matter - as Thomann too has it on pre-order. I have noted that it seems to be in stock with various dealers in the US though - more of those delivery issues therefore I alluded to earlier. Perhaps all those EHX's got lost in the post too!


Final Thoughts

As someone who lives and works mostly alone - this Covid-19 existence has seemingly put more of a strain on my general state of mind and wellbeing than I would previously have thought possible. As a creative person, I am prone to the occasional bouts of darkness, but I've found these days of isolation even somewhat more testing than I could have reasonably expected.

 

The last 'outside' event I attended was The Guitar Show in Birmingham on the 29th of February. I was acutely aware of the impact of Coronavirus and instituted a policy of elbow bumps at the show - where others were still shaking hands and embracing even. My following of Winston Sterzel / SerpentZA and Matthew Tye / C-Milk / laowhy86 put me in a great place to appreciate what was happening in the World, and I myself entered self-isolation, full social-distancing the very week following the show - so from March 1st onwards. Two months seems to be a mighty long time without all those little fun incidentals to break things up. I'm typically an avid / weekly cinema-goer too, and I miss that more than I would have credited - even with the wealth of all the streaming content that is available. I very much grew up in my own world of Cinema Paradiso in Iceland - where there wasn't much else to fixate on in the 70's and 80's - and it's left an enduring legacy of cinematic devotion . I still get excited about the thought of going to the cinema, where the younger generation would much rather stay at home and play computer or console games.

 

Anyway - I digress somewhat - back to the world of pedals! And April has been an odd mix of disappointment and exhilaration. I've dropped into my fun visceral Sludge Fuzz phase, and witnessed the launches of at least three really great pedals - the Sputnik III, Jackson Audio Golden Boy and Cooper FX Arcades. While most of the pedals I have ordered in these last couple of months or so - have still failed to materialise.

 

It's not always easy to motivate yourself to find new and interesting angles for this blog, and even when the material and inspiration is there it can still be a challenge to get the right satisfying take on said target topic. There's a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes here, and a handful of likes on Instagram is rarely the most energising of motivations.

 

I've found communications with some pedal-builders over this period somewhat fraught, and marked with a pattern of opaqueness and disingenuity. I have come at times very close to throwing in the towel so to speak. Right now I'm still soldiering on here, but am also still processing an internal dialogue of what to do with all of this - which is a second 'job' after all. Some days the amount of toil and effort that goes into this all just doesn't seem worth it.

 

I may well end up as just another glowing ember on this bonfire of vanities. I'm digging deep for some further spark of inspiration to keep all of this going - but boy is it a struggle some days ...

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