I just took delivery of my Abracadabra Audio Ayahuasca Trem-Fuzz today - a collaborative sister brand to Joel Korte’s Chase Bliss Audio - these pedals are very much leftfield Chase Bliss Pedals in all but name really, what sets them apart is very limited edition runs of their so far single Trem-Fuzz pedal. Up until recently it has only really been available to US consumers - but they seem to have opened up their order book internationally recently. As far as I can tell my pedal is part of the 7th edition run - Acid-Etched Magenta-to-Forest-Green fade with magenta knobs. The previous 6th edition Acid-Etched run was a pink to aqua fade with aqua knobs. I’m really happy with this colour way, and particularly like the pedal name font.
In receiving the Ayahuasca I realised that I already had a couple of tremolo or oscillating style fuzzes - and featured those above - the super weird and glitchy Catalinbread Antichthon, and the more soaring and gnarly Subdecay Harmonic Antagonizer. In fact I almost included my Side Effects Woolly Mammoth 7 Clone - which has an oscillating mode, but I associate it more with the woolly gated fuzz of its original inspiration.
I’ve featured a couple of pedals from Lastgasp Art Laboratories before - their Gomorrah, and I believe this great 88 Super Oscillo Fuzz. The other two pedals / brands are new to me - the French boutique brand 770-Circuits whose Komparator sounds superb, and the actually pretty simple but versatile Diabeetus from noiseKICK FX.
I also considered the ’Made by Mike’ Oscillating Fuzz that I came across, a cool 5-dial pedal, but one which seems to have been made custom and in very small quantities - there’s currently no mention of it on Made by Mike’s website, and nothing recent on Reverb.com - so I left it out for now.
Pedals listed alphabetically by brand:
This new-to-me French boutique brand has just 4 pedals to its name so far - including this great oscillating fuzz. Much like the Zvex Fuzz Factory it consists of 4 very interdependent dials - Hi and Lo and Feedback Toggles - you can easily get really bassy fuzz, or scratchy, drone tones and all manner of suitably gnarly voicings in-between - I really like this!
This starts with the Chase Bliss Gravitas at its base - standard plus harmonic tremolo with added choppiness - plus a super-saturated Regulus VII -style fuzz - most likely of an Integrated Circuit Type - no transistors are specified here. The control topology is identical to the usual Chase Bliss pedals - with all the dip-switches along the top edge. The Fuzz is controlled via Input and Color Dials - sort of super-broadly defined and very wide-ranging Saturation and Tone controls. The remaining Tremolo controls will be familiar to all Gravitas owners as I am. Both the Tremolo and Fuzz components are a little more aggressive here than in the related Gravitas and Brothers pedals. This is sort of a combination of those, but a significant enhancement too in how those two separate circuits are integrated. There's a huge variety of tones and textures that can be achieved here - particularly when you use the Bounce dip-switch. Easily one of my favourite fuzz pedals - and right up there with the Spaceman Sputnik which also does very interesting things. As I said in the intro it's the first time I've been able to participate in the order cycle of one of these and had not seen this particular colourway edition - but I really like it. This pedal is near enough twice as expensive as anything else here - but it does do nearly twice as much in many ways!
I've featured this very unusual and highly sensitive fuzz in several of my fuzz rundowns before - and it is still very much the left field choice here - it takes lots of fiddling with guitar volume and tone dials - and sometimes you are in the mood for that and sometimes not. I think it's very much and inspiration and experimentation pedal, which would be extremely tricky to deploy in a live situation - you need to be in the right sort of mood to engage this one, but if you are then it's guaranteed hours of fun.
I am a big fan of extreme-noise-labs Lastgasp Art - they do a number of particularly gnarly pedals including the Gomorrah and this one - featuring 2 dials here just Level and Adjust, but then 6 highly interdependent 2-way toggle switches which can be deployed in any combination to subtle or extreme effect. Much like the Antichthon above - this one is also sensitive to guitar dials, but not quite so much. This one is along similar lines to the aforementioned one - but with a touch more oomph to it - again probably an acquired taste and definitely not for everyone.
A somewhat simpler alternative to the others on display here - two separate footswitches to independently activate tremolo and fuzz - the tremolo has Speed and Depth Dials, while the Fuzz has only the one Level Dial - which is sort of a combined volume and saturation. If you need more tonal control you need to resort to you guitar dials - which are a feature for many of these kinds of pedals. The toggle switch takes your tremolo wave shape from smooth sine wave type to choppy square wave! This is the simplest execution of this sort of pedal - and will appeal to some - as an avowed tweaker my tastes are usually the more switches and dials the better!
I've had this one from near enough the start of the year - after it had languished on my wishlist for a very long time. I was turned onto this by a Dennis Kayzer demo, but the venerable 'Knobs' kind of sealed the deal as such! A great sounding oscillating fuzz which is versatile yet simple to set up and operate.
I keep forgetting that Fuzz is still largely seen as a specialist pedal type - disliked by many of the typical transparent overdrive brigade or metal rockers even. And the oscillating style of fuzz is one of the more specialist types of that. For now I've just stuck to the compact pedal types - there is of course the larger enclosure ones - like the dual-joystick Walrus Audio Janus - which I have also featured before - and the McSpunckle Gnomeratron VTF which while it's not specifically an oscillating one, it can be triggered into similar territory by the plethora of dials and switches that it contains.
So - specialist, and an acquired taste - and definitely filed under experimental 'noise-maker' - occasionally weird, and usually extreme and gnarly even. I personally am a huge fan of both tremolo and fuzz effects, and can think of few better ideas than combining these together.
Even though all the 6 pedals here occupy roughly similar territory - they can all sound quite different to each other - while some have a slightly larger degree of overlap. I'm not sure if any of these will end up as permanent features in my pedal-chain but I'm still willing to give it a try. This is after all still my 'Year of Fuzz' and I still have a few more to get before the year is out. I could name a few right now - including the Beetronics Royal Jelly and Hudson Electronic Dual Broadcaster - but I don't always know what each month will yield. And how my priorities will change day-to-day. Some pedals weirdly can stop being priorities overnight - and they get quickly forgotten about and overlooked - you also can't get every fuzz on your wishlist - it just isn't practical. But then I have a Chase Tone '68 Red Velvet on the way, and also really like the sound of the Vahlbruch Octavia, and the completist in me would quite like to acquire a discounted Spaceman Spacerocket - even though it's not particularly stellar on the usual exceptional Spaceman scale.
It largely depends on what your influences are - and whether recent music, film or art inspires you more in one direction or another. For instance I've started listening to Van Halen a lot again, and am constantly re-tuning my 'Brown Sound' these days - particularly 'tuning' the phaser - alongside all my usual Fuzz and Modulation experiments and lots of the same songs being played over and over in different styles and through different pedals - this ToneQuest shows no sign of letting up any time soon ...