Perhaps you’re a guitarist who plays in a band with an electronic aspect to its sound; perhaps you want to use your guitar to add some organic atmospherics to a piece of soundtrack work; or perhaps you’re a compulsive knob-twiddler attracted to the more experimental end of the sonic spectrum.
Whichever it is, there’s no shortage of sonic adventures to be had in the guitar world, courtesy of those pioneering people at boutique FX companies – mostly in lab coats, mostly in underground lairs, many of whom haven’t slept for weeks on end – beavering away in the darkness to bring us their latest sophisticated box of sonic mystery.
Here are six of our favourite recently released exotic sound manipulators with a science-fiction flavour…
Death By Audio Reverberation Machine
Williamsburg, NY effects maker Death By Audio’s entire product line could be featured here – but we’ve singled out the Reverberation Machine for its uncanny ability to add an inspiring sheen of ghostly shimmer and ethereal ambience to any guitar part.
It does this via just four basic controls (volume, altitude, reverb tone and bright sun/dark star modes); the altitude control alters the reverb’s gain and can generate a range of tones, from barely perceptible smooth sheen to crunchy and destructive echos.
It’s also capable of sweeter sounds as well as white-noise drenched atmospheres – this is a very musical-sounding tool and a dream ticket for any knob-twiddling reverb junkie.
Use it for…
Adding unexpected character and life to your guitar parts.
Red Panda Particle Granular Delay
The Particle takes your guitar signal, chops it up using the techniques of granular synthesis in real time, then does a range of what Red Panda terms “trippy, robotic things” to it. It creates interactions between three pitch modes – detune, density and LFO – and five delay modes – random, density, LFO, random pitch and reverse.
These then act on the grains, whose size you can also adjust, and the resulting sounds can fall anywhere from modulated delay shimmers to reverse and stutter effects, to extreme glitchy rhythms, to indescribable, kaleidoscopic pitch-shifted alien modulation patterns… It’s an extremely powerful and endlessly creative toolbox.
Use it for…
Turning any guitar part inside out.
Rainger FX Dr Freakenstein Dwarf Bleep (and Igor mini-pedal)
There are plenty of futuristic fuzzes, but the Dwarf Bleep is different – mainly because of Igor, a mini pressure-operated foot controller that has two modes, both of which produce futuristic sound-mangling results.
The main chassis (tiny, with entirely top-mounted sockets) has a volume thumbwheel, a footswitch for toggling hi or lo intensity mode and a dial to control the harmonic overtones of the fuzzy distortion.
Engaging Igor enables you to alter pitch and create bitcrusher-style sounds, high-pass filter sweeps and real-time pitch variations, resulting in creative rhythmic possibilities for riffs and synthetic robotic noise.
Use it for…
Adding a dash of controlled chaos to distorted riffs and lead parts.
Keeley Dark Side
Across Dark Side Of The Moon, Wish You Were Here and Animals, Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour soundtracked 70s sonic space exploration with a variety of signature sounds based on a shedload of effects units – and, of course, his inimitable touch and tone.
Robert Keeley’s latest artist-based multi-FX unit promises to place Gilmour’s sounds at your fingertips, via the Dark Side – effectively a two-section pedal with fuzz on one side and modulation/delay on the other.
The fuzz presents a range of Big Muff-style tones with a three-way midrange EQ switch for variety. The modulation consists of emulations of signature Floyd effects – flanger, phase, rotary and U-Vibe – and 12 different flavours of Binson Echorec-style tape delay.
Use it for…
Losing yourself on the prog side of the moon.
Chase Bliss Audio Warped Vinyl mkII
Boasting an all-analogue signal path, a quiet circuit and ‘true pitch’, this boutique pedal offers comprehensive digital control over vibrato and chorus sounds, as well as the ability to save settings and alter the shape of the modulation waveform.
A ramp control modulates every other parameter over time – and a series of DIP switches on the top of the unit enable you to choose which parameters are affected, turning them on or off, or enabling them to rise or fall.
This results in a library of unique modulations, warbles, gargles and pitch-based effects, as well as fully controllable versions of classic vibrato and chorus effects into the bargain.
Use it for…
Adding an otherworldly, under-sea shimmer to an arpeggio part or chord sequence.
Hologram Electronics Dream Sequence
Octaves, envelope filtering, sample and hold, arpeggiation and sequencing combine in the Dream Sequence, the debut pedal from Knoxville’s Hologram Electronics. The Space Age-style chassis houses a range of preset octave up and down sequenced patterns, with additional control over pitch-shifting and rhythmic timing, the shape of the ADSR envelope and much more.
It has expression pedal and MIDI control and you can record and save sequences – basically, it’s an effects unit that blurs the line between programmed-sounding sequences and instant guitar-effect gratification.
The company’s forthcoming Infinite Jets – a four-in-one resynthesiser pedal – is an altogether more direct and glitchier affair, but the Dream Sequence is just the job for everything from hallucinatory frozen chords and atmospheric drones to rhythmic, synth-like arpeggiation and creative modulations.