GETTING LOOPY WITH THE ELECTROMAN MKII
It's easy to fall into a pattern when using effects. I find myself looking for settings that sound familiarly good to me, or for the music I'm currently playing, and leaving pedals in particular configurations that I know will work on stage. This can leave vast reaches of unexplored sonic territory! It's certainly not a new idea to loop a guitar part and tweak away with free hands, but it is a lot of fun, especially if you think about your pedal board like the control panel to a modular synth. For this experiment, I'm going to focus on a couple features of the Electroman MkII Delay.
All set. I’ve got my Tele plugged into the Ditto looper and then into the Electroman II. My goal today is to create some interesting textures and a compositional flow with different combinations of decay, flutter, and warp. I’m starting with a simple pattern of harmonics and the repeats on the Electroman set at about eighty percent. The flutter control creates frequency ‘wobble’ in the recorded loop, which is an emulation of irregularities in the playback speed of an analog recording. The benefit here is that the rate and depth of flutter are fully controllable, unlike a tape machine or tape delay unit which can be challenging to dial in.
The combination of long repeats and flutter (set at about 1 o’clock) immediately creates a warm backdrop for the percussive attack of the harmonics. A little warp in the space between phrases adds an interesting, momentary change in texture. I have the warp set to be fairly quick on the lift off. The addition of an arpeggiated chord on the guitar makes the underlying pad a little murky, some overdrive or fuzz in the effects loop of the Electroman might tighten the sound... but today we're keeping it simple, so I crank the flutter down to focus the sound a bit, then back up in the space between. Setting the delay time all the way to the right lengthens the delay and creates a new sonic space with the harmonics bouncing around and in between each other. Again, the long repeats and deep flutter are creating a unique, swirling backdrop for the added synth bass and guitar chords.
Engaging the warp at the phrase break brings forward two repeated pitches that blend and swirl into the next phrase. A little too much wobble in the pitch, but a quick adjustment of the flutter depth and rate cleans up the loop nicely. The slow, long delay is playing beautifully with the harmonic figure, creating new harmonies and rhythmic combinations. A short hold on the warp switch brings forward a second set of pitches from the depths of the constantly evolving delay. For the final turn, I've cranked up the flutter again, this time setting the delay all the way left. The sound is reminiscent of John Paul Jones’ iconic Rhodes part on No Quarter. Cool. With the warp set to imminent lift-off, a short hold brings this piece of music to a swirling end. Lovely!
It's refreshing making music in a way that is out of the norm, at least for me. Next time, I'll have to plug in a few more pedals and experiment with different textures, especially in the effects loop of the Electroman. Maybe a second delay pedal later in the chain? Or some dense reverb before the delay? The sky's the limit. Until next time, happy tweaking!