This is an extended and uncut live improvised performance and exploration with the Synthesis Technology E520 prototype (currently on preorder, links below). I was playing my guitar into the modular going dry into the looper on the E520 and then into some additional delay and reverb FX to wash out the live guitar and looped sounds.
The purpose for the video is to explore the tape degradation FX with overdubbing SOS (sound on sound) loops which is a feature in the stereo looper mode on the E520. The guitar was deliberately simple with the aim of overdubbing many layers of dynamic and melodic material that would disintegrate into the tape. Fully detailed notes below, check out the links for more info.
This is a Fender Telecaster which goes direct into the modular with the Befaco Instrument Interface. The playing wasn’t the focus as I wanted to explore the degrading qualities of the looping. As this was shot for another E520 video the angle is on that prototype unit, I understand seeing some guitar playing and control would have been nice … but until I was in the moment I didn’t really know I was going to get lost in this.
As mentioned above this is the E520 in Stereo Looper mode. It has overdub features which allow the sound on sound looping to occur based on it’s feedback settings. Once a loop is recorded it plays back and the on going infinite looper (typical guitar looper pedal) or the decay SOS style loop is dependent on the feedback controls. Full feedback will keep the loop feeding back into the looper and retaining it’s level. Lower feedback levels will mean the loop looses some volume which each repeat. There’s also controls for warble (wow and flutter, to chewed up tape FX), saturation and drive (blown out low end from saturated tape and fuzzy – yet not harsh – overtones) and EQ (both low and high end loss with filters). These FX stack on each repeat like real tape loops. So a single loop with no new material overdubbed can degrade into a saturated, warbling mess that looses it’s definition and low end. It’s great and that’s what I’m exploring here. At various points in the video I move from cleaner looping to more degraded (think knackered tape machine vibe) looping.
Beyond the tape style FX I was keen to explore in long form are two other tape based techniques. Adjusting the resampling time on the E520 mimics adjusting tape speed. Halving or doubling the speed (or resampling rate) gives octave shifting. So you can record at standard a pitch, octave shift that down (also doubles the loop time as it’s half speed), record over it and pitch back up so the original part plays at standard pitch and you then have an octave up effect. Similar techniques can be explore with the reverse playback option. You can reverse loops, recording into it playing in reverse and flip back to normal playback. Giving you a mixture of octave down, octave up, standard pitch and both reverse and forward playback. FX The FX chain after the E520 looper is the Befaco Crush Delay. A lovely underrated PT based delay module. The soft responsive washes of noise are the louder parts of the loop pushing through the delay circuit with a longer delay time which introduces noise. I love the noise of PT delays and it suits the degrading loop vibe and live guitar that is hitting it. Another favourite (especially paired with the Crush Delay) is the Music Thing Modular Spring Reverb. This wasn’t a real spring but actually a digital brick that is meant to emulate a spring. I find it to be way more reflective room like that springy and that suits the Crush Delay going into it. Neither of these FX were that “wet” of the mix.
There’s an additional wash of larger filtered reverb from the Chroma Reverb plug in in logic. This is set to around 20% wet, and I found over the duration of the piece just added a nice depth and background smear to the sound. Beyond that I brought the audio up to streaming standards with a very soft master and that’s it.