the magazine about emerging nyc bands Issue #49
Best 2016 Records by Emerging NYC Artists
Table of Contents
the magazine aboutthe emerging nyc scene bands everything about nyc music
Issue #49 Vol. #3 Winter 2016 thedelimag.com Paolo De Gregorio Charles Newman Editor: quang d. tran graphic designer: Kaz Yabe ( www.kazyabe.com ) Cover photograph: Ali Kate hip-hop editor: Jason Grimste (aka brokemc) Web Developer: Binod Lamsal Distribution Coordinator: Kevin Blatchford Contributing Writers: Ben Apatoff Dave Cromwell Olivia Sisinni William Sisskind Henry Solotaroff-Webber Zachary Weg Editor In Chief / Publisher: Founder:
p.6 The Best Records by Emerging NYC Artists in 2016
Ryan Dembinsky Brandon Stoner Ashley Muniz Publishers: The Deli Magazine LLC / Mother West, NYC The Kitchen: Interns:
The Deli Magazine is a trademark of The Deli Magazine, LLC, Brooklyn & Mother West, NYC. All contents ©2016 The Deli Magazine. All rights reserved.
Notes from the Editor Dear readers - old and new, Sometimes it feels like times are “a-changing” a lot faster than usual, doesn’t it? And if November 2016 will be remembered as a testament to that, here at The Deli, we’ve been going through some changes of our own, in the effort of adapting to new challenges and shifting scenarios. This issue represents a first result of those changes.
p.12 Big Thief
If you haven’t noticed it yet, you may want to flip this magazine 180 degrees and take a look at the back cover. Just like emerging bands release split singles, we created a “split issue” with our friends at Gearphoria, a digital magazine that deals exclusively with guitar gear. I launched The Deli NYC in 2004 as a publication exclusively focused on emerging NYC artists. Against all odds, it survived 12 years in its original form, notwithstanding that it served two of the most broken industries in the world (music and recording). An immeasurable amount of passion (and underpaid work, if paid at all) went into 48 issues of The Deli NYC, and we hope at least as many will follow in this new, more gear-oriented version.
p.14 Forth Wanderers
We’d like to thank Blake and Holly at Gearphoria for providing in-depth pedal-related content that we are sure many musicians in NYC and at NAMM will enjoy, and send a particular thank you to our Deli Editor, Brian Chidester, who skipped this issue, but will, in all likelihood, be back very soon. And to all our readers, we wish at least four years of intense creative inspiration - because art always thrives during transitional periods like the one we are experiencing, often providing personal healing. Paolo De Gregorio
p.16 Soundbites the deli Winter 2016
Feature | Best 2016 Records by Emerging NYC Artists
THE BEST RECORDS BY EMERGING NYC ARTISTS IN 2016 written By
Paolo de Gregorio
With the closing of many historical music venues, record stores and rehearsal studios, the last couple of years have been rather brutal to witness for anybody “invested” in the NYC music scene. The utterly depressing normalization of Williamsburg and the recent demise of the CMJ Music Marathon could be seen as the nails in the coffin of the so-called “NYC Scene Renaissance,” which started in the early aughts, when bands like Interpol, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and TV on the Radio were coming out with critically acclaimed, early releases that would end up becoming incredibly influential. However, for those who are quick in downplaying the importance of NYC’s current musical output, we have two simple answers. The first one concerns bare numbers: Thanks to its various colleges and hip
the deli Winter 2016
companies always on the look for talent to hire; NYC will never cease to be home to an enormous community of creative young people. Their unique ability to share their flats with an unconscionable number of other creative souls will allow them to make the city’s lifestyle affordable—until they can’t take it. The second answer is in this list of great emerging NYC-based artists who released amazing new records in 2016 - all of which we have been covering in our NYC scene blog (nyc.thedelimagazine.com), before most music critics realized of their existence. Don’t let perceptions distract you; it’s a transitional period, but the NYC scene is alive and kicking.
NYC 2016, WOMEN RULE In the last few years, we’ve had the clear feeling that a lot of the best music made in the region covered by this magazine (NYC/ NJ/LI), was created by women. You may have gathered that we are big fans of Big Thief and Forth Wanderers - both featured in this issue. Respectively fronted by Adrianne Lenker and Ava Trilling, the two bands released some of the best indie-rock singles that we’ve heard in a while. Mitski’s “Bury Me at Makeout Creek” was our Record of the Month in November 2014; her 2016 follow-up, “Puberty 2,” develops her elegant power pop in ways that are retro and avant at once. Crying, fronted by Elaiza Santos and also our Record of the Month back in September 2014, lost its playful lofi, 8-bit character in new release “Beyond the Fleeting Gales,” but made up for it in number of fans, with a record that’s pure power-pop joy.
The Lemon Twigs Do Hollywood / Margaret Glaspy Emotions and Math / Show Me The Body Body War / Lewis Del Mar Self-Titled
On the rootsier side of things, sultry and magnetic retro songstress Natalie Merling of Weyes Blood delivered a stunner with her sophomore album “Front Seat to Earth,” which is conquering many (sensitive) hearts, and though some may say that she is based in California, we’d like to remind them that she lived in NYC up until just a few months ago. Similarly, Brooklyn songwriter Margaret Glaspy has also been making ears turn since the release of her stunning debut “Emotions and Math,” which uses an edgy electric production to convey her personal lyrics and peculiar delivery. Last but not least, Frankie Cosmos (who was featured on the cover of our mag as a member of Porches in 2015) delivered an uncommonly touching and incredibly catchy indie-pop record with “Next Thing,” vastly improving on 2014’s “Zentropy,” which was still awesome enough to be our NYC Record of the Month at the time.
ELECTRO-CITY NYC women have been very active also on the electronic front, a field that seems to be experiencing an exponential growth in the city. Besides EDM-pop masters SOFI TUKKER and neo-soul’s nu-diva Cruel Youth (covered extensively in our previous issue), Ela Minus stands out with her forward thinking EP “Grow,” which is rooted in a rather cerebral minimalism, although warmed by influences tied to her South American origins; Mothica’s 2016 single ‘Clear,’ on the other hand, delivered a very promising take on the nu-soul genre, with top-notch production values. NYC’s electronic boys had their fair share of good releases too, with
synthpop projects Sweater Beats and Yoke Lore (ex-Yellerkin) creating growing waves of buzz with singles going viral on Spotify.
DO LOOK BACK! With the prospect of a Trump presidency lingering for most of the year, looking for inspiration in past decades felt more tempting than ever (FYI: We are writing this before the election, and you’ll be reading it after... fingers crossed!). Long Island’s The Lemon Twigs cornered the revival rock niche with their baffling debut album, “Do Hollywood,” produced by Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado. The record is a suave exploration of everything baroque from the ’60s and ’70s - we hear in it a lot of “Pet Sounds”-era Beach Boys and also occasional Supertramp references. “Premium,” the debut album of Sam Evian (also in Celestial Shore) incorporates similar influences in a less extravagant and more mellow fashion, with subtle but unexpected math tendencies. Two other NYC revival bands that had a good year were garage/doo-wop blenders High Waisted and vintage psych-blues rockers The Mystery Lights; both bands have the rare ability to spark an instant party wherever they play.
THE FUZZY REVIVALS Speaking of revival, in a land that gave birth to The Ramones, fuzzy guitars will always find a fertile ground. In the cluttered NYC garage/ punk rock scene, emerging artists that stepped up their game with great 2016 releases (and live shows) include Tall Juan, The Britanys and Acid Dad (winners of our Best of NYC 2015 contest). However,
the deli Winter 2016
Top: Beverly The Blue Swell / Crying Beyond the Fleeting Gales / Frankie Cosmos Next Thing / Keenan O’Meara Awful Creature Middle: Sam Evian Premium / The Shack Self-Titled / Mitski Puberty 2 / Ghost King Bones Bottom: EZTV High Place / Florist The Birds Outside Sang / Birds Running Water / Ela Minus Grow
Cheena deserve a particular mention for their earth-shattering debut album “Spend the Night With…” that marries the reckless attitude of early punk with the dissonance of noise rock and also occasional unexpected twangy guitars; it perfectly captures this band’s live energy without sounding neither too polished nor too gritty. The more recent ’90s revival phenomenon has also produced some interesting releases, with the dominant source of inspiration being the slacking records of Pavement and Dinosaur Jr., rather than the platinum selling ones of Nirvana and Pearl Jam. LVL UP’s “Return to Love” was probably the most mature album in this niche, but we had a soft spot for Ghost King’s “Bones” (a former Record of the Month), which ventures on a slightly more psychedelic territory. By the way, the ’90s were also the years of The Flaming Lips... Birds’ two EPs “Running Water” and “Pressing Time” were an excellent reprise of that “out there” sound, while Blasteroid’s “Pretty Good” EP represented a more personal take on the genre. Fans of (the vintage version of) Pixies, on the other hand, might find solace in Lost Boy?’s concept album “Goose Wazoo” - not as tense as the Boston band’s early records, but straddling a similar line between melody and noise.
DREAMEDELIA Like looking back to the past, dreaming is also an effective way to escape those fluffy, dyed orange hairs and the assorted bigotry that they come with: 2016 was a big year for Sunflower Bean (on our cover in the fall of 2014), with debut LP “Human Ceremony,” a record that was
the deli Winter 2016
a lot dreamier than their previous material. Beverly - a band we are on record for calling “the new Breeders” - confirmed their talent for ethereal melodies and fuzz guitars with sophomore album “The Blue Swell”. EZTV’s second LP, “High Place,” prolonged the magic of labelmates Real Estate’s 2014 album “Atlas,” with a slightly more jangly approach - reminiscent of The Byrds’ most melodious moments. Towards the end of the year, Brooklyn duo The Shacks delivered a self-titled EP that instantly grabbed by the ears those who seek dream pop in its purest form. However, those, who, instead, are interested in the bizarre element often associated with our psyche’s stream of thoughts, will find a lot to chew on in Jerry Paper’s “Toon Time Raw!,” which sounds a little like an even crazier version of Mac DeMarco. Another band that released a stunningly dreamy full-length album, “Young Narrator In The Breakers,” is Pavo Pavo, whose orchestral leanings are reminiscent of Grizzly Bear.
THE ROOTS ARE HEALTHY American traditional music never ceases to be a source of inspiration for the community of NYC artists - hey, this is also where Bob Dylan had his heyday! Here at The Deli, we tend to prefer acts that try to innovate the format, rather than faithfully recreate its tried and true musical patterns. This year’s best record in this department belongs to Pinegrove and their sophomore album “Cardinal,” an alt-folk gem that incorporates emo influences in a way that sounds sincere and innovative. For those who appreciate silence, Florist’s debut, “The Birds Outside Sang,” is a folky, lo-fi record that’s so quiet it barely raises above those birds’ noise level, but it’s about the opening of a heart, which requires a gentle
Top: Weyes Blood Front Seat to Earth / High Waisted On Ludlow / Lost Boy? Goose Wazoo / Pavo Pavo Young Narrator in the Breaker Middle: Pingrove Cardinal / The Mystery Lights Self-Titled / Sunflower Bean Human Ceremony / Crimdella Bury Me in Gold Vol. 1 Bottom: LVL UP Return to Love / Jerry Paper Toon Time Raw! / Cheena Spend the Night With... / Elucid Save Yourself
hand. For the most part, Keenan O’Meara’s “Awful Creature” EP plays at similar volume, while referencing more directly Americana, with the heart wrenching, passionate vocal delivery of a new Jeff Buckley. However, within the spectrum of genres belonging to the “roots music” umbrella, it was soul that carried the banner of buzz and innovation. Picking up where TV on the Radio left off after their seminal avant-soul 2004 debut, Lewis Del Mar (on the cover of our SXSW 2016 issue) dropped a powerful self-titled debut that combines tense soul songs with ingenious arrangements, while toying with industrial, psychedelia and acoustic music. Just like TVOTR will be remembered as the band that inaugurated the Williamsburg era, Lewis Del Mar is the NY group that started the exodus of NYC musicians from Brooklyn to Rockaway Beach, Queens, where word is Mac DeMarco recently relocated, among others. Another soul NYC artist that’s been pushing the genre towards unexplored territories is serpentwithfeet. His debut EP “blisters” plays like a gloomy avant-orchestral record, while tackling dark issues related to homosexuality.
NYC HIP-HOP GETS POLITICAL 2016 was an unsurprisingly political year in the Hip Hop Indieground. From Bushwick’s Backwoodz Studios, Elucid brought us the vituperative “Save Yourself”. Norman Rockwell didn’t paint better pictures than Elucid does on this album, with lyrics like “Violence begets violence, make it hot. Never water out the hydrant; the block stiflin’, triple checkin’ locks - weaves on fire. Coked-out pimps write diner Yelp
the deli Winter 2016
reviews in hotel parking lots. Somewhere between Saturday night and Sunday morning - You want it all but it can’t save you.” Meanwhile, labelmate Willie Green dropped “Doc Savage,” a science fiction comic book survey of a cavalcade of dope MCs from Brzowski to Teddy Faley. Warren Britt teamed up with producer A.M. Breakups and DJ The Gent to release “We Are Not For Them: Captures Vol. 1”. It’s noise and soul echo everything that’s good and bad about life in America right now. From the Karma Kids label, Googie put out the standout “‘Tis what ‘Tis”. His gruff drawl and playful lyrics are a nice reprieve from all the serious work of his peers. It also hearkens back to the headnodding boom bap of the late ’90s that never seems to get old. Finally, with Crimdella’s “Bury Me In Gold Vol. 1,” space and concrete came together with a synthesis unfelt since Outkast’s “Atliens”. Crimdella does a great job of speaking his mind and undressing the elephants in the room, while keeping butts on the dance floor. All politics aside, dancing is a revolution unto itself.
UNDERGROUND INSPIRATION What better way to end this list organized by genre, if not with a record that defies genres? In the summer of 2016, Show Me the Body released their debut album “Body War,” an electric banjo-driven sonic storm, blending post-hardcore, industrial, hip hop and math rock. That’s the record most NYC kids involved in the vital, seminal, local DIY scene and in all likelihood, most rock critics too - will remember years from now. It’s a record destined to inspire - but from underground, where so many NYC scene gems are buried. d
Feature | Cover Artist
the deli Winter 2016
As the Daylight Hours Do Retreat Big Thief Debuts With a “Masterpiece” written By
Ben Apatoff /
A pretty, brown-haired teenager is frontside-down on the carpeted floor, motioning towards a small, plastic animal, a Godzilla-meetsTyrannosaurus Rex beast that’s too small to look threatening outside of anyone’s wildest imagination. On either side of her are two blond, overalled boys, hands marked with ink from earlier activities - identical enough to be twins and straddling some line between cute and creepy (think “Little House on the Prairie” meets “Village of the Damned”). You can imagine, but not quite figure out what they’re up to, and you’ll never know for sure. These figures are frozen in place on the cover of “Masterpiece,” the buzzed-over debut album from New York-based folk-rockers Big Thief. “The cover is an old family photograph my grandpa took of my mom and my two uncles,” explains Adrianne Lenker, the multi-instrumentalist, soft-voiced singer and songwriter for the band. “My mom was probably sixteen in that photo. We had been searching and searching for the right cover, and began to think we wouldn’t find one in time to press and release the record when we wanted to. Finally, I called my sister, Zoë, and asked her if she had any ideas. She just so happened to be looking through family photos at that exact time, and within minutes, she sent me the “Masterpiece” cover photo. It was perfect.” The care and diligence Lenker went through in choosing a striking image for the album’s cover, even in an age when stars like Kanye West and Chance the Rapper can top the Billboard 200 without as much as a physical album release, marks a distinct traditionalist element to Big Thief’s art. The band is coy to answer questions about standing out from their peers in the overflowing New York indie scene. It’s not just the music, which rewrites alt-country with folk and dad rock strains, from impassioned, crescendo-ing ‘Real Love’ to the Tom Petty swagger of the title track. “It was a force of its own, and just made its way to the surface,” says Lenker of the latter. The former, with Lenker’s impassioned, anthemic cries, almost disguises its horrifying lyrics upon the first listen (“Having your face hit, having your lips split/By the one who loves you/Real love, real love”). Lenker recalls of writing ‘Real Love,’ “There were things surfacing in me that night, and I was aware of the caverns in my psyche and the twinkling, little sapphires in my belly that wanted to escape and bloom through my neck into watermelon needles. Needless to say, I had a case of eucalyptus beetles, and ‘Real Love’ was the cure.” To hear Lenker tell it, music has been in her blood since before the word “streaming” had anything to do with computers. “I think I knew (I wanted to make music) before I saw my first show or heard my first album,” she recalls. “I think it happened the first time I touched the
guitar in a motel room in Indiana when I was six, and stepped into the other dimension, and then I was ruined for anything else.” If Lenker’s songs sound traditional, her background was nothing of the kind. “I was born in a cult,” she adds. “Six years later my family got out and moved into a big, blue van. We moved around a ton - lived with my grandparents, lived in the country in a strawberry field, lived in a twobedroom apartment with a Russian family, shared a room with their five kids and my two siblings, with whom I shared secret magic worlds.” After dropping out of school in the eighth grade to pursue music, Lenker played the bar and open mic circuits in the Midwest before moving to Boston for college. “I moved to NYC at 21, because I wanted to meet musicians and start a band and make my way,” she concludes. “The legends and history of New York magnetized me. I met Buck at a bodega the day I moved in.” “Buck” is Buck Meek, a Texas-based singer-songwriter and part-time construction worker who plays guitar alongside Lenker in Big Thief (the duo also performs together on Meek’s solo EP “Heart Was Beat,” and as a duo on the records “A-Sides” and “B-Sides,” which include stripped-down versions of future Big Thief songs). “We try to always trust each other and maintain eye contact and play like our hair’s on fire,” says Meek of performing with Big Thief. The duo met up with drummer James Krivchenia and bassist Max Oleartchik (a Chicago-based sound engineer and Tel Aviv-based dog walker, respectively), and the band has been playing as a unit for a little over a year. “The band dynamics are that of a close family, learning to express our feelings to the fullest in order to truly be a balanced group of people,” says Oleartchick. “That’s really where the music comes from in a way... and it is the only thing that will give growth and sustainability to us, the band.” It’s a growth heard artistically on “Masterpiece,” and seen in the band’s audience, from a spot on Saddle Creek Records to rave reviews in popular webzines to opening spots on tours with indie rock staples M. Ward, Nada Surf and Frankie Cosmos (2017’s cards include tours in Europe, Australia, the US and “a surprise,” promises Meek). “I feel fortunate that we spent a few years doing all of our own business and booking,” reflects Lenker, “because now we have a sense for it and a set of tools that allows us to navigate through what can sometimes be treacherous waters.” Whatever waters Big Thief tread over the next steps of their burgeoning career, the inviting music and abstract words of “Masterpiece” are sure to dazzle and confound everyone Big Thief’s music finds its way to. d
the deli Winter 2016
Feature | Artist Q & A
forth wanderers Q.D. Tran Grace Rossi-Conaway
interviewed By Photo by
the deli Winter 2016
New Jersey has a lot to be proud of these days when it comes to music, and it certainly has nothing to do with the Boss. Its DIY community is nurturing some of our favorite contemporary artists like shred-demon punks Screaming Females, emotive alt-country rockers Pinegrove, and the avant-folk-pop of Stolen Jars. And you can now add the melancholic, ramshackle rock of Montclair’s Forth Wanderers to the list of emerging acts that we adore from the state where “only the strong survive.” The Jersey quintet recently dropped their new EP “Slop,” which is available via Father/Daughter Records (US) and House Anxiety/Marathon Artists (UK), and we had a chance to catch up with one of the band’s guitarists, Ben Guterl, for a little Q&A. What’s your first memory related to music? I remember as a little kid - maybe like 3 or 4 - my parents would put on a Beatles CD in our living room every night and we would dance around. I remember thinking The Beatles were a kids band like The Wiggles or Raffi for most of my childhood. How did you come together? Noah, Zach, Duke, and I were all in a band in sophomore year of high school called Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire so we were all good friends and had been playing music for a bit before Forth Wanderers started. I actually messaged Ava on Facebook because I had kind of a crush on her, and I figured: “Hey she plays music! I play music! Why don’t I send her a demo to show her how much we have in common!” I didn’t have much of an intention to start an actual band, and was pretty surprised when she got back to me with lyrics and vocal melodies. I thought it sounded great so we all started practicing and recorded our first EP, “Mahogany,” a couple months later.
How did you first learn that Lorde had tweeted about your music, and what was your initial response when you found out? I can’t remember exactly who it was that told us about it, but a friend of the band followed Lorde on Twitter, and just happened to scroll past it on their feed. Needless to say, we all went insane about this. I called like every person I’ve ever met to tell them. Why did you name your new EP “Slop”? We are not good at settling on names for things. We usually just wait until the last possible minute. We didn’t actually come up with song titles until a couple days before it was pressed for vinyl. We had exhausted our creative potential with the 4 names of the songs, and decided to just call the whole damn thing “Slop”. You mentioned that ‘Nerve’ is about being “bummed out”. What really bums you out? If I put steamed broccoli on a plate with a slice of pizza and the juice from the broccoli gets under the pizza and makes the dough all soggy. What makes you proud to be from Montclair, New Jersey or Jersey, in general? Definitely all of the incredible music that has emerged from its fertile grounds. Pinegrove, Stolen Jars, Half Waif, Sports, Cold Foamers, etc. All of those bands have some connection to Montclair, which is really special. I don’t know if I would have started writing/performing songs if it hadn’t been for the encouragement and accessibility of the Montclair scene. In high school, some of my favorite bands were just other Montclair High School bands. d
Forth Wanderers’ Gear
What’s the story behind your band name? Just a random Wikipedia article search in a desperate attempt to find a name that everyone didn’t hate. I came across the Scottish soccer team, and was met with little protest when I pitched it to the band. How did the recording and songwriting process differ with your new album, “Slop,” in comparison to your previous ones? We decided to record this one with our close friends Cameron and Sam, who we’ve known for a couple years because of the Montclair/NJ scene. It was a lot more relaxed, and it felt like Cam and Sam were both a part of the band when we worked with them. It was nice to have people whose opinion you trust.
Zoom MultiStomp Chorus
MXR Carbon Copy
What guitar pedals do you use when playing with Forth Wanderers? Ben Guterl: I just use a Zoom MultiStomp Chorus pedal. I can get some funky vibes out of that. Duke uses a Boss Chorus pedal and a MXR Carbon Copy Delay pedal.
the deli Winter 2016
Soundbites | Indie Pop
Uni Ika Ai
Lovers of musical paradoxes (and indie pop), we recommend you to check out Brooklyn quartet Hypoluxo, a band that combines a rather serene dream pop with crepuscular, monotone male vocals. The dichotomy actually works: The tracks’ harmonic content is rich enough to entertain the ear, while Marco Ocampo’s dark tenor, appearing only occasionally, adds a layer of maudit character that true rock fans will find appealing. For those who like the RIYL game, here it is: Real Estate, Joy Division, Lloyd Cole and the Commotion. The group’s debut album, “If Language,” was released on September 30th, and soon after, they left for a truly insane 40+ day fall tour, which should be named: “The Clockwise Tour of the US of A”. Way to go Hypoluxo - safe travels! (Paolo De Gregorio)
If you still haven’t gotten up the nerve to talk to that special someone you’ve been eyeing for days, then Brooklyn synthpop artist Blonder is here to help. In his second single ‘Talk To Me,’ he imagines what it would be like to finally have that interaction. The song brings out the flurry of emotion that would arise from such an experience - excitement, relief, wonder, and perhaps a touch of nausea? - through heaps of funky synths, jingling and jangling percussion, and soft, slurry vocals. You may very well hear his tracks at your next ‘80s-inspired party.
Although Brooklyn-based quartet Uni Ika Ai, founded by Lucius’ Peter Lalish and Toebow’s Maia Friedman, can be categorized under the dream-pop umbrella, they have the merit to steer clear from the genre’s canonized influences. In ‘Make You Better,’ their first single, Friedman’s voice draws an airy, slow melody over a glittering musical background, where guitars and keyboards merge into each other. Baroque and classical elements appear here and there, and new layers come to the surface, or are exhausted as the song progresses. The group’s second single, ‘Soft on Ice,’ is a plodding mid-tempo that resolves slightly cacophonic tensions through a chorus that delivers a big “prog-chestral,” melodic opening, leading to a dissonant, distorted sax solo that David Bowie would have loved to hear. This dream is not so pop after all! (Paolo De Gregorio)
NYC Indie Pop Top 20 Full Deli Web Buzz charts: thedelimagazine.com/charts
Brooklyn via Burlington lounge-dance band argonaut&wasp seems to have grown... a band in the last year! The duo led by Trey Schibli and Theo Klein, now a quintet when on stage, infuses their EDM with elements of funk and soul as well as a refreshing dose of unpredictability. They just released their sophomore EP “Ha! Fiction,” and we can already sense good vibes taking over our lives. These guys just cannot make you feel blue, not even with a song titled “Loser Like You,” the group’s latest, sinuous single. Their more crowded live show promises to be just what the party doctor ordered for your weekend nights. (Paolo De Gregorio)
Following last year’s retro, doo-wop-influenced debut EP “To The Valley,” PALMAS has released a new single called, “Flowers,” which seems to shift their revival focus. Featuring a beautiful and rather impressive arrangement, the track is clearly inspired by The Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds”: Hammond organs, french horns and a luscious string section build on the lead choral vocals, which draw celestial melodies that Mr. Brian Wilson himself would surely bless (if only he got around to listen!). We are looking forward to seeing how PALMAS develops their renewed infatuation with the ’60s pop revival.
the deli Winter 2016
1. Mac DeMarco 2. The Front Bottoms 3. DIIV 4. Nada Surf 5. Real Estate 6. Elizaveta 7. Snowmine 8. ANOHNI 9. DREAMERS 10. Salt Cathedral 11. Yoke Lore 12. Forth Wanderers 13. Crying 14. Miracles of Modern Science 15. Mutual Benefit 16. Beirut 17. Rathborne 18. Sam Evian 19. Keren Ann 20. Public Access TV
Soundbites | Indie Rock
The Royal They
Adiós Ghost is an adventurous Brooklyn band that plays an intricate brand of avant-pop that will excite the aural canals of those of you who are into Yeasayer and Animal Collective. Their recent EP “Endless Return” is their first release since 2014, and it’s a very interesting record. Employing electric and electronic instruments as well as saxophones at times, the band’s arrangements shine for their transparent quality and very processed references to African melodies and rhythms. Each song seems to be built on musical blocks that support and complement each other, resulting in airy and flickery compositions. They recently landed a residency at Pianos, which is always a good sign. (Paolo De Gregorio)
Having created an early buzz via their raucous live shows, New York City’s Navy Gangs recently released a self-titled debut EP that captures a similar raw appeal. Piercing, extended, vibrato guitar melody lines and sludgy bass-drums accompaniment create a feel comparable to Dinosaur Jr.’s (very) early days. While ‘Special Glands’ may exhibit requisite “slacker rock” attitude, its central hook depicts a surprisingly direct vocal refrain. ‘Instant Play’ bounces along in that J Mascis covering The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” way, where it straddles the line between serious and ironic. A guest female vocalist provides tandem vocals, smoothing out the rough edges. EP closer, ‘That Party Sucked,’ alternates between burning guitar figures and softly sung verses, creating a heavy-light atmosphere, enhancing the impact of both. (Dave Cromwell)
Brooklyn-based trio The Royal They serves up chunky punk rhythms with some serious melody-writing chops. On their latest release, a self-titled LP, indie-rock vibes are paired with deceptively heavy garage-rock licks. It’s control and chaos, nice and nasty. Single ‘Lyric Machine’ is the highlight of the record, perfecting the ’90s power-pop formula with addictive melodies and instrumental furor, but the band’s repertoire is extremely varied, including minimalistic ballads (‘Understate’ - with final explosion) and more linear and clean pop songs (‘Countenance’). (Olivia Sisinni)
NYC Indie Rock Top 20 Full Deli Web Buzz charts: thedelimagazine.com/charts
Brooklyn outfit Color Tongue’s single ‘Sprouts’ - the title track and opening song of their selfproduced debut LP - is one of those rare tracks where fun and experimentation coexist harmoniously, actually integrating each other. On it, the self-described “dirty psych pop” quartet imaginatively marries an avant-pop verse, à la Animal Collective, with a chorus that could be described as grungy doo-wop. While they are at it, they also conjure up dramatic dynamic shifts, unusual song structures and exuberant melodies. (Henry Solotaroff-Webber)
Julian Cubillos’ two-track single ‘Scared,’ the newest release since his 2015 full-length album “Evil,” is a definite step up for the LA-born sonic terrorist. The two-sided record - which includes the A-side of the same name and the B-side ‘Can I Win’ - offers the same mindwarping lo-fi and colorful gravitas as Julian’s past output, with welcome improvements in the songwriting and production department. Side A proves particularly inventive, with a chorus that seems to emulate a skipping record, stuck on the word “Scared, Scared, Scared, Scared!” Let’s make it the official soundtrack to the 2016 election! (Will Sisskind)
1. X Ambassadors 2. Son Lux 3. Buscabulla 4. Mitski 5. Porches 6. We Are Augustines 7. The National 8. St. Vincent 9. SKATERS 10. Beach Fossils 11. Kaki King 12. EL VY 13. Animal Collective 14. Buke and Gase 15. Xenia Rubinos 16. Screaming Females 17. Blonde Redhead 18. LVL Up 19. Sorcha Richardson 20. Lee Ranaldo
the deli Winter 2016
Soundbites | Mellow Sounds
While singer-songwriter Gabriel Kahane certainly does possess strong vocal chops, the core strength of his music comes from the “songwriting” half of his genre label. Kahane is a dexterous and thoughtful composer, balancing out the pronounced folkiness of his acoustic guitar parts with classic string or piano accompaniments on tracks like ‘Veda (1 Pierce Dr.)’. He’s also not afraid to “plug in” and rock out either (like in ‘Calabash & Catamaran’) proving his versatility as an artist to perform a range of styles and capture a wide breadth of emotions. He even did a cover of a song from “Oklahoma” the musical for goodness’ sake! On top of that, the strong Elliot Smith vibes in Kahane’s music add an extra aura of melancholy, and if Rockwood booked him for a residency, it means he’s as good live as he sounds on record. (Henry Solotaroff-Webber)
Listening to Yohuna, the Brooklyn-based project of Johanne Swanson, might make you feel like floating through space - like the moon. Maybe that’s why one of her uber-dreamy singles is titled “The Moon Hangs In The Sky Like Nothing Hangs In The Sky”. The track’s hypnotic melody gives us a sneak peak into her new album, “Patientness,” which was produced by Montreal-based composer Owen Pallett (once known as Final Fantasy). Swanson employs a varying instrumentation to forge muted, muffled songs that seem to evoke the hazy perception of hypnagogia - the experience of the transitional state from wakefulness to sleep, with enjoyably narcotic results.
“Sleepwalker,” Long Beard’s debut album, is aptly named, for listening to each song feels like maneuvering through the hazy edges of your most melancholic dreams - both here and there, warm and cool, so close and yet so distant. Perpetually teetering between sleep and awake, the album opens up with an instrumental track that sounds like it’s being played backwards, slowly leading into ‘Porches,’ a song of desire and longing, where Leslie Bear pleads: “Who do you love?/Who do you love?/ And is it enough?” The album climaxes at ‘Dream’ - before the vocals start disintegrating, becoming almost indiscernible, with the looping electronic textures folding into themselves - as if the silhouette of those gentle songs disappeared into a shadow and then became nothing more than a film blanketing the early hours of dusk. (Adriana S. Ballester)
NYC Mellow Pop/Alt Folk Top 20 Full Deli Web Buzz charts: thedelimagazine.com/charts
Newcomer pop artist COTE has clearly been keeping her ears peeled to indie pop’s current state of affairs. On the NYC artist’s debut track, ‘London,’ she brings together dreamy guitar licks in addition to nostalgic synth patterns - both of which are hallmarks of today’s pop landscape. Her dark and sultry vocals might be slightly reminiscent of mellow-pop goddess Lana Del Rey, but make no mistake: Her singles, ‘London’ and more recent ‘Golden Hour,’ show a personality that’s all her own. Most importantly, they are beautifully produced tracks that showcase a young artist with a noteworthy voice and very promising songwriting chops. (Henry Solotaroff-Webber)
Straddling the line between Suzanne Vega’s intellectual but vulnerable songwriting and Belly’s dreamy pop melodicism, Soccer Mommy, the project of songwriter Sophie Allison, recently relocated from Nashville to NYC. Since 2015, the young lady has released three strictly self-produced EPs (two of them are called “songs of my bedroom”) and one full-length album, entitled “for young hearts”. The single and opening track, ‘Henry,’ shines for its imaginative lyrics, with Sophie trying to guess a loved boy’s thoughts and feelings, accompanied by a heart-wrenching melody.
the deli Winter 2016
(Paolo De Gregorio)
1. Cigarettes After Sex 2. Larkin Grimm 3. Margaret Glaspy 4. Pinegrove 5. Darkside 6. Joan as Police Woman 7. Dawn Landes 8. Big Thief 9. Vanessa Carlton 10. Gregory and The Hawk 11. Adam Green 12. Sam Amidon 13. Hiss Golden Messenger 14. Torres 15. Martha Wainwright 16. Streets of Laredo 17. Punch Brothers 18. Grace Kelly 19. Aaron Lee Tasjan 20. Steve Gunn
2 L I S T E N
W I T H
Y O U R
E Y E S
a wrightside media publication
ON LOCATION: WITH KEELEY ELECTRONICS AND CHASE BLISS AUDIO LIST-ERIA!: A RUN DOWN OF OUR TOP 7 PEDALS RELEASED IN 2016 WAYBACK MACHINE: THE KNIGHT FUZZ REVIEWS: ORIGIN EFFECTS AND KMA AUDIO MACHINES
The Stompbox Exhibit
Come visit us and these manufacturers at booth
#1083 in Hall E!
NAMM booth edition !
1 Main Ace FX
• A delay tribute to David Bowie by this NJ boutique manufacturer offering made-toorder pedals as well as custom jobs. • Warm, gritty, organic delay with switchable delay depths. • Momentary infinite switch repeats, adjustable with a trimpot accessible without opening the pedal cover.
• The flagship pedal of this VA based company, it reproduces the bright ringing chime and sustain tone popularized by the Beatles. • Toggle switch selects between 3 tones of compression (Normal, Bright, and Dark). • Works well on both 6 and 12 strings. • Other pedals in the JangleBox line include boosts and gates.
2 Rabbit Hole
• A new octave fuzz released by this Durham, NC builder, also creators of the Chaosmic Fuzz. • Lots of options allow precise fine-tuning via 3 Knobs and 2 Switches. • Separate clean and “unclean” volume knobs to gain some definition through the clean signal. • Octave can be turned on/off, Cut/low switch applies EQ to the fuzz section.
3 Jonny Rock Gear
Wave Rider Tremolo
• Montreal based manufacturer with a dozen pedals under its belt. • Optical tremolo with tap-tempo feature. • ‘Flip’ control can distort the waveform lending to some crazy new sounds. • Blend function via the ‘Depth’ control, wave selection and subdivision options round up the features.
5 Chemistry Design Werks
• This St. Paul MN company signature Holeyboards are optimized to attach pedals to them with zip-ties. • This pedalboard allows for 10 configurations with no additional parts needed. • Can easily extend from 26” to 36” to 42” with moveable Top Shelf. • Easy to attach and change out pedals without hook and loop or nasty adhesives.
Interested in participating in The Deli’s Stompbox Exhibit in Brooklyn, LA, SXSW and/or in our shared booths at the NAMM shows? Contact Paolo at email@example.com.
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR Hello everyone! ...and welcome to our second issue collaboration with The Deli Magazine. We are excited to bring you some of the content we create bimonthly in digital form to this snazzy printed format. In this issue, we visit with the crews of Keeley Electronics and Chase Bliss Audio, take tours of their respective shops and find out what the future might hold for both brands. We also reveal our Top 7 pedals released in 2016, offer up a look back at the Knight fuzz and review pedals from Origin Effects and KMA Audio Machines. Enjoy!
MORE GEARPHORIA AWAITS AT GEARPHORIA.COM!
Contents Featured Shop Tours
A digest of our visits with Keeley Electronics and Chase Bliss Audio. Full features appear in the NOV/DEC issue at Gearphoria.com
Our Top 7 Pedals of 2016
Wayback Machine - The Knight fuzz
This was a tough year for music. We lost Bowie, Prince, Frey and more. But it was a great year for pedals! We pick our best of the best!
Our friend Ed Prence takes a look back at the mythical, mail order Knight fuzz box
Our takes on Origin Effects Cali 76 CD compressor and KMA Audio Minos fuzz 2
GEARPHORIA SAM ASH/NAMM
ALWAYS ROCK EVEN IN A HARD PLACE
Fly Rigs are travel-friendly solutions armed with sweet analog tones and expressive combinations you can use for any gig. In the footprint of a pixie, each embodies an entire, multi-application rig. Around the corner or across the globe, rule the road with a Fly Rig.
TECH21NYC.COM â€˘ NAMM BOOTH #5982
RISING Robert Keeley is on fire. Today, that’s a good thing. On a cold January afternoon in 2009, it was anything but. The facility Keeley Electronics occupied caught fire and destroyed most everything inside — equipment, inventory… you name it. Given the economic recession of the time the outlook of a full recovery was not guaranteed, but six-plus years later the company is in the best shape of its decade and a half in existence... and it would appear things are just warming up. ON THE THURSDAY we visited Keeley Electronics in Edmond, Oklahoma, a challenge had been thrown down: Build X amount of pedals by noon and everyone can go home. Keeley had every confidence his team would meet the goal. He was already in his swim trunks. Edmond is a suburb of Oklahoma City. Situated just north of the capital city, it was voted #1 in a poll of perfect suburbs by CNBC back in 2011, highlighting its school system and level of education of those living there. Keeley not only had to overcome the 2009 fire, but he also battled personal demons that lead to both personal and business-related debts. Today, the operation is a well-oiled machine with a clearer vision on what it means to be an electronics manufacturer and an eye on expansion. “We could probably put out three things today if we wanted to,” explains Keeley. “Really. Not even joking. We’re having to force ourselves to hold back. We’ve dropped a few things this week too. Not everything is valid after you’ve put together certain packages. Some things aren’t as profitable either. I priced them low enough where it’s like, darn… too bad we had to price them like that at the time. One
GEARPHORIA SAM ASH/NAMM
day we released our Caverns pedal, which is a delay/reverb. Smokin’ hot pedal. Worth every last penny of $249. The same day that MXR releases the Carbon Copy Bright for $149. We got no interest. And we had lots of money in development. There are two micro-processors in ours. It was an expensive thing. After a few months or so I dropped the price down to $199, where there is really no money in it then. Almost a loss-leader… and it eats up resources. So that one we decided to put to bed this week. Then it became popular. $199 for all of this processing power?” The big news for Keeley in 2016 hasn’t been the $99 pedals, rather his $300 workstations. He unveiled a handful of new models at Winter NAMM this year and has since put together more ‘artistspecific’ tone stations, like the Hendrix-inspired Monterey and the Pink Floyd-esque Dark Side. “One of the things we’ve learned this year is that more expensive pedals do better for us,” confesses Keeley. “They sell like hotcakes. That seems counter-intuitive, but we’re able to provide much more at $299 than we are at a hundred bucks. At $100, you’ll get a one-trick pony. At $299, you’ll get three, 12, 16 different
things — so we’re beyond successful with our Workstations. Total game changer.” It was a message from famous guitar tech Rene Martinez that really got the Workstation train rolling. Martinez told Keeley that John Mayer had been using an old Keeley Tone Workstation from 2007 and was looking for another one. Fortuitously, a Keeley customer in Dallas was looking to unload one after a divorce. Keeley bought the pedal for $600 and shipped it out to Mayer. However, before he let it go his circuit board designer Craighton Hale took a look and the pair soon became curious about the potential for that set up with some of the company’s newer pedals. “So the Oxblood, the ’62… with a DSP package, then our modulation effects, and our delay/reverb effects,” says Keeley. “All of the sudden there are the four Workstations we showed off at NAMM last January. Then, all the pieces essentially came together to have the Monterey, which has been more successful than all of the Workstations, which is outrageous. We’re around 2,000 (units) now. It is just a spin-off of a Workstation. It is actually simpler than a Workstation, and it does its job very well.”
TAP IN TO A WORLD OF OPTIONS CUSACK MUSIC
The Cusack Music Tap-a-series offers versatlity not seen in most other pedals. With nearly endless possibilities of configurations and options, users are only limited by their imagination. Visit cusackmusic.com for demos, information and to find a dealer near you
Much of what is happening inside Keeley right now is based around platform development — doing multiple things on a similar circuit board. Today, it’s the Workstation template. Thinking far enough in advance to allow for alternate versions, modifications or special features is key. The team works towards the stated goal, but then takes it a step further and questions what else could any given design become. “The digital part of this allows us to reprogram the left side of the pedal into a variety of forms,” says Keeley. “It’s not new, what we’ve packaged here. If you remember around 10 years ago, Digitech had an Eric Clapton pedal, and a Brian May pedal that had several different things in it. So the concept is not new… it might be new to the smaller, boutique market. I like theme pedals because it allows us to be a lot more creative. The El Monte, which is still on the runway, since it’s a Tube Screamer-based pedal, it could be a Trey Anastasio from Phish package or a SRV package. It just depends on how we piece together the different things… and the graphics.” In a bid to move more of his operation in-house, Keeley recently acquired the neighboring sections
GEARPHORIA SAM ASH/NAMM
of the office park building the company occupies. He has already begun to spread the operations out as well as add new perks, like an audio/video studio for shooting demos. Some of Keeley’s pedals are populated by Liberate Electronic Design in Kansas City. Other vendors do work for Keeley as well, but he says it is only a matter of time before he purchases his own pick-and-place — a roughly $60,000 investment, not including the solder equipment and reflow oven needed. “We don’t powder coat here either, but we’re trying to change that,” says Keeley. “Powder coating is kind of ugly, dirty and hot. There is nothing fun about it, but we spend $5k to $7.5k per month on it. The guy we’ve got doing it right now is used to doing oilfield equipment, so he doesn’t really care if there are specks in it. We can’t convince him that we actually sell these little boxes and they have to look good. I’m sure I can do it cheaper and get the quality up.” Walking around the shop you meet folks like Josh, who holds the in-house record for most pedals built in a day — an impressive 150; Aaron, who is the DSP guru as well as head of repairs; Chris-
tina, who listens to every single pedal before it leaves the shop — which in 2015 was estimated to be about 25,000; Atlee, who is responsible for a lot, including dealer relations and the newest design direction of Keeley’s pedals. Towards the rear of the main hall a door opens up in to the current CNC mill. Compressor Pros were on the menu while we were visiting. This is the smaller of two machines. The one next door is a new delivery — and four times bigger. Keeley called the CNC ‘another stepping stone’ in the redirection of the company. The small machine does 24 larger enclosures at a time and it takes about an hour to drill them out. The larger machine will do about 100… or closer to 250 of the smaller enclosures. As we entered what would become the new administrative offices, a call came out from the bull pen that the pedal build goal had been met and verified. The crew managed to build 600 pedals by noon and was now looking for its half-day reward. After a brief meeting and a few words from the boss, the Keeley team of roughly 23 was sent on their way. “We’re on the verge of another growth phase… and now we have the space,” says Keeley. G
Put Your Foot Down.
Pedals for Bass Players Serious About Tone. Hartke’s HF44 Bass Fuzz Pedal, HC33 Analog Bass Chorus Pedal, HL77 Looper Pedal and introducing the all-new Bass Attack 2 Bass Preamp/Direct Box with Overdrive.
Hear the new shape of Hartke at Booth 6900.
© 2017 Hartke | hartke.com
CHASING BLISS When your first pedal is a hit, expectations change. Not only those of the buying public, but of the crew manning the ship. Chase Bliss Audio’s Joel Korte knew this, and has planned his company’s slow, but steady growth accordingly.
THE BEGINNINGS for boutique pedal provider Chase Bliss Audio weren’t necessarily rich with happy times. Founder Joel Korte graduated from college with an electrical engineering degree and soon found a job in the field. A lifetime stutterer, Korte struggled with it more once out of school and in the private sector. Meanwhile, his brother had relocated to California in pursuit of an acting career. In February 2007, Joel’s brother Chase was killed in an automobile accident. “So I started working and just really hated my job,” explains Korte. “Part of it was I think that I was really sad about my brother, part of it was that I didn’t like my job and part of it was I was really struggling with my stuttering. I think in college I was kind of able to sort of hide from it, I didn’t have to worry… well I worried about it all the time but I would be out with friends and just trying to hide from it and it wasn’t as central in my life but then once I started working it was like this huge change and it was the com-
GEARPHORIA SAM ASH/NAMM
bination of all that that just made life really horrible for a while.” Korte decided to reengage with a speech therapist, even though earlier experiences with one were mixed at best. After a more positive experience, he decided to pursue a career as a speech language pathologist. That decision pushed him into grad school in the fall of 2008. It was around that time when he started playing in a band with friends. He wanted out of his engineering gig, but knew he needed money while he was going to school. Enter ZVex Effects. “I sort of just harassed Zack Vex until I got a job,” says Korte. “I was like, you know I have this electrical engineering degree, I have some knowledge and experience, I just want to work. I just want a job that I care about. I was seeing everything through the lens of losing my brother and thinking about things in terms of like, ‘life is short’ you know? I don’t think I thought about life like that before. So I started to work at ZVex. I worked there part time while I was going to school for about a year
and I just loved it. There was this cross fade where I really liked the engineering work at ZVex and stuttering was becoming less and less a barrier for communication in my life. Then I was playing in a band and had this huge pedal board. You know, you just get obsessed! The part time job at ZVex turned into a full-time job and I decided I wanted to continue on with the graduate degree in speech language pathology but I switched that to part time. I worked at ZVex for like four years.” Korte left ZVex in early 2013, just about the time he was wrapping up his graduate degree. He found himself at a bit of a crossroads — pursue a career to utilize his masters or move deeper into his passion for tone. Korte soon began working on what would become Chase Bliss projects. He spent some time working under contract to ZVex, and other times as a speech language pathologist. Over time, he realized that of his multiple endeavors, the speech work days were his ‘least favorite’ days. He became more ob-
sessed with his own effect designs, the first of which was the Warped Vinyl — a vibrato/chorus designed to simulate the effect of a warped vinyl record. “I just wanted to hear the sound that I had in my head! I ended up releasing the first version of Warped Vinyl in December of 2013,” says Korte. “I didn’t know, I wanted to sell some and I don’t think I was ever super unrealistic about it. At the time I knew that wasn’t going to be my only source of income or any source of income for a long time. Maybe I thought it would happen a little quicker and that I would get some income from it, you know? Because you just have to reinvest everything. But around that time, I ended up getting another engineering job for this other company which I worked at for about a year. It was a temporary position so I thought it would be right, because then I would work on my stuff on the side and then once my contract came up then I could reassess.” The Warped Vinyl was a hit right out of the gate. In fact, most of the company’s releases since the Warped Vinyl have all been successful — the Wombtone phaser, Gravitas tremolo, Spectre flanger and Tonal Recall delay. “What’s kind of amazing to
me though is that even with all the stuff that’s gone really well it’s still really hard to just start a business,” says Korte. “Even when pretty much everything goes right, it’s still so fragile at the beginning stages. And finally it’s starting to feel, it’s been a little over two months since we released Tonal Recall and that’s by far our most popular product. Since that has happened, we’ve been able to move here and (co-worker) Zack (Warpinski) is coming up on his one year anniversary and (coworker) Holly has been here officially since April, she was working a little bit as an independent contractor since February 2016. Ever since then it feels like a real company and now we have this space, we’re not in my basement.” There is a circuit board that is universal for all of the Chase Bliss pedals to date. It acts as the digital brain. Another board is placed on top of that one — the analog effect. The boards are all surface mount, and Korte knew he could not afford the equipment required to build those in-house. When the brain design was ready, he got a loan from his dad and build 250 of the motherboards with a local contractor in Minnesota. Today, the motherboards are built in California. For the effect boards, the
Chase Bliss Audio
Wombtone and Spectre are done in Minnesota, while another contract manufacturer does the Warped Vinyl, Gravitas and Tonal Recall. “We get everything here and do the testing and calibration,” explains Korte. “For Tonal Recall there are all sorts of trem pots in there we have to carefully set everyone and we have to go through this big process, it’s sort of awful but Zack does the majority of that. I’m doing a little bit right now because we are behind a little bit. Zack does a lot of the technical stuff. Holly does a lot of it as well though. We all kind of wear a lot of hats. It’s great because there’s a big part of it we don’t have to worry about.” Following the Tonal Recall, Korte admits he was exhausted. It was a difficult birth, leaving him a bit of a zombie. The company showed a small midi controller at Summer NAMM, but a lot of folks are curious about what might be next on the company’s development schedule. Could a reverb be in the queue? “I kind of painted myself in a corner with this digital brain, analog heart thing,” admits Korte. “I don’t think, at least with the layout and the size of the box that I have I can’t. I think it would be pretty difficult to do an analog reverb.” G
GEARPHORIA SAM ASH/NAMM
Causing gearhead discomfort since 2014
OUR TOP 7 EFFECT PEDALS OF 2016 For as terrible a year 2016 turned out to be for our music idols (RIP Bowie, Prince, Frey, Merle, etc...) it was a pretty sweet period for new effects pedals. A number of excellent stompboxes saw release this year. Didn’t keep track? That’s ok. That’s why we’re here! Here is our humble list, in no particular order, of top effects pedals released in 2016 (and yes, we know 2016 isn’t over yet, but most will be holding any new reveals for the NAMM show in January).
EQD AVALANCHE RUN
SOURCE AUDIO NEMESIS The crew at Massachusetts-based Source Audio knew they had a winner on their hands with the Nemesis delay. In fact, it was ‘delayed’ a bit in its release just to make sure they got things right. Three years in the making, the Nemesis is a powerful workstation offering 24 distinct effect engines ranging from vintage tape and analog delays to pitch-shifting, reverse, filter modulating, and rhythmic delays. The pedal netted kudos from several publications and gear blogs -- and we’ll happily join in. The Nemesis could very well have been the best sub-$300 pedal released in 2016.
GEARPHORIA SAM ASH/NAMM
It’s a floor wax! It’s a dessert topping! That old SNL skit aside, just what the heck is the Avalanche Run!? According to builder EarthQuaker Devices, the pedal is a dreamy, sonic discovery device. That’s a great summation. The delay/ reverb combination opens many an aural expressway to varying ethereal destinations. It makes you think. Reflect... then conjure. Up to two seconds of delay time fused with lush reverb sounds like a trip worth taking. The Avalanche Run was another of 2016’s sub-$300 winners.
KHDK GHOUL SCREAMER Yes, it’s a tube screamer... but look at those toggles! Sadly, the Ghoul Screamer might be most famous for a quip KHDK co-founder Kirk Hammett made about real guitarist heading up pedal companies or some such. We’ve forgotten. But it is hard to shake the shear versatility of this pedal. Bass boost, three compression levels, and so much more, the Ghoul Screamer should be judged on its merits -- and those are simply fantastic. It is the Swiss Army Knife of 808 homages.
Causing gearhead discomfort since 2014
HOLOGRAM DREAM SEQUENCE A very early 2016 release, but there was still nothing out this year quite like the Dream Sequence from Hologram Electronics. Part sequencer, envelope shaper, pitch shifter, sampler and more, the Dream Sequence is a soundscape uber-machine without being overly intimidating. There is normally a wait time for these, but worth it in our opinion.
T-REX REPLICATOR You might be turned off by the $900 price tag, but hear us out. There is nothing like the T-Rex Replicator -- a compact, reliable tape-based delay that offers all of the nuance and none of the temperament associated with vintage boxes. It is sleek, sturdy and really once you dive in, youâ€™ll find it is an instrument all to itself!
KEELEY DARK SIDE WORKSTATION
The Keeley Workstation range really took on a life of its own in 2016. Several new stations were shown at NAMM, then the crew began putting together specially-voiced workstations capturing the essential tones of famous guitarists. For Jimi, there is the Monterey. For Gilmour, there is the Dark Side. This thing is fuzz, delay, rotary, flange and more... Mid-70s era Pink Floyd at your feet.
CHASE BLISS TONAL RECALL It was a good year for delays... and this might be the best of the bunch. To say there was hype preceding the release of the Chase Bliss Tonal Recall would be a bit of an understatement. Gear hounds from all corners had been calling for a delay since the company released its flagship Warped Vinyl pedal in 2013. It was a difficult birth, but the Tonal Recall delivers. Bucket brigade hearts with all of the digital amenities, and a level of control rarely seen in a pedal this size, unless itâ€™s another Chase Bliss.
GEARPHORIA SAM ASH/NAMM
The Knight KG-389 is a rare sonic slug to the kisser THE MID-1960’s saw a glut of new fuzz pedals entering the scene as the popularity of the Maestro Fuzztone soared. Riding the wave created by the Stones ‘Satisfaction’ it seemed like anyone with even basic electronics know-how was getting into the game. Some became classics (Sola Sound Tone Bender, Jordan Boss Tone, Univox Super Fuzz) while others were destined for obscurity (Sunn Buzz, GM Electronics Fuzz Up, Lectrolab Fuzz Buzz). The Knight KG-389 Fuzz Box was sold exclusively by Allied Radio of Chicago through their mailorder catalogs from 1967 through 1972. Knight Electronics Inc. was a subsidiary brand of Allied Radio, specializing in DIY kits ranging from ham radios to tube amplifiers to synthesizers. Originally retailing for $12.95, it was only available as a build-it-yourself kit, complete
GEARPHORIA SAM ASH/NAMM
with case and components. With original advertising slogans like, “Turn on this electronic fuzz box, and your audience too, for the wildest sound they ever heard.” and “Turn on your guitar to freak out your audiences!” Allied Radio was clearly attempting to capture an audience of young groovy guitar freaks and geeks. The Knight Fuzz, most interestingly, seems to be of its own design; which for a little $12 kit out of 1960’s Midwest, that’s saying a lot! Many of the fuzzes from that era were clear Maestro rip-offs, and although the Knight is most similar in build to the Astro Amp Astrotone (1967), the two sound nothing alike. So what about it, how does this little blue wedged beastie sound? While there are no famous (or even obscure) recordings available of the Knight in action, there are a
PEDAL TALK u
few online video demos, and I also happen to have a unit right here! First there are only two controls: Volume and Fuzz Tone. The Fuzz Tone knob acts as the gain control, going from a nice round low-gain distortion all the way up to a squelchy, splattery fuzz. It never gets all the way there though, which means the gain is actually quite useful at any setting. My favorite thing about the Knight Fuzz is that it retains a nice, articulate bottom-end without ever getting too muddy; this was something its sonic sister the Jordan Boss Tone never got quite right. Another helpful feature is that it’s very sensitive
to guitar Tone and Volume adjustments, allowing even more versatility and customization. One little trick I accidentally came across was using an old 9v battery that was on its way out. The result was a low rumbling, gated square wave fuzz perfect for bass guitar! Comparing it to effects you may have heard before, the Knight Fuzz Box sits somewhere between a lower gain Mosrite Fuzzrite and a more precise Jordan Boss Tone (Alhambra, V2). They are not super difficult to find, and if you consistently check online gear dealers and auction sites you may see up to four or five each year. And while
that doesn’t seem like a whole lot, just think, that’s four or five more that you will ever see of something like an MKI Tone Bender. So while the Knight KG-389 Fuzz Box was never meant to be more than a cool project kit for aspiring electricians, almost 50 years later through a combination of rarity, simplicity and individuality it seems to have stood the test of time. So what are you waiting for... go find one! G Ed Prence is owner and writer of the Tone Machines Blog, the most in-depth collection of vintage effects reviews and demos on the internet. Visit his site at www.tonemachines.blogspot.com
GEARPHORIA SAM ASH/NAMM
GEAR REVIEWS u
Origin Effects Cali 76 CD
ORIGIN EFFECTS CALI76 CD Controls: Dry, Out, In, Ratio, Attack and Release knobs. Top-mounted jacks. Price: $379
Origin pint-sized its lauded Cali76 compressor... with great results BY BLAKE WRIGHT
CONFESSION: It took me a while to ‘get’ compressors. Not that the principle itself is difficult, but early on I was in a place musically where it didn’t see use for one. Why squish anything? Let it breathe, man… Let it breathe! Didn’t The Beatles sing that back in the early 70s? Admittedly, my first run-in with a stompbox compressor didn’t do much to sway me. It was a non-descript pedal that made everything sound lifeless and far away, killing the amp’s natural oomph. Then, it happened. One day jamming with friends I was re-introduced to the compressor — a good one, and just like Aladdin, I was in a whole new world. A good compressor isn’t a one tone pony, it’s a sonic tool that allows for specific shaping of audio hills and valleys creating something more alive and immediate. A great compressor does all of these things, and still allows your amp’s natural sound to sing through. Meet the Origin
GEARPHORIA SAM ASH/NAMM
Effects Cali 76 CD (or Compact Deluxe) — a great compressor. UK-based Origin has been around since 2011, making a name for themselves with the ability to capture the studio quality of the lauded Universal Audio 1176 Compressor in pedalform. The first Cali 76, equipped with a Lundahl transformer, was a pretty sizable piece of kit. An excellent compressor, but a real estate hog when placed on the old pedalboard. A Cali 76 Compact followed in a smaller footprint, but at the cost of the loss of some controls. This Cali 76 Compact Deluxe shoe horns the flexibility and function of the original Cali 76 into an enclosure not much bigger than a Boss pedal, and it adds a Dry knob control. The Dry control is important because it allows the user to mix in dry signal from the guitar with the compressed signal of the effect. The result is a retention of dynamics not usually found with compressors that lack the blend feature.
Plugged in, the Cali 76 CD brings your amp tone to life. It has a blooming impact, even at lower volume settings, that expands the overall sound without compromising the amp’s natural tendencies. The pedal’s touch response also is dynamic and smooth. The beauty of an 1176-inspired circuit is that you can really give it what for and it barely flinches. The pedal sports an eye jewel that changes color to let the user know when compression is being applied. With a lot of pedal compressors, you wind up slamming them into huff-and-puff submission at higher compression settings. The Cali76 CD is fast, clean and up to the task. The pedal will set you back almost $400, but it delivers on every penny, especially if you are in the market for a studio-quality, pedalboard-friendly compressor. If that’s you, your search should begin with the Cali76 CD. It will likely end there too. G
GEAR REVIEWS u
KMA Audio Machines Minos
KMA MACHINES MINOS Controls: Input, Anger, Output knobs. Tone cut switch and three-way bass voicing toggle. Price: $220
KMA’s Minos is an expressive, explosive treat BY BLAKE WRIGHT
BEING A SON of Zeus is hard. Take Perseus for example. You’ve seen Clash of the Titans, right? (The 80s version, not that remade dreck of 2010.) As a child, Perseus and his mother were cast out, set adrift in the ocean sealed in a floating tomb by her jealous husband. While babe Perseus is rescued things don’t exactly come easy after that. The hero would go on to battle marsh flies, Calibos, giant scorpions, Medusa, the Kraken… the list goes on. For all of these hardships, poor Minos had it worse. The son of Zeus and Europa, he was the first king of Crete. His story includes various betrayals, angry gods, minotaurs, Daedalus and Icarus and so on. It was his pursuit of Daedalus that got him killed… in a bath of scolding water. After his death, Minos became a judge of the dead in Hades often portrayed in art as a snake-like figure at the entrance to Hell. Yeesh! Being a descendent of a pair of classic fuzz circuits isn’t nearly as dramatic, but the KMA Audio Machines Minos — a sort of offspring of the Tonebender MkII and Superfuzz — offers up an impressive array of fuzz tones, ranging from gritty, lo-fi, retro
to modern, paint-peeling “Hell no!” Those tones come, in highly- controllable fashion, via adjustment of not only the fuzz control (or Anger), but a pair of level controls — one for Input and one for Output. The Input control allows the player to set the amount/level of incoming signal and acts as a high pass to control the bass tones. Counter-clockwise on the Input control gives the player a gritty, blues-ready overdrive sound. Clockwise thicken things up considerably and gives you the full MkII gut punch. Other controls on the Minos include a Tone Cut switch, which is designed to tame brightness when the fuzz is full bore. There also is a three-way toggle that offers a trio of bass settings from garage-era rumble to midheavy to thick and saturated. If the externals are not enough for you, the Minos has a pair of internal trim pots that allows the user to set the bias of the second and third germanium transistor for additional tonal optionality, though the KMA documentation warns to do so at your own risk. Plugged in, the Minos is a Swiss Army delight. All controls act as
advertised. All knobs full left equals silence. Input full right, but Output full left? Still nothing. Input full right and rolling Output right introduces an aggressive, compressed fuzz. Continued rolling to max opens up the tone into a hot fuzz sound, and that with no adjustment to the Anger knob. The Anger knob adds hair to the overall sound. Maxed Anger is the Minos at its most unruly, but still in control. Once you get a feel for the range, exploration is key. There is much more than a fuzz box here. Higher input levels and lower output levels yield overdriven tones that can still be a bit crispy around the edges. The trio of bass flavors can also be used to add/ subtract body from the overall sound. The variety of tones within left us longing a bit for a two-channel Minos. Channel one to store the crisp and vintage-textured overdrive sound for retro rhythms, a second to house a fuzz explosion ripe for 60s-era psyche/blues solos. Beats dropping to a knee mid-song and futzing with knobs, right? If the Tonebender MkII is your bag, but you wish it had more up its sleeve, the Minos might be the hero you’re looking for. G
GEARPHORIA SAM ASH/NAMM
EVE R Y T H I N G I S G E T T I N G A L I T T L E
The Ibanez OD850 may look like an overdrive pedal, but turn up that sustain knob and things may start to get a bit fuzzy. The fabled effects pedal, resurrected from the '70s with the original pedalboard-friendly size, a modified tonestack for smoother high-end frequencies and saturation so overwhelming, it may cause flashbacks.
FEATURES Made in Japan | 100% Analog Circuitry | All-metal Housing True Bypass Switching | Original Narrow Box Design
Published on Dec 12, 2016
A look at the best records released by emerging NYC based artists in 2016. Features on Big Thief and Forth Wanderers. A split issue featurin...