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Tones of the Unknown with Livvy of Mamalarky

December 21, 2021
Written by
Emily Harris
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Who doesn’t love a good mystery? 

For our two-part series “Tones of the Unknown” in partnership with Reverb, the online music gear marketplace, Livvy of Mamalarky was sent a box of mystery effects pedals to explore. We have to admit, she got some real winners. Don’t worry, we’re only a little jealous. Here’s a deeper look at what she got in her mystery box.

Header Caroline

Despite having symbols instead of words to describe its control parameters, the Caroline Guitar Co. Météore is an easy-to-dial-in lo-fi spring reverb pedal. As Livvy says, the Météore “has a lot to say,” and can do everything from “gorgeous, understated, beautiful,” tones to complete havoc at the press of a footswitch—conveniently named havoc. 

The “sun” and “mountain” settings Livvy describes are the bright and dark voicings of the effect, and the “space invader” is the attack control, which controls the amount of gain going into the preamp—the lo-fi heart of the pedal. The controls, especially the preamp, interact heavily with each other. For example, if you set the attack (that’s the preamp we talked about earlier) and the regen (the decay, or how long the reverb lasts) high enough, the pedal can enter self-oscillation without having to engage the havoc switch. 

Even though Livvy already has a spring reverb in her amplifier, this pedal isn’t a redundancy. What really sets the Météore apart from a simple digital spring reverb emulator is its ability to impart gritty lo-fi character without overwhelming your sound (until you want it to). If you’re looking for a reverb pedal that can balance on the edge of clean reverb tones and descend into a whirlwind of feedback—and back again—the Météore can do that and more.

Header Kinematic

Named after the Greek word for motion, the “gnarly” Dreadbox KINEMATIC is a VCA-based compressor and envelope filter in one. And those eagle-eyed viewers might notice that it has three patch points, making it equally usable for Eurorack users and guitarists alike. 

Livvy shows off both modes in her demo: the Comp Color mode (that’s the compressor) and the Envelope filter, which you move between via a toggle on the face of the pedal. 

In the Comp Color mode, the pedal acts as—you guessed it—a VCA-based compressor with an extreme compression ratio. VCA stands for voltage-controlled amplifier, which is an analog compressor. Essentially, it’s an amplifier (in this sense, an amplifier is anything that amplifies audio signal) that alters its gain in proportional to a control voltage or modulator signal. 

Knowing exactly how it works is probably less important than knowing that VCA-based compressors have extremely fast attack (that’s the intensity with which a note is plucked or strummed) and release (that’s the decay or how the note stops) parameters. Attack Magazine describes VCA compressors as “fast and punchy on rhythmic material” with the ability to “smooth out peaks without squashing everything in sight.”

The Dreadbox KINEMATIC also serves as a frequency booster and has up to 18 dB of boost potential. In other words, it gets LOUD. 

The Envelope Filter mode is a 12dB low pass filter with an auto-wah. It has a slow envelope curve and it is weird, funky, and a ton of fun. Oh, and did we mention that it has an overdrive circuit and can also effectively function as a distortion pedal? The KINEMATIC has a lot going for it and is a real workhorse on a pedalboard.

Header Paradox

“I have a feeling this one is going to be strange in a very good way.” Paradox Effects makes some astounding pedals, and the Obsidiana Octave Layering Engine is toward the top of the list. As the name implies, it’s an octave pedal and its polyphonic nature ensures that it responds equally well to single notes and chords alike. Polyphonic means it can translate multiple notes at a time, unlike monophonic octave pedals which only allows one note to be played and sent and octave up or down at a time. 

As you can hear from Livvy’s demo, the Obsidiana does more than simple octaves up and down. Firstly, it has two modes for filtering options: one pole low pass mode and two pole resonant low pass mode. The one pole low pass filter mode is a more traditional fixed low-pass filter—the filter knob is brighter to the right, darker to the left. For the two pole resonant low-pass filter mode, you get more resonant synthesizer-esque tones as you sweep the filter control.

But its most unique feature is the branching octave trails that build syncopated rhythms or layers of octaves and pitches. As Livvy says, “That’s kind of what my brain sounds like when I’m trying to fall asleep.”

At the top of the controls, you have octave up, octave down, a direct control for the wet/dry blend and filter as well as regen (controls feedback of the octave trails) and lag (varies by mode). Like the KINEMATIC, the Obsidiana is the type of pedal you can take a deep dive into.

Thanks to Reverb for sending out that Mystery Box and Livvy for showcasing those incredible pedals! If you’re looking to pick up any gear from Reverb, please be sure to use our affiliate links—it’s a great way to support She Shreds doing things you already do.

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