Watching - June 2021

Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)
Unanimous choice for our family film night (although I hadn't heard about it before about two days ago and was not really bothered either way), Disney's latest is fairly identikit, well, Disney fare. Modern, ass-kicking Disney princess? Tick. Missing parent? Of course. Cute animal sidekick? Present and correct. Huge big moral being whacked around your head? Absolutely - although in this case the moral is not just about trusting in people, but to me seems to have fairly hefty dose of warnings against isolationism and nationalism, which is a bit subversive for Disney. The animation is superb, although the characters do look a bit like Barbie, as K pointed out - their faces all seem a bit plastic and unlined - the story is involving, if predictable, and the animals cute. What else do you want? An enjoyable evening with the family, unlikely to be watched again for a while though.
Luca (2021)
The newest Pixar release on Disney+ predictably gets no complaints for pizza night, and predictably provides pleasant passing of time. It looks sumptuous, is heartwarming and sweet, and involving enough to keep us entertained. I'm a little less sure of the way it reduces Italians to stereotypes (I'm fairly certain that "Santa Gorgonzola" is not a real saint, much less one that is invoked in a crisis) and as such it seems like a very US-centric view of the country. Nevertheless, fun enough.
Incredibles 2 (2018)
I'm fairly certain we saw this in the cinema when it came out, and were not impressed enough to bother ordering it on DVD. It's good fun though, with most of the funniest moments centred around Jack Jack and his multifarious powers, and even if the plot twist can be seen coming a mile off, it still gets a bit nail-biting towards the climax. Fun stuff, watched with Z.

Reading - June 2021

Guitar Magazine (July 2021 / Issue 394)
I read somewhere that all guitar magazines feature an issue with Jimi Hendrix on the cover at least once every twelve months, in the knowledge that it will be that year's best selling issue - as good an illustration as any of the somewhat narrow world of guitar, sadly. Therefore, it strikes me as a brave move to put a woman on the cover, in this case Annie Clark of St. Vincent. I don't know her music but they say she "might well be the most important guitar player on the planet today" so I should go and listen to some. Elsewhere the Ivison Guitars Dakota model looks rather nice, although if I was plonking down that kind of cash I'd get the '59 DC, no question.
Noises Off by Michael Frayn (1982)
I saw this in the West End with my parents in the early 80s, so therefore the original production - although possibly not the original cast, since it ran for five years. C and I also saw it again more recently, although I can't remember where. It's a fantastically well-crafted play and laugh-out-loud funny on the page - and even more so on stage, of course, although sadly the few staged examples I can find on Youtube fail to do it justice, and the film version got poor reviews.
Be My Enemy by Christopher Brookmyre (2004)
I swore off Brookmyre for 2021, just to reduce the over-familiarity, but clearly didn't manage. I remember struggling to get into this book for ages but now it's one of my favourites - the combination of Jack Parlabane and Tim Vale is irresistible and the plotting and characterisation as good as ever. I'm disappointed to find that Chris Brookmyre has chosen to revive the Parlabane character as a divorced man in later books, which, based on a reading of their plots, are unremittingly depressing. I don't know why he decided to remove the humour from his novels, as without it they are just fairly standard fare.
Lucky Man by Michael J. Fox (2002)
It's easy to underestimate just how famous Michael J. Fox is. Here's something I didn't know until I read it just now on Wikipedia: at its peak, the sitcom Family Ties was watched by one-third of American households every week. That's a lot of people basically tuning in to see Fox, who was the lead character, and it's easy to understand why, as he is such an engaging person in every role he plays. This comes across in his book: he's honest about his illness and honest about his failings, including the one where he hid his illness for nine years.
How To Get Rich  by Felix Dennis (2006)
An entertaining read that lifts the lid on the reality of becoming and staying seriously rich. It comes across as slightly throw-away in places (Dennis says towards the end that he wrote it in eight weeks), and in others as a bit of a diatribe against various targets, not least the kind of people who write "how to get rich" books! Nevertheless, full of truths (at least, they seem so to me) and valuable insights.


Pedal Power 2021


Amazingly, another two years has (almost) passed since I last reviewed my pedals, and there are quite a few new purchases, so it's definitely time to do it again. This obviously doesn't include pedals that have come and gone in between times, including the classic pairing of the Strymon Flint and Strymon El Capistan (so at one point I did in fact own four Strymon pedals), the Source Audio Nemesis, Catalinbread Talisman and Hamstead Odyssey - all top notch pedals, but not quite right for me.

One thing that's fairly obvious when reviewing the previous three of my pedal board posts is I have been gradually drifting towards more expensive items. In 2015 I owned two that cost more than £100, with most of the selection being firmly at the cheap and cheerful end of the market. Today there are three that I paid over £200  for (two of which were secondhand) and three more that would have been over that much new. That said, all but three of these pedals are pre-owned, so in theory I am improving value for myself that way!

Anyway, here they are, in signal path order:

Bright Onion Mini Looper [1]
Still being used as a patch box and mute switch, hasn't shifted since last time.
Line 6 Expression pedal [2] and Line 6 M5
Also unmoved in over two years. The effects I use most often are an octave down, a chorus and a wah. Since collectively those would cost significantly more than this, and take up more space, it stays. Although I am tempted to get a TC Electronics Sub 'n' Up for the octave shenanigans.
Fredric Effects King of Klone [4]
The Electro-Harmonix Soul Food had been on my board for ages, but I'd been wondering about getting a "better" Klon Centaur clone, and this came up at an excellent price. It's not better than the Soul Food it replaced - or worse - but on the other hand this is two Klon circuits in one box, which sounds excellent. I should have hung on the Soul Food though, it was very good at boosting things and had its own character.
BOSS OD-200 [5]
My most recent purchase. I'd been wondering about different flavours of overdrive and this pretty much does it all. I'd tried a Hamstead Odyssey, which is a really nice pedal that has a fair amount of variety, but it had a top end fizz I couldn't dial out - although in hindsight that might have been the H&K Tubemeister amp, which has since been replaced by a Yamaha THR100H. The OD-200 digitally models a dozen drives, fifteen boosts and allows a drive and a boost to run simultaneously. Incredibly versatile, although I haven't played with it enough to know whether it's a keeper.
BOSS GE-7 (ThorpyFX modded) [6]
I had a Mooer Graphic-G which was very compact but didn't get much use the frequencies weren't quite right, and was a bit noisy. The GE-7 is the industry standard, although it's also generally considered to be improvable itself in the noise department, which is why modded versions like that by Analogman are highly sought after. I assume this has much the same updates, in this case done by Adrian Thorpe. Anyway, it's very good. I also like having a "proper" BOSS pedal on the board - it's a design classic.
Eventide Rose [7]
I love delay. My first was a Frontline FD-1200 Digital Delay which got lost ages ago, but my first in more modern times was the MXR Carbon Copy. That started my descent into a bit of a rabbit hole which has ended up here (so far). The Rose is a digital take on a bucket-brigade style delay, but with way more features. It sounds excellent - you'd expect nothing less of a company with the pedigree of Eventide, of course - but it's too new to know whether I'd use all of its capabilities. I suspect that I won't, which leaves me wondering again whether I should have just kept the Carbon Copy! (bit of a theme developing here ...) Fun to try all these things though.
Strymon DIG [8]
This has three different digital delays which do sound different, albeit only slightly. So in practice it's a bit of a one-trick pony - although in fairness, it's a hell of a trick. If I want a single delay I usually go for a more analogue sounding delay like the Brigadier or the Rose, so all this gets used for is bad Edge impressions, which is enough to keep it on the board!
Neunaber Immerse Mk II [9]
I also love reverb, although for a while I decided that whatever is in the amp is enough. However, I really missed the adjustability of a pedal. I tried the Source Audio True Spring, which sounded superb but is only spring reverb (duh) whereas I like plate reverb more. So I moved on the to Strymon Flint, which stayed until very recently and saw off the Catalinbread Talisman. It's excellent but perhaps a little dull, and I couldn't use the tremelo effectively either. So when the Immerse came up on the forum, I snapped it up. So far I'm loving it - loads of different reverb options, all of which sound luscious. Plus it has an "echo" option for when two other delays aren't enough.
Hotone Wally+ Looper [10]
I've had a looper on my board since I inadvertently acquired one in the TC Flashback X4. The BOSS RC-1 wasn't as usable as I expected and definitely muffled the tone, so on a whim I bought this, the smallest looper I could find. It's tiny (see pic) but it has eleven slots for loops and can record something like thirty minutes in each of them. Needless to say, all I use it for it recording simple chord progressions for improvising over. Worth having though, and takes up almost no space on the board. Hotone used to do a whole range of pedals this size - it's tempting to do a whole board with them and compare it!
Tech 21 Sansamp [11]
I've said a few times already that there are pedals I shouldn't have sold, and that's why I won't sell this. It's a classic, it's great at what it does and it was great value for money.
Ken Multi MCP-7 Compressor [12]
I think the only time this comes out of its box is for family photos like this! Pity, as it's a perfectly functional, if shameless, copy of a BOSS CS-2, but the M5 has three or four compressors in it that I'd use instead if that's what I wanted. Worth nothing though, so it won't be going anywhere.
BOSS LS-2 Line Selector [13]
Another utility pedal that is a tool in the box for those moments when I need to split a signal. Have to admit I haven't used it recently though.
Strymon Brigadier [14]
As mentioned above, I got the MXR Carbon Copy and loved it. But inevitably, I wondered if more controls would be better, so I sold it for the Carbon Copy Deluxe, which was a disappointment. So basically I've been looking for something that sounds like the CC, but with more control over the modulation and the feedback. I had the BOSS DM-2W (lovely but lacking modulation on the repeats), the Strymon El Capistan (tape delay not really my thing), this and the Rose above. The Brigadier sounds excellent but the mod control could be better and the oscillation is obviously digital. I suspect this is leading me back to properly analogue delay again - either another CC, or something even more expensive like a full-fat Deluxe Memory Man Deluxe (the 1100 TT is probably the best bet). 
Not pictured (but talked about last time):
  • Fredric Effects Unpleasant Companion - up for sale but I might change my mind as there has only been one inquiry in over a month.
  • Cry Baby Super