Buncha Upcoming Mars Lights & Dark Satellits Shows

2016 July 9, Saturday – Dark Satellites at Barley Street Tavern, Omaha NE, with Lodgings, Sweats, and Relax It’s Science. 7 PM doors, 9 PM show, probably 21+, $5.

2016 July 15, Friday – Mars Lights at Boobie Trap Bar (program note; not a strip club), Topeka KS

2016 July 16, Saturday – Mars Lights at Records With Merritt, Kansas City MO, with Red Cities and Bogusman.  Maybe 8 PM show?  Free! (buy records!)

2016 July 21, Thursday – Dark Satellites at Replay Lounge, Lawrence KS, with Varma Cross and Candace.  10 PM show, ? ages, $3

2016 August 12, Friday – Dark Satellites at Replay Lounge, Lawrence KS, with Universe Contest.  10 PM show, ? ages, ? $

Falcon vs. Falcon Heavy

Here’s a comparison video showing the MOSFET (Falcon) vs. silicon (Falcon Heavy) clipping and low-mid (Falcon) vs. Russian Muff mid (Falcon Heavy) cuts on guitar.

What I didn’t show, and should have, his the higher gain range on the Falcon Heavy’s silicon setting. In the first comparison the Falcon’s drive is dimed, while the Heavy’s drive (out of the picture) is at maybe 65-70%.

This is to help guitarists who want one to choose between the Falcon and Falcon Heavy. I recommend the Heavy for bassists, *unless* you’re going to leave the pedal on all the time; in that case I could see a bassist going for a Falcon, especially for a more vintage sound.

Falcon Noise Reduction

When I took the Falcon to Drew’s last week it sounded great, but we noticed it was pretty noisy (hum/interference-type noise, not the good kind).  So I’ve been on a zag to improve the power filtering.  I’ve added a part to #0001, and will add it and change the value of another part for future builds.

Here’s a test running several pedals direct into Reaper with their controls dimed:

FalconNoise

  1. Falcon (pre-change)
  2. Fulltone GT500 (OD side, then distortion side)
  3. Moog MF Drive
  4. BYOC Large Beaver (EHX Triangle Muff specs, with a larger input cap)
  5. Falcon (post-change)

This test did not control for different levels of gain available from each pedal; while it looks like the Large Beaver is the noisiest pedal, it’s also the fuzz in the group and probably has the most gain available.

While today’s change didn’t reduce the Falcon’s noise in dB it did change the frequency of the noise some, reducing bass frequencies.  I judge this to be an improvement.

An ear test with the Falcon maxed out vs. the MF Drive set for a similar gain and sound resulted in similar noise levels between the two pedals.  This lets me feel like the Falcon’s noise is acceptable, if not necessarily optimal.  The tradeoffs for better power filtering internally are a greater part count and/or a small loss of voltage available to the circuit.

I’ve learned a way to further reduce the switch pop you see at the beginning and end of each test (the large spikes when turning the pedal on and off).  It’s impractical to go back and implement on model #0001, but I’ll incorporate it into future builds.  #0001’s pops are already comparable to many high-quality pedals – usually passing unnoticed, especially playing into a dirty amp – so hopefully this change will reduce future Falcons’ pops below average.

Falcon #0001

Falcon0001

The “D2” label will be moved down for future units, of course.  I wasn’t thinking about over-sized knobs when I stamped this first enclosure.

“M” will become “M2” (since the mids switch is only available when the D2 channel is engaged) and the unlabeled switch probably needs a “C” for clipping.

Sounds righteous, nonetheless!  Psyched to get it integrated into my Mars Lights rig.

I figure the main channel will replace my VFE Triumvirate for always-on boost & slight clipping duties, and channel 2 will replace the EHX Bass Big Muff Pi for heavy parts.  I still love those pedals, this will just free them up for other uses, probably recording for the Triumvirate (where its flexibility really shines) and maybe suuuuuuuuuper-heavy parts for the Muff.

Demo videos & pre-ordering form forthcoming.

MR|Review – Sturgill Simpson, “A Sailor’s Guide To Earth”

Sturgill Simpson’s appearance on Mark Maron’s WTF podcast this week (listen soon; it will go behind a paywall in a week or two I think) reminded me just how much there is to unpack from his new record A Sailor’s Guide to Earth.

A Sailor's Guide To Earth

It’s a wonderful left turn of a record, released when fans and critics would have welcomed a Metamodern Sounds pt. II.  Self-produced, it sounds clear, warm, and open, the Dap-Kings’ soulful horns swirling chocolate-and-peanut-butter-like with Simpson’s brand of slacker psychadelic outlaw country.

Sturgill’s been open about A Sailor’s Guide… being a song cycle written for his family, especially his first child who was born just as his career took off.  What he hasn’t said – and there’s a tantalizing hint in the Maron interview about this – is just how deep the concept goes.  I think the album is sequenced chronologically beginning with a father singing a song to his newborn son and continuing as the son grows up, maybe having a child of his own.

  1. “Welcome to Earth (Pollywog)” is sung to a newborn
  2. “Breakers Roar” comforts a young child
  3. “Keep it Between the Lines” offers advice to a teen
  4. “Sea Stories” finds a father and his young adult child developing a more mature relationship
  5. “In Bloom” (Nirvana cover)
  6. “Brace for Impact (Live a Little”) reminds a thirty-something child that life can be short, and it should be fun
  7. “All Around You” illustrates a deep connection, only able to be seen through long experience, with a child who is now old enough to have felt real pain
  8. “Oh Sarah” shifts the spotlight to the steady partner whose presence has been felt, but not addressed directly, throughout the record
  9. “Call To Arms” – The old man’s got nothing to lose and speaks his mind (not that he hasn’t always), turning from his family outward toward the world

“In Bloom” is the outlier here, thematically and musically.  As it sits in the center of the sequence it strikes me as meaningful, though I’m not entirely sure what to make of it.  It’s, for me, the weak point on the record musically as Simpson drops half of the chord sequence from the verse, rendering the tension of the original toothless.

Maybe changing Nirvana’s rager into a lullaby illustrates a father nostalgic for his younger child while simultaneously recognizing the adult he’s become.  Or maybe I’m reaching.  But the rest of the album makes so much sense – six songs of a child growing up, followed by two turning progressively outward to others – I need a way to understand the intent here.

Simpson can obviously write incisive, vivid lyrics when he wants to.  That this record also features some fairly worn cliches struck me as odd at first, though they’re wearing alright with time.  Sometimes the language of love and family is what’s comfortable and familiar, said a thousand times and no less true for it.

MR|Review directs readers’ limited attention among works via ratings, and within works via prose, focusing on works where our opinion diverges from critical or popular consensus, or we have significant insight that compliments or challenges readers’ aesthetic experience. MR|Review totals to date:
Must-hear! 2
Recommended 13
Good 10
Fans only 10
Skip this 3
Owww! My ears! 0

Why “Ventura?”

In the back of the blog topic file I found a question from Jill; why is Ventura called “Ventura,” and is it because of Cory?

It is, but I don’t remember why exactly.

The collection of songs was gathered together under the name “Ventura” prior to my one visit there with him in 2006, almost certainly prior to even planning that trip.

At some point early on the east-to-west movement that connected those first few songs became apparent.  With the Pacific as the end point of this twenty-something punk symphony to leaving home and growing up, Ventura could stand in for a more mythic place of serenity.  It’s a milestone from which to look back on the journey so far, and prepare for the one ahead.

Plus, it’s a cool-sounding, lesser-known California town.  I certainly wouldn’t have known its name without knowing Cory.

Ventura, California’s relationship to Ventura is more concrete than Dodge City Kansas’ is to You Have To Wear The Boots’ Dodge, but there’s a symbolic similarity too.

Falcon Drive #1 Enclosure

Made this yesterday to house the first Falcon Drive.

Falcon1enclosure

I have an idea how to improve the =F= design a bit, but this is pretty much the idea.  This will be the demo unit and ultimately go on my board, unless someone has a hankering for serial #0001.

Dark Satellites ‘Be Still’ Vinyl Pre-Order

Dark Satellites’ Be Still vinyl is available for pre-order on Bandcamp (click “Buy” below) (you can stream the whole thing, too).

Drew has made an incredibly good record. It’s catchier, it’s heavier, and it’s synth-ier than 2012 Are Here.

If it matters to you, I played drums on “Strange Song,” bass on “Just Dropped Out,” and mastered the album. This is the first thing I’ve ever contributed to that’s been pressed to wax!

The vinyl is a cool gray and taupe splatter to match the cover art, and we should receive it in June. $25 shipped to the lower 48. Drew will break even when every record is sold, basically; we will not profit on this. It is the definition of a labor of love.