that’s the term I invented to describe my new solo album, ‘spaces_io (volume I)’ – a means of escape from the confines of your room during lockdown.
It’s my fourth album but it’s also the first of its kind, sort of.
AUDIO, VIDEO, DISCO
I started ‘absurdcus’ back in 2003 as a means of always having a creative öutlet at hand. But it wasn’t until recently that I realised that it has become my most valuable educational resource.
Basically I learned everything I know or am good at by working on my absurdcusian craft. From composing, playing and recording instruments, using a DAW, mixing, to filming and editing videos, 2D and stop-motion animations, writing gear reviews, playing in bands, social media skills etc.
my fourth release is a sort of return to the roots, as cheesy as that may sound.
Lately it has become increasingly difficult for me to write any music, I felt nothing I wrote was good enough, I needed to raise the bar with every note. Every chord progression needed to be something one wouldn’t expect, every melody innovative, every beat unheard of. And that basically stopped me in my tracks, the joy of writing was slipping through the cracks.
This record is the opposite of that, it’s a reminder of why I started playing music in the first place. It was not so I could swing a psychic bat at my head for not coming up with the most original basslines. It was not because I had something very important to say and felt other people should hear it, too.
It was because it was easier to pour emotions into sounds than into words. And learn along the way.
‘spaces_io’ is a reminder that I DO NOT have to adhere to any guidelines. I can write a 13 second punk song using only spoons if I want to. Well, maybe on the next record, not this one, though.
So, without further ado – here are 30 minutes of bass scapes, explorations of spaces. All sounds are made with electric, fretless, acoustic and electric upright bass. The album is mostly built on improvised pieces recorded during quarantine in 2020, what a year, right?
First off, let me just say that I am not a fuzz-head.
Although I thoroughly appreciate a good buzzy bass fuzz sound, the band I play in usually needs a more ‘concrete’ type of distortion.
This, combined with the fact that I’m a minimalist when it comes to playing shows, means that I try to be wary of what I carry with me to gigs. Coming after a longer period of using no pedals on stage, in the last few years I’ve been using a small utilitarian pedalboard with some bare essentials – a tuner, a great preamp/di, a distortion or two and sometimes for an added flavour either an octaver or a delay. Now that I started using a synth regularly, the octaver will no longer be gracing the board with its presence so I’d have some free space.
But why would I use a fuzz on my pedalboard if I am not much of a fan?
Well, mostly because the Freaky Stone is what I call a “Two Tone” pedal, meaning you can get 2 distinct sounds from one single pedal. Call it versatility, call it what you will, I’ve always favoured this approach.
is a small boutique-pedal shop from Hungary, founded and operated by Albert Kasléder, who already made a name for himself as a pedal builder while working on a pedal series for Höfner guitars. His stompboxes usually gravitate around the vintage type of sound/era, but with an updated and personal twist.
“Paul McCartney, John Paul Jones, Gene Simmons, Paul Simonon, Lemmy, Steve Harris, Duff McKagan, Tim Commerford. A few names of the bass players with special playing style, but most of all a special sound timbre of the bass with a big impact on me and still do have to this day. They all have different, unique flavors, but the common point is that they used lightly or roughly cracked amps.
This special cavalcade of flavors inspired the creation of the Freaky Stone pedal. I wanted to make a versatile pedal with the basic character of germanium transistors, giving the pedal a kind of vintage feel. So the Freaky Stone is a character pedal designed specifically for bass players, which you can also use as a preamp, overdrive, or fuzz.”
The Freaky Stone is an ultra limited edition bass preamp/overdrive/fuzz box, only 50 units ever made. Hand-built, numbered and signed, using top notch components – all nifty boutique pedal traits from a small shop in Budapest, Hungary.
They say first impressions are lasting ones, Kasleder pedals shine in this category and the Freaky Stone is no exception. Snugly packed into a logo-stamped cardboard box, it comes with its own bag, a coaster, a sticker and a pick. These might seem little things to some, but they are a nice personal touch and we all know that a little goes a long way. Of course, I just had to do an unboxing in the video demo, there was no way around it!
One thing I always liked about Albert’s pedals are the wide variety of colours they are available in. The Freaky Stone comes in what I’d call Boom Bass Brown because it certainly presents itself as a prime candidate for ‘brown note’ jokes, especially while blasting it through a full PA system.
The quirky and awesome graphics are made by Albert’s partner, Eszter Budavári and they are the icing on the cake.
the pedal seems very road worthy, the aluminium knobs feel nice and sturdy to the touch. I am not a tech/spec nerd, you can consult the product page of the pedal to access all that type of info. What I did retain, though, is the use of New Old Stock Russian military grade Germanium transistors, which give the Freaky Stone its unique flavour.
are straightforward and offer a wide range of combinations. One interesting fact, and you can fully observe this in the demo, is how differently the pedal responds to passive vs active instruments. The affected frequencies are mostly in the higher register and they give a very interesting sizzle to the active basses. The internal DIP switch and BIAS trim pot offer additional tweaking abilities for the tweak-nerds out there. As a side note, the BIAS trimpot was fully counterclockwise for all playing examples in the demo.
The HIGH control on the Boost section might be a bit too much or noisy for my taste, I’ve found that I’ve always preferred turning it down rather than up while testing the pedal without a musical context. Of course, things are different in a band setting as you can see in the demo, especially in the amp+mic and amp/cab sim sections.
I hate to use cliches but given the many ‘one trick pony’ fuzz pedals out there, this one might be more ‘versatile’ than the average. You have the fuzz section that delivers organic tones from bee-like buzz to full-blown firestorm. On the other hand, you can use the ‘cleaner side’ just for some EQ-ing and some saturation, maybe a bass/treble bump for a slap sound or maybe even to throw some more kerosene on the fuzz-fire, there are tons of options.
As always, these types of pedals sound best through an appropriate rig, of course. However I did find that the Freaky Stone works great with amp/cab sims as well, as you’ll be able to tell after watching the demo. One thing I forgot to mention, though, is what kind of amp/sim I used for that certain portion of the video. It was the newly released Guitar Rig 6 from Native Instruments with the Basic Bass Invader preset.
All in all
this pedal will definitely find its way on to my gigging pedalboard. I am still not a fuzz-head and although the pedal is not perfect (there are no perfect pedals) – I love the tone but could live without the inherent noise of fuzzpedals – I am looking forward to blasting some fuzzalicious Freaky Stone tones through some serious PA systems.
May 2021 mark the return (albeit gradual) of live shows and more music in our lives in general!
So, without further ado, please check out the demo if you haven’t already.
*although I am not a fuzz-head, this is not the first bass fuzz I owned – I have a Red Fuzz devil of a pedal built for me by my old friend Lorand, the man behind LoCo pedals and the Sensei preamp pedal which will be featured in a future demo/review. Stay tuned!
**disclaimer – this is not a sponsored review/demo but I did receive the pedal for free to test it.
are a small one-man-shop from the town of Galați, Romania. Andrei, the bass-maker, started building instruments around 2012, mostly because he couldn’t afford neck-through basses, according to his own words. Up until now he built around 15 basses, all of them custom tailored to fit his clients’ desires. I had the pleasure of demo-ing a TAN S-Type Singlecut and although I appreciated all the bells and whistles (e.g. the Mike Pope preamp) on it, I must say, I prefer the meat and potato approach of the Blue bass.
The TAN Classic Deluxe
is a new take on the well known and much appraised Jazz Bass sound. Passive, sporting two Aguilar 5J-HC pickups, it has an organic, meaty voice suited for more musical situations than you’d give it credit for. Upon holding it in my hands, my first impression was that it might be the illegitimate child of a Fender Jazz Bass and a Warwick Streamer. It certainly bears resemblance to both, the upper horn hinting at the classic lines while the curves of the body and the lower horn give it a more modern appearance.
the Blue Sparkle finish is a bit of an eye candy. I must confess I was pleasantly surprised, I expected it to be more plastic-y but the sparkles give the paint job a bit more depth. I’d love to see how it ages and what kind of yellowish or maybe greenish hue it gets over time. The matching headstock is also a nice touch, gives it a nice retro vibe. The familiar angled tuners and the old school pearloid pickguard reinforce the feeling that this bass is the marriage of old and new.
the Classic Deluxe is a well constructed instrument, featuring some high grade components. The wood choices ( all maple except the american walnut fretboard binding) line up with the classic approach, while the hardware (custom high mass bridge, Schaller tuners and LEDs) might make it more desirable for the modern player. While not everything is perfectly done (my knack for finding imperfections can be both a blessing and a curse) the attention to detail is certainly to be appreciated.
Tone and feel
I’ve only had the bass a month, played it just a couple of days on and off, due to my busy schedule but I felt at home playing the TAN. Although my experience with more ‘classic sounding’ instruments is limited to my own 1995 Japanese Fender Precision bass and the times I fiddled a couple of vintage Fender Jazz basses, I recognised the old school ‘snap and bite’ to the tone, especially with both pickups full on. Talking about the ‘snap’, the maple fretboard is definitely a large contributor.
The lows are clear and punchy, the mids are not overwhelming and the highs cut through. Maple is often associated with brighter sounds and although the TAN can be pretty sizzly at times, it doesn’t go overboard. There is a bit of a mid scoop to my ears, mostly because I am so used to my mid-heavy Warwick basses, but I didn’t feel the need to compensate with electronics. ‘The tone is in your hands’ might be an overused cliche but it’s true – you carry your sound with you but you need to invest time to get to know your instrument.
There is a certain hollowness (not lack of mids, but don’t know how else to describe it) that adds a very interesting character to the sound. The bass stays true to the Jazz Bass spirit but puts a spin of its own on it.
Sometimes comfort is sacrificed in order to get that specific tone or sleek look. Heavy exotic woods, smaller bodies. I should know, my Thumb bass isn’t the most snuggliest snuggly bear when it comes to adapting to my body and being comfy to play. Thankfully the TAN has no issues in the neck dive department, it’s easily one of the most well balanced instrument I played lately. It weighs just about 4,45 kg / 9,81 lbs, making it a ‘lighter’ bass, when compared to my 5,6 kg – 4,9 kg heavy weights. Props for fighting the good fight for our backs!
I would have liked for it to have a satin finished or oil finished neck, because I’m not particularly fond of lacquered necks but it did not feel overly sticky. The neck profile is in the ‘slimmer’ category, making it easy to jump around the fretboard.
At the request of the builder I didn’t change strings or fiddle with the action, I played it with the exact setup I received it. It didn’t take too long to get used to the wider 18mm string spacing, even after 15 years or so of 16,5mm. The action was medium low, maybe a tid bit too high for my taste, but definitely easily playable.
The only issues I found with the bass were an unfortunate combination of factors that culminated in a bit of intermittent buzzing. I had a hard time pinpointing the source of the noise but it was obvious from the get go that it is a grounding issue. Turns out the coated Elixir strings are not conductive and can cause problems in certain combinations with passive electronics/pickups. Roger Sadowsky has a more extensive article on this issue, check it out if you have similar problems with coated strings. Bottom line is once you change the strings, the problem goes away.
Talking about the strings, I found that the A string has a bit more output than the rest of the strings. That might be because the exposed pole pieces of the Aguilar pickups that are a bit higher under the A string. Also, might be easily solvable with a little setup.
All in all
I found this bass comfortable to play, pretty versatile tone wise – should fit into most musical situations. The Blue Sparkle finish makes it stand out on stage and the extra LED blue side dots not only help you find your way in the dark but add to the premium feel of the instrument.
Although TAN are not yet ready to compete with the experience and fame of well established international boutique manufacturers ( Fodera, Ken Smith, F Bass etc) I certainly salute their tenacity and persistence to become one of Romania’s finest custom bass builders.
please check out the full DEMO if you haven’t already:
https://absurdcus.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/header-scaled.jpg10942560absurd_devhttps://absurdcus.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/logo-big-1-300x82.pngabsurd_dev2020-12-01 20:24:162020-12-02 10:05:05BASS REVIEW - the TAN Classic Deluxe 5
back in 2016 I purchased a 2004 Warwick Streamer LX 6 string bass with the sole purpose of de-fretting it since I was in dire need of a fretless. It was the smoothest transaction ever, I bought it from a good friend, bassmaster Chris Kollias from Greece.
What I didn’t expect though is to really like the way it sounded with frets! I managed to do a couple of videos, but I had made up my mind and had it de-fretted with a couple of coats of epoxy on the fretboard. Lookie here!
Fast forward a couple of years and another 200+ gigs with my beloved Thumb bass and I started to think about options for a lighter or at least a better balanced bass. The Thumb is 5,6kg/12.3pounds, in case you’re wondering. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still the Mother Of All Basses in my book, but I’ve reached an age where…
After a long battle of trying to justify to myself (and to my wife, though she actually welcomed the idea (!!)) why I’d want another bass, I started the search. It took a couple of months of digging through the internets and a couple of missed deals, but finally I struck gold(en hardware).
With the help of my friends Michi and Alberto I managed to snag this 1998, WENGE necked Streamer all the way from Italy.
it cost me a whopping 850 € + 30 € shipping fees. A good price, if I do say so myself, for a bass in this condition. 6 string basses (or maybe just 6 string Warwicks?) tend to be the sellers’ nightmare, they are not exactly fashionable these days. Except from hip brands like Kiesel or Dingwall, otherwise they might be a hard sell.
I also intended to change the hardware to black, as I prefer black to golden, so that added to the cost.
black bridge – 49,58 €
6 black tuners – 50,88 €
black flush mount straplocks – 20,92 €
4 black knobs – 10,40 €
4 pickup screws – 5,12 €
I refuse to do the final math but all in all I like the bass a lot, even with its small problems that you can see in the video below. The beauty spot above the pickups is just mojo and we approve of mojo in this house.
I documented the “restoration” in my lengthiest video yet, 18+ minutes, I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed geeking out while making it.
Even though we’re in the middle of a pandemic, we managed to play 6 acoustic gigs in the last few weeks (and a fiery electric gig in the mountains) – all of them adhering to the new and strict social distancing and safety regulations, of course. Some might say it can’t be much of a rock concert with the audience glued to their seats, each table at a specific distance from the other, but hey – it’s for our own safety and that’s all we’ve got now. It’s not the case for ‘it’s better than nothing’ – in fact it’s the only way forward for now.
https://absurdcus.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/3B32F404-631B-4AB6-883D-0E6B3F2D8D1D-9494402F-3543-4D9E-B364-EB7DA4FD565B-scaled-e1591991322504.jpg10882560absurd_devhttps://absurdcus.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/logo-big-1-300x82.pngabsurd_dev2020-06-15 10:52:252020-06-15 10:52:33It's the little things
Today we’ll be talking about the quest for the perfect bass tone
But first I’d like to tell you a few things about the ever-elusive component of life called Unobtainium. To be more specific, about a certain sub-type of it called Unobtainium Mutatio Semperium (UMS for short).
Even though by its nature UMS likes to remain hidden, many of us have come in contact with it. It morphs into different forms, comes in all shapes and sizes, colours and smells. Rears its ugly head in the happiest moments but also in the most uncomfortable of situations. It first appears to you as a random thought and after a while shifts into a daydream, until, finally, it gets its roots lodged into your mind and you can’t get rid of it. The more you think about it, the heavier it weighs on you. It becomes an invisible hand whose grasp can start pulling at the steering wheel. A seedling growing into a tree you dream of climbing on top of one day.
UMS contagion manifests itself in the little things ‘hey, I want that dress. I think it would make me look thinner’ or ‘hey, if I just buy this piece of gear I’ll be happy for the rest of my life’. Happens to everyone, falling head over heels for the perceived benefit of an idea. This wouldn’t pose much of a problem, it’s a pretty common occurrence in the long walk of life, might even be mistaken for the pursuit of happiness sometimes. But instead of keeping things simple, mischievous Mother Nature makes UMS an ever-mutating phenomenon. An ever-shifting desire.
A strangely specific and very localised example
You wake up one day – after having the same idea of The Perfect Bass Sound for the last 15 years – wanting something totally different. Without any well documented and peer reviewed explanation. You just feel like BOOM instead of CLANK one morning. And it’s very confusing as you fear that this new disposition might cancel out all the efforts of the last 20 years, searching and researching The Holy Grail of Bass Tones. You’ve heard BOOM all your life, all around you and that was what attracted you to CLANK in the first place. BOOM was plain. CLANK is more rare and it makes you feel more special. CLANK is harder to manage, therefore makes you work harder and you appreciate that. CLANK is gold.
Then you discover the traces of UMS around you and at first it scares you. The discovery puts things into a different perspective. You realise that you weren’t chasing a dream, but in fact you were dreaming of chasing your own tail. There is no such thing as The Perfect Bass Tone, there is just the pursuit that will ultimately take you to many places and let you try out many things. And you will end up keeping those that work for you and get rid of those that don’t.
And you come to terms with the fact that you don’t actually spend copious amounts of cash on The Gear That Will Get You The Perfect Sound. But instead you are paying for your own comfort and pleasure as you go for the ride. Like switching from taking smelly cabs to work to riding your bicycle, both will get you all the way, probably both will make you smell, but you’ll end up preferring one to the other. Which one, that’s ultimately up to you.
So here’s some BOOM for you
After this convoluted piece about how gear doesn’t really matter here’s a bass play through of ‘El Dorado‘, where I use too much gear, duh.
It’s a live version of the song off of our most recent record ‘Nouă‘, followed by a short and hopefully insightful explanation of how I recorded the bass for this video. If you like that sort of thing. Listening to my adorable English accent, I mean. As all in life, it’s a convoluted wörk in progress!
https://absurdcus.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/doodle05.jpg7622048absurd_devhttps://absurdcus.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/logo-big-1-300x82.pngabsurd_dev2020-05-14 11:44:002020-05-14 11:52:54in search of El Dorado
Apparently I’ve been doing this for years now, must’ve had a lot of free time on my hands back in the day.
I’ve looked it up in the archives and the image below might be the very first instance of me photoshopping a bass (albeit not my own) into someone else’s hand:
(it’s supposed to be monster me)
Then I jumped straight into deep water trying my luck with Jaco Pastorius and boy did that cause a sh*t storm among 4 string purists. Looks like everyone felt the need of repeating the same old mantra – “Jaco only needed 4 strings” and “This is blasphemy”
Well, I’ll believe the first part when I see it in writing and signed by Jaco himself.
Jaco only needed talent and practice, my good dudes.
I continued on experimenting with ideas, mostly fueled by boredom and what I was watching at that particular moment in time, and did my most shared Photoshop with Yoda and my mini Thumb toy bass (5,8K shares – not to brag but that’s like a small country)
Eventually I ended up adventuring into cartoon territory as well, doing a brief stint with the Simpsons:
Then other people started image-manipulating basses into photos, the whole meme thing started getting boring real quick, so I quietly retired my graphic tablet from the world of photoshopped basses, why should I have all the glory?
Now that I think of it, I think my old drawings were the first attempt to put basses into people’s hands.
Here is a prophetic self portrait from 2003 sporting a 6 string Thumb bass, about 5,5 years before I managed to actually buy one. Eat your heart out, Nostradamus!
But what I actually wanted to say with this long winded incursion into absurdcusian history no one really cares about is that this quarantine made me pick up my pen again.
A couple of weeks ago I posted a story on my Instagram asking people which one of my basses I should Photoshop in Victor Wooten‘s hands.
Selecting Victor was not as random as it seems, he is one of my favourite musicians and I’ve just watched a couple of master classes with him online, so he looked like the perfect choice.
My Instagram dudes decided that my beloved Thumb should be the one to be photoshopped into Victor’s hands, so I did it and even made a video about it!
bonus – that one time I did a remove-only job, I still get a giggle out of it.
https://absurdcus.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/wooten-blog-image-scaled.jpg13532560absurd_devhttps://absurdcus.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/logo-big-1-300x82.pngabsurd_dev2020-05-06 17:59:492020-05-07 11:19:25Photoshopping basses as a pastime activity