In April 1943, Albert Hoffman deliberately dosed himself with LSD, a substance which he’d synthesized some five years beforehand. Famously, Hoffman rode his bicycle home from the lab that day. Yet this was unlike any previous ride: space seemed distorted, sounds were unusual, and the whole world appeared to have gone crazy.
I suspect that Catalinbread’s new Bicycle Delay has been crafted as an homage to or at least with Hoffman’s bicycle ride in mind. The Bicycle Delay is unlike other delays in that it seems to simulate, in audio form, an acid trip. Weird echoes, distorted repetitions of sound, and a generally random character of all the sounds it produces lead me to think this. Even after some experimentation, I was never really sure what to expect from the Bicycle Delay. In this respect, I believe the pedal to be even more like an acid trip, in which unexpected and strange visions, sounds, and moods appear.
At first glance, the Bicycle Delay might confuse the typical delay aficionado. Catalinbread has painted non-standard labels on its new pedal rather than the traditional names associated with delay. Level, delay, tone, repeats—none of these will be found on the Bicycle Delay. In their place one can find (respectively) Lucidity, Expanse, Radiance, Reflect, and a special additional knob called Mood. Curiously, the Expanse knob works exactly opposite of the way one would expect. At its 5 o’clock setting, the delay is actually set to its minimum time of just a few milliseconds.
The Bicycle Delay produces up to about a two-second delay, and will go as low as just a few milliseconds, so it’s capable of slapback echo and the spacier sounds of psychedelia. But it also has a few other tricks which make it a bit more psychedelic. The Bicycle Delay will apply a curious “hollowing out” effect to the delayed signal, and it will do so in a somewhat aleatory way. At least, the result sounded a bit random even though the Mood knob controls the general direction of the hollowing effect. For example, I set the Mood to noon and the repeated notes retained their character, but lost some fidelity as they decayed. But when I turned the Mood knob to the right, the repeated notes tended to become more metallic as they lost their lower frequencies. Conversely, turning the Mood knob down gave the repeated notes an increasingly metallic and “hollow” character, but with an emphasis on the lower frequencies and a few high ones. To be completely honest, it’s very hard to describe just how this filter sounds, but it’s akin to a ring modulator.
The Bicycle Delay is fun to play with, and even in its “basic” noon settings, I was able to produce a funny, ‘50s sci-fi spaceship takeoff sound if I also turned the Expanse knob to around 2 o’clock. When I turned down the Radiance knob to block the higher frequencies, I was able to generate a cool rhythmic throbbing sound which might work well to accompany the rhythm section of a band.
One feature I would have liked in the pedal is a choice between hard and soft switching. Many delay pedals offer a “trailing” feature which allows the delay to continue and fade slowly after the effect is switched off. The Bicycle Delay, on the other hand, features no trailing or slow fade after it’s switched off. Arguably, a sudden break with the delay effect could seem more psychedelic and therefore more in the spirit of Hoffman’s bike ride. Still, the option for a slow fade would be nice.
In sum, Catalinbread’s new Bicycle Delay ought to appeal to psychonauts and sonic explorers of all types. My advice, though: don’t ride a bike while playing around with sonic hallucinogens.
What We Like:
Psychedelic delay of up to two seconds with the option for ring-modulator-like processing of the delayed signal; a cool concept.
It would be cool to have a “soft” off option rather than an abrupt cutoff of the effect.