For a recent project, I needed to find a portable replacement for my delicate Roland RE-150 Space Echo that I was reticent to trust in the hands of Air France. A few hours at various music stores yielded many inexpensive and versatile possibilities by Line 6, Akai, and Roland, all of which instantly made more usable Echoplex sounds than my RE-150 and, for that matter, my Echoplex. Today any number of pedals on the market can do convincing dub echo and hundreds of other sounds, layer them to create complex delay effects, add chorus or other time-based effects, and even store them for instant access among hundreds of other such programs.
The new Z.Vex Lo-Fi Loop Junky does none of these and less. In fact it won't even play any sound over 2.6 kHz. It's expensive, ugly, noisy, and has a stupid name. It's simply an analog circuit that replays up to 20 seconds of material with some crude vibrato and a ton of hiss. No sound-on-sound, reverse echo, panning, decaying delay, slap-back, or self-oscillation. Just a warped 78 RPM version of your own shit, over... and over... and over....
The Lo-Fi Loop Junky is also the most stimulating pedal I've used in years. It has filled the shoes of my RE-150 and then some, and it's nothing short of inspiring. Why? Well, this ain't The Wire, and I'm no David Toop; so let's just say it has something to do with the musical value of accidents and chance, the power of repetition, the merit of working within defined limits, and the beauty of sounds that aren't notes. This pedal hints at the greatness of the TB-303, the Echoplex, and the Tweed Champ: crude tools that produced more meaningful sounds than the highest-tech gear of the day.
But let us sound and not expound: I recommend dropping it at the end of the line, maybe after an overdrive and a nice wide trem. Stomp on the right button to record. Take about 15 seconds and lean over your amp and coax some random buzz and hiss. Get the ugly 60-cycle stuff, and keep your hands off the whammy bar. Forcefully flick the pickup selector switch or slightly detune a string, then accelerate the trem to contest the impending feedback. Do anything but play the guitar. Now, play the recording, turn the vibrato controls to around 3 o'clock, and listen. ($350 MSRP; www.zvex.com)