The Triwave looks exactly like its name suggests: ludicrous. It's a customizable sound generator housed in a small metal box covered with lots of knobs-anywhere from ten to twenty of them-which stick out on all sides and have labels like "linnet" and "gale." What does it do? Well, the 4ms website will tell you: "Breathe the pulsing humms, squealing whirring pics of droning swirling psychio sirening waves of piercing beating ambientsonics with neither instramentter nor audiosonics creating devise."

Umm... got that? No? Good. That's the point. The Triwave is a creative noise box with two oscillators and three LFO's, which the knob-twiddler can frob and cross-modulate to create a broad range of whacked-out drone sounds. I've been gigging with mine for six months, and to be perfectly honest, I still don't know exactly what the thing is doing. It appears that you can carefully adjust the speed and intensity of each LFO and aim their outputs in whatever proportion you choose at the two oscillators. But if you just want to randomly turn knobs, that approach works just fine.

4ms will make you a Triwave if you don't want to assemble your own. The base price is $265, and you can add mods and elaborations until you're paying more than $500. But the great thing about 4ms (whose Phaseur Fleur, Atoner, and Tremulus Lune stompboxes I highly recommend) is that all their products are open-source; they post schematics, layouts, and parts lists on the internet and encourage user modifications and refinements. You can order a Triwave kit for around $100, or if you're really adventurous, cobble one together for about $50. That's what I did; the circuit board is made of shirt cardboard and the enclosure is an electrical junction box. It looks like something off of a shipwrecked Russian nuclear sub. 4ms will also post a photo of your device on their website if you send them a photo; my Atoner is there in the gallery, with its rose wallpaper and Edwardian script legending.

If your music thrives on chance and uncertainty, the Triwave is a wonderful tool. You can mess up the controls and then abruptly power it on in mid-song for a pleasingly nasty surprise; or run it through a fuzz box or filter to make it even nastier. ($90-$254 direct for the kit, $265-$510 complete;

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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