Tame Impala’s latest album Lonerism is a collection of sonic landscapes where songs blow in on dreamy electronic breezes and other-worldly ethereal orchestration. The band’s leader and mastermind Kevin Parker has made use of every conceivable musical colour at his disposal to paint a rich selection of groovy psychedelic vistas on Tame Impala’s sophomore effort. Making a record of such depth requires a lot of kit and Parker, who recorded and produced most of the album in Paris, took the opportunity to fully indulge himself in his love of vintage instruments and equipment– even to the detriment of his comfort.
“I had my whole studio freighted over from Australia,” he says. “So there I was, in this tiny apartment, unable to move for wires, instruments and production equipment. I was basically sleeping on the amps.”
The self-confessed guitar geek and effects wonk says that his much-travelled gadgets are tools of discovery in his constant quest for new sonic experiences. “As long as there are undiscovered sounds and the potential is there to find them and create music with them, I’ll never stop searching and experimenting.”
Here, the chief Impala identifies the three most important pieces of equipment used during Lonerism’s genesis and probably, he admits sheepishly, “my three most favourite things in the whole world.”
Diamond Vibrato guitar pedal
This pedal is used on pretty much all of the guitars on Lonerism. It wobbles the pitch and makes the guitar sound like a rickety little boat on the ocean. It’s that woozy sound you’ll hear throughout the album, a kind of seasick vibe which gives the impression that the whole thing is about to fall over. It also made the bass sound like a hungry stomach which was weird but cool. I love vintage gear but this one was brand new, off-the-shelf.
Sequential Circuits Pro-One synthesizer
The Pro-One is a monophonic analogue synth from the 80s and I fell in love with it from the moment I touched the first key. It sounds like it’s shooting laser beams. A lot of the lead lines on Lonerism are played on this and it just soars. I never buy instruments specifically for a song but this just seemed to fit perfectly on all of them. I paid over the odds for it though. I got into a bidding war on eBay and couldn’t let it go.
DBX 165A compressor
This is another gem from the 1980s. This compressor makes the drums sound like bombs going off. It’s like Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham playing a hip hop beat; just a monstrous sound like you’ve stuck a microphone up the backside of a drum kit. The 165A is a fast compressor, a sonic doomsday weapon. I don’t use it to control the volume; I set it tightly and aggressively and the drums become really urgent and immediate. It creates an aural attack.
First published in: The Red Bulletin
See also: Lonerism – Tame Impala