January 4, 2020

Pedalurgy: Recovery Effects Dirty Murals v3 Delay+Reverb

Graig Markel at Recovery Effects creates so many wonderfully quirky pedals. So it’s hard to imagine the latest version of his Dirty Murals rabid tape delay evolving into an almost a normal pedal. The emphasis is on the almost, since Dirty Murals v3 retains that Recovery Effects uniqueness, despite its downright practical usability as a go-to, always-on delay+reverb.

It’s something more different. All over again.

Dirty Murals v3 is a complete rethinking from the two previous versions of this pedal. Down Mode is close to the original, slightly-dark, 400ms, modulated tape delay and gets paired to an ambient hall reverb with a hovering, 10-second decay. Up Mode is a 200ms modulated oil-can delay paired with a small-room reverb. Before you assume either of these effect combos are novelties, they’re under-the-top and surprisingly sensible. The four knobs can be tweaked to create all manner of spaces from tiny metallic to full-wet massive with hints of chorus, vibrato, distortion, tremolo, reverse and dotted delay also possible in the mix. (And no annoying Alt modes. Yay.)

Up Mode.

Up Mode may seem an unlikely choice to put on this pedal, since digital oil-can delays based on the Tel-Ray are just not that common and so distinct sounding. Catalinbread’s Adineko and Old Blood Noise Endeavors’ Black Fountain are the only pedals wholly dedicated to this vintage electrostatic/mechanical effect.) Like the original oil can, the Up Mode delay is short: about 200ms max. The delay effect in this mode is like a more subtle setting on an real oil can with just a touch of vibrato to give it lush repeats. The room reverb blends in nicely with a 100ms delay (about 2p) to mimic the lush (or is that slush?) Position 3 on the Tel-Ray. This reverb in this mode is somewhat metallic in nature. That makes it useful for pre-70s vicious spring and viscous plate sounds when mixed with delay.

Down Mode.

Down Mode isn’t an excessively long delay for digital, topping out at 400ms. There’s no expression pedal jack on v3, so you can’t do Roland Space Echo tricks as with the two previous versions of Dirty Murals. But this mode is now intended as a journeyman tapeish delay and can lay politely back under your dry signal if you want it to. Though you can’t turn down the decay of the airy, ever-dwelling ambient reverb, kept in the background, it’s surprisingly mild, usable and about as ambient as you’ll need. But if you want an infinite dwell, turn up repeats on the delay and mix them in underneath. This is the post-70’s mode.

How the delay and reverb interweave.

The delays and reverbs are paired so that they can make a exceptional reverberant soup. All four effects get some subtle modulation, so there’s always gentle movement in the ambience whether the delay is obvious or not. Long dwells never get boring or wear out their welcome. Big point of difference here when compared to deverb pedals with multiple, fixed algorithms and finite parameters (like spring reverb and tape delay): Dirty Murals controls will feel much more like a pallette for creating your own spaces.

If you turn the Reverb knob (controls reverb volume and feeds into the Mix knob) all the way down, you get delay only. There’s no reverb decay control, but the Time knob delays the reverb until after the first repeat. Though you can’t turn the delay off, when the Reverb knob is cranked, the Regen knob is down and the Mix knob dialed back, the delay can get buried and the Time knob acts as an (up to 400ms) predelay for the reverb. So you can essentially use reverb and delay separately, but they’re so nicely integrated you’re likely to keep both in the mix, whether going for ambient or traditional spaces.

Dirty Murals v3 Recipes

Consider the recipes below as starting points. I find myself setting things a little differently for a different space every time I tweak the knobs. Your mileage may vary.

Effect Mode Reverb Time Regen Mix
Almost 4ever Down 5p 5p 3p 9a
Chorus Down 10a 7a 9a 12n
Damped Plate Up 10a 5p 10a 10a
De Well Down 5p 9a 11a 11a
Dotted Down 5p 5p 7a 10a
Double Down 5p 9a 7a 9a
Freeze Up 10a 1p 5p 11a
Kinda Backwards Up 5p 12n 7a 5p
Magneto Up 12n 5p 12n 11a
PreDelay Either 5p 5p 7a 9a
Set To Stun Up 9a 8a 7a 2p
Slapback Up 8a 2p 7a 12n
Spring Up 5p 11a 12n 9a
Subway Down 2p 10a 3p 10a
Swell Down 3p 1p 1p 10a
True Oil Up 11a 1p 1p 12n
VibraVerb Down 9a 7a 7a 3p

Quirks of Dirty Murals v3.

This article is intended to be a practical how-to of Dirty Murals v3 rather than a giddy sales pitch, so I’m including honest observations from daily use.

  • Neither delay’s repeats get muddy like a real oil can or tape. But the way the reverbs bloom into the delays, they can make it seem the delays degrade like analog.
  • Niether delay self-oscillates, both hitting near unity when the Regen knob is cranked. Up Mode will fade a bit quicker. Down Mode seems to escalate a touch and doesn’t fade.
  • The volume can get excessive with the Reverb and Mix knobs maxed. It can give you clean boost on the effect, as well as circuit/amp feedback. You can minimize these by turning down your amp gain.
  • There’s no control over modulation for either the delay or reverb. It’s pleasantly locked at subtle, slow and smooth.
  • In Up Mode the effects don’t kick in until the Time knob is past 8a. If you turn the knob from above 8a down to 7a while signal is being a passed through, it can lock the buffer and keep repeating. Not so much a useful effect as it is a quirk.
  • In Up Mode the repeats never fully go away, even with the Regen knob at 7a. So it doesn’t do true slapback, but is close enough.
  • In Down Mode the Dotted recipe above uses the reverb to create a soft second repeat that quickly follows the first. The subsequent repeats sound like a normal delay.
  • There’s no tails mode. Since Dirty Murals v3 is intended as an always-on pedal, you probably won’t find that to be a negative.

My take.

Despite the simplicity, Dirty Murals does an amazing job of blurring the lines between delay and reverb until it can be recognized only as a beautiful ambience. At the same time, this ambience subtly retains traits of reflections and spaces that can be very familiar and pleasing to us. You can dial in tiny metallic rooms to massively harmonious de-verb spaces with Dirty Murals v3, which makes it velcroworthy. At a max of 200ms and 400ms, the delays are shorter than most pedals, but both modes get plenty lush and ambient. After really delving into what this pedal can do, I’m having a hard time not thinking of reverb+delay as its own from of ambience.

The key to getting the most out of Dirty Murals v3 is to leave your expectations of reverb and delay at the door and listen while you tweak. There are a lot of amazing rooms inside this pedal.



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