June 25, 2023

Current pedal obsession: Pladask Elektrisk Baklengs.

Granular delay, etc. etc, etc.

The Pladask Baklengs is categorized as a granular synthesizer. It breaks a delayed signal into snippets of sound called grains and plays them back forward, reversed, randomly ordered, timestretched, pitched up or down an octave and fed back into themselves for minutes-long morphs. As the third in the BakXXX trilogy of pedals from Pladask, following Bakvendt and Backfram, it adds the ability to microloop the 2700ms of memory. This article is an instant-immersion recipe book for Baklengs that can turn it from quirky anomaly to a vital pedal on your board.

What sets Baklengs apart from other granular delays like the Chase Bliss Mood MKII or Red Panda Particle 2 is its unavoidably random nature. Things don’t always go as planned with Baklengs—and that’s the beauty of this pedal. The timing can be off. The repeats can quickly get corrupted beyond recognition. And the modulation is random like tape wow.


Delay Tricks

Microlooper Tricks

Auto Freeze

These knob and switch positions are a starting point. Adjust to taste.

Controlling memory length. Baklengs memory length will be at its longest (2700ms) when the Time knob is just before 12n and the Clk knob is at 7a. Backing off on the Time knob and increasing clock speed shortens the loop and improves fidelity. When the Time knob is past 12n, you start to time-stretch the signal. Also note that assembly of the grain train is not a smooth process and can sound like a fast tremolo. The tremolo effect is slower and less obvious at lower fidelity when the clock is at 7a.

Delay tricks.

Baklengs is not a regimented and precise delay. There’s almost always some randomness at play. The timing can be a little off or a lot off.

Tape Delay.

This is not why people put Baklengs on their board. But you might find its imitation of an analog tape delay works for basic delay needs, especially if looking more for ambience than precise repeats.

Clk Vol Mix Loop Mod Time Loop Dir Ptch
7a 1p 12n 9a 9a 9a Left Right Cntr

Turning up the Mod knob adds wow and flutter. A nice twist to this: If you hold the left footswitch, the feedback escalates.

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“Reverse” Delay

This is not a true reverse delay in the traditional sense of playing the memory backwards. Instead Baklengs plays forward grains in reverse order. While the effect is much more of a jaunty swell than traditional reverse, it has a poetry all its own in how it builds and ends with the attack.

Clk Vol Mix Loop Mod Time Loop Dir Ptch
12n 1p 12n 9a 9a 9a Left Left Cntr
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Shuffle Delay.

The middle position of the center toggle randomly shuffles the grains so they sound like they’re bouncing around an odd-shaped room. This recipes sets the delay to its longest at 2700ms so you can play a chord or short passage and it will come back in droning, ever-changing ways. This mode is really effective for ambience when coupled with feedback control. If you hold the left footswitch, feedback will escalate.

Clk Vol Mix Loop Mod Time Loop Dir Ptch
7a 1p 12n 3p 12n 12n Cntr Cntr Cntr

A note from the manual about the Time knob in Shuffle mode: “Turning the knob ccw from max allows the stretching effect to aimlessly “wander” around in the memory buffer with increasing speed approaching noon.”

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Ketchup Delay.

The results are fairly unpredictable, but the delay and clock can be at odds, creating an off-kilter delay. It starts with a long pre-delay and then plays catch-up. You can’t really play along with this delay, since your timing will never be quite right.

Clk Vol Mix Loop Mod Time Loop Dir Ptch
7a 1p 12n 3p 9a 9a Cntr Right Cntr
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Slowdown Delay.

It’s hard to find, but a hair past noon on the Time knob where the delay shifts between normal and stretch, there’s a spot where the delay slows down. The cycle then resets and slows again. The pitch doesn’t change.

Clk Vol Mix Loop Mod Time Loop Dir Ptch
12n 1p 12n 9a 9a 12n Cntr Right Cntr
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Oil-Can Delay.

Get your Tel-Ray on. Baklengs’ shuffle delay has a wobble to it (especially at higher clock speeds), useful for mimicking a vintage oil can delay.

Clk Vol Mix Loop Mod Time Loop Dir Ptch
12n 1p 11a 9a 12n 8a Left Cntr Cntr

The left footswitch will escalate feedback.

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Pitched Delay.

This pitches the delay up an octave for a shimmery effect or down for a sub-octave drone.

Clk Vol Mix Loop Mod Time Loop Dir Ptch
12n 1p 11a 3p 10a 10a Left Right Right

Throw the right toggle to the left to switch to the down octave.

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Arpeggiating Delay.

This goes up an further octave with each repeat.

Clk Vol Mix Loop Mod Time Loop Dir Ptch
12n 1p 12n 9a 9a 10a Left Right Right

Hold the left footswitch to emphasize the escalation. Throw the right toggle to the left for downward arpeggiation.

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Time-Stretched Delay.

While the maximum memory length is 2700ms, timestretch lets you drag out playback of the loop to about 30 seconds. Hold the left foot pedal to feed the grains back into themselves.

Clk Vol Mix Loop Mod Time Loop Dir Ptch
7a 1p 2p 3p 12n 4p Right Cntr Cntr
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Warped Delay.

Baklengs’ random modulation combined with destructive feedback quickly takes repeats into pitch desecration. Holding the left footswitch amplifies it.

Clk Vol Mix Loop Mod Time Loop Dir Ptch
7a 1p 1p 9a 5p 9a Left Right Cntr
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Hovering Gyrocopter.

This is a fast, morphing sound effect that you can control with your foot.

Clk Vol Mix Loop Mod Time Loop Dir Ptch
5p 1p 12n 8a 3p 7a Left Right Cntr

Play a note or chord to give it a basic tone. Hold the left footswitch to bring the copter closer. Release to let it move further away.

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Microlooping tricks.

Basic microlooping.

Microlooping is a world unto itself. Baklengs gives you control of many parameters for crafting microloops. Here’s the basic setup:

Clk Vol Mix Loop Mod Time Loop Dir Ptch
7a 1p 12n 3p 9a 12n Right Right Cntr
  1. Tap the left footswith so the LED remains on. This locks the loop in playback-only mode and helps avoid adding excess noise to the loop.
  2. Move the direction toggle left and back. This clears the memory.
  3. To record: Hold the left footswitch and release when done. The LED will be off when recording and on when looping.
  4. Repeat to layer or punch-in.

Modify below as noted. Once you have a basic loop down there’s a lot you can do to it. There are two kinds of manipulation: Non-destructive and destructive.

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Non-Destructive Loop Manipulation.

When the loop is locked (right position on the left toggle with the LED under it engaged) the Clk, Mod and Time knobs and the Pitch toggle will only affect the loop while its playing won’t change it permanently. The exception is after 12n on the Time knob when in stretch territory the pitch is altered.

Changing Clock Pitch.

While the loop is locked down, the Clk knob can be used to change the pitch. For example, if you have a good ear, you can set the loop a 5th up. Or set the Clk knob to 7a when you record and set the loop Clk to 5p when you playback, it will be two octaves up. If you record with the Clk knob at 5p and play it back at 7a it will be two octaves down.

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Destructive Loop Manipulation.

The following permanently change the loop. So what you started can’t be brought back. All recipes in this section start with the Loop knob at 7a. Note that there will be some loss in volume as well as fidelity when you disengage the loop. This becomes obvious if you disengage for multiple passes.

Pitch-Warping the Loop.

Nice for making woozy, warmed vinyl, roller-coaster, funhouse-mirror type of effects. While the loop is locked, move the Time knob in the range of 7a to 12n. The pitch can be warped up and down. You won’t hear changes until the loop comes around.

Shootout on the Enterprise.

You can create a friendly-little space war with one knob.

  • From the basic loop settings, turn the Clk knob to 9a.
  • Create a Shuffle loop (middle toggle to center) and lock it with the left footswitch.
  • Quickly turn the Time knob to about 9a, then about 3p.

Shifting Octaves.

With the loop locked, any changes in pitch with the Octave toggle are not permanent. If you want permanent shifts:

  • Set the Loop knob to 7a.
  • Create a loop.
  • Hold down the left footswitch to temporarily disengage the loop for a pass.
  • Flick the Octave toggle to change pitch.
  • Release the footswitch to return to the loop.

By flicking the switch back and forth, this trick can be used to add random octave arpeggiation. By leaving the Pitch toggle in the upper or lower position you can shift the octave of the loop up or down numerous times to get very low or very high-pitched loops.

Subtler Reverse Loops.

The attack is very obvious in Reverse mode (middle toggle left). When crafting a loop, you can play a note and then punch-in to start recording after the attack.

 1. Engage the left footswitch without recording anything. 
 2. Strike a note and then punch in by holding and releasing the left footswitch. 

Aging Loops.

As a loop is playing, hold down the left footswitch to age it. The longer you hold it, the more it ages. Also note that the volume will decrease slightly with each pass and any new audio will be added while the loop is disengaged.

Looping tips.

  • When the Clk knob is at 7a and the Time knob is at 12n your loop will be 2700ms. You can make a locked loop longer with time-stretch during playback with the Time knob at about 3p to 4p.
  • The Dir (middle) toggle clears the loop, so if you want the direction to be reversed or shuffled, you’ll need to set the toggle before you record audio in the loop.
  • The easiest way to clear an existing loop is to move the Dir toggle and then move it back.
  • For building clean layered loops, set the Loop knob just past 3p and start with the left LED off. Once you have a loop you like, tap the left footswitch to lock it. (The LED will be on.) You can then punch in further audio.
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Auto Freeze.

The auto-freeze function plays back grains at their shortest. Nice for creating slowly-fading drones behind your playing.

Clk Vol Mix Loop Mod Time Loop Dir Ptch
7a 1p 12n 3p 7a 5p Right Left Cntr

Freeze tips.

  • Reverse (Center toggle to the left) tends to miss the attack more than the other modes. But still, you may catch the attack and the freeze will be more percussive. Playing softly can de-emphasize the attack.
  • The Loop knob controls loop fade and layering. If set to Recycle, the freeze will layer without much fade.
  • Try shifting the octave up or down with the right toggle.
  • The Loop knob controls the rate of decay.
  • You can lock the loop with the left footswitch to play over top of by throwing the left toggle right and tapping the left footswitch.
  • The Clk knob controls length of grains and fidelity (and if locked: the pitch).
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My take.

Baklengs basically has only one algorithm with a whole lot of parameter controls. That makes it vastly different than a majority of the granular delays that have numerous programs and control of a parameter or two. It also has no annoying, confusing alt functions.

Another factor that plays a big role in what you create is there’s always a random element (or two or three) to pedals in the BakXXX series. And that unpredictability makes Baklengs sound surprisingly organic, as opposed to tightly regimented like many granular delays on the market. The repeats don’t really trail, but continually morph. And when you’ve arrived at landscape of chaos that you like, you can lock down the loop and just let it play or play overtop of it.

Quick tip here: Baklengs is not a conventional reverse delay. As mentioned, it plays the forward grains in a reverse pattern and the attack can be obvious and get multiplied. A reverse effect pedal like the Old Blood BL-44 before or after Baklengs can create some exceptionally smooth reverses and swells that make Baklengs sounding like a lullaby.

No matter how you tweak Baklengs, the delays and loops are never pristine. Amid that randomness and lo-fidelity, I can’t help but thinking of Baklengs as a residual pedal where what you play comes back to you in pieces, remnants and distant memories. What really sets Baklengs apart from other granular pedals is how smoothly the grains blend into a thick, chorussy harmony—while the built-in randomness keeps the stream from ever sounding synthetically sterile. Baklengs is a powerful ambient toolkit for lo-fi delays, microloops and pads.

For the spectators: 150mA, 675ms-2700ms max memory, Spin FV-1 DSP, momentary/latching footswitches.

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