VauxFlores pedals are created by experimental composer, sound artist, and inventor Travis Johns, who states, “Conventional tools tend not to yield unconventional results.” Well, Johns isn’t going after the conventional, He admits straight out that his designs are focused on the underground.
“We’re not looking for the brown, green, or blue sound, or the perfect approximation of a particular player’s aesthetics,” he says. “We have no desire to produce a compelling clone of the commonplace, What we are after Is something Just far enough off the beaten path to be sonically interesting, yet functionally useful–high quality, rugged, complex, and Just a little raunchy at heart.”
At present, Johns produces these pedals in small batches, and offers them for sale online through Etsy and Reverb. None of the pedals are battery powered, as the company is not down with the environmental impact of used 9-volters. You’ll need a 9-volt power supply, inside the casing, the hand-built pedals are wired simply and elegantly. Although the sounds of these pedals are pretty arty and extreme, VauxFlores does a great job of informing buyers about exactly what they are in for by posting several SoundCloud audio examples for each model. In other words, you can’t say you weren’t warned. For our tests, we used a Gibson Les Paul through a 50-watt Marshall DSL 2000 set to Its clean channel, and cranked up pretty loud, as well as a Reverend Reeves Gabrels Signature Spacehawk through a Vox AC30.
The VauxFlores Number 23
When I first plugged Into this pedal and nudged up the amp volume, the 23 ($179 direct) started playing itself with a series of rhythmic gurgles, spritzes, buzzes, and gronks. It was a bit of a shock at first, but given that I knew I was in wacky performance-art land, I just enjoyed the impromptu concert. Controlling the 23 is often an expression of ego, rather than practical reality. You can adjust the Blend, Volume, Tone, and Feedback knobs, and perhaps even fool yourself into thinking you know what you are doing, but beware–the highly interactive controls have a mind of their own, and sound crafting is more an act of accepting what you are given than tweaking tones to your desires. None of this was a bummer–at least to me–and I thoroughly enjoyed all the surprises that the 23 delivered.
This is an extreme fuzz with a hint of an octave effect, and-well I can’t say this.better than the VauxFlores website–“heterodyned, atonal artifacts.” What this means for creating music is that, um, you may have to reorient your definition of “music.” I found the weird blastold undulations to be marvelous for adding strange harmonic figures under chords, and, when deployed subtly on single-note lines, you can still discern enough of the melody to utilize the part as a front-and-center hook–that is, if the hook line was performed by tipsy alien lifeforms. Again, this is a very good thing. Everything the 23 does Is abnormal, and everything you play through it will demand attention.
As a closing note, the 23’s front-panel graphic was derived from Johns’ Bioprinting I piece that used amplified earthworms to create the art. Here’s where you say, “of course …”
The VauxFlores Number 24
The 24 ($169 direct) is a high-gain, three-transistor fuzz with a good amount of tweaking options. It has knobs to control Voltage, Bias 1, Bias 2, Fuzz, and Volume, as well as a tone switch that lets you choose between a frequency spectrum best suited for guitar or one tailored for bass. The Voltage control determines the amount of spitting and sputtering, and the two Bias knobs let you dial in fuzz that ranges from mild to over-the-top grind. All controls are very interactive, and, believe it or not, experimenting with the knobs can also produce some very dynamic effects–it’s not all about tortured buzz here. The level of tweakability makes the 24 a fabulous choice if you want to buy into the VauxFlores concept, but feel that you might not always want to deploy weird and feral snarls. Here, you can actually go “subtle” with your fuzz. Imagine that.
The only complaint I have with this pedal is the position of the on/off switch. It is too close to the knobs for Fuzz and Volume, which makes it difficult to stomp on the 24 in the heat of a performance and not have my boot either slip on the knobs or change their positions. An interesting note is that the 24’s front-panel artwork is derived from data-bent imagery that included input sounds by the pedal itself–which means the 24 kind of generated its own art.