Are you frustrated with audio‑rate modulation? Does FM leave you cold? Would you like to play in the more complex realms of digital modular tone but want to keep things musical? Then maybe swap your analogue pineapple for some digital jalapeño and grab a slice from the Bastl Instruments Pizza.
The Pizza was introduced to us as an animated oscillator that fizzed with energy and strange, otherworldly tones. It was an oscillator born in universal chaos and formed through a journey of shapes and interactions. The sounds that were pouring out from the launch video were undoubtedly modular but strikingly unfamiliar. It was like a series of explosions followed by the folding of space and time as sounds undid themselves and fell apart at the seams while never losing their sense of drama.
In the safety of your rack the Pizza serves up slice after slice of surprising and magnificent timbres under the fumbling of your fingertips. I usually find complex oscillators, well, complex, but there doesn’t seem to be anyway to fudge this up. With FM you often find yourself searching for something good, whereas here you keep searching because you are fascinated as to what you might find next.
There’s something in the layout that lends itself to fiddling. The mixture of sliders and knobs invites experimentation. The jaunty angle of the Shape slider is somehow exactly how it should be for maximum manipulation. It has beauty, it has peril, it has wobble and throatiness, it has the dissonant clangs of clashing cycles and the frazzle of being pulled through a digital hedge backwards. And then, in a moment, it’s different.
Pizza has a Main oscillator and two modulating ones called the Ratio oscillator and the Octave oscillator. While the Main oscillator phases and folds the other two get stuck into FM’ing the heck out of it while being shaped and ring modulated. The FM Index crossfader pulls modulation from a mixture of Ratio and Octave oscillators. With a button press you can flip the Ratio between four user‑set frequency ratios, and the Octave between one of four octaves. The result is a contrasting cascade of sound that you twist and tumble with the Shape slider.
Pizza is also capable of pulling loveliness and spacey weirdness out of the clutches of digital distress.
There are some deeper levels at play. You can route out the Octave oscillator or replace it with one of your own, you can pull out a slightly noisy pulse wave and modulate it separately, and you can map the Ctrl knob to a number of possible parameters for multiple modulations.
On the downside, it does have some sharp edges and a tendency to overpower anything else in your rack. Most digital modules can sound a bit brash, cruel and heartless at times and there’s some of that here, but Pizza is also capable of pulling loveliness and spacey weirdness out of the clutches of digital distress. If you’ve never really enjoyed FM in your modular then this Pizza is for you.