The good folks at Laboratorio Elettronico Popolare are back with two new instruments to confound and delight.
Wooden panels etched with doodles, manuals that look more like punk-album lyrics-sheets... these hand-made instruments are evidently not going to tread the middle-ground. Designed in Italy, they’re made from the same mould, sharing some internal design features, but their focus is quite different. The Multicassa is a three-voice drum machine and the Arpopone is a sequenced bass and chord synthesizer. They are available as both stand-alone instruments, housed in study metal enclosures, or as Eurorack modules. For this review we are looking at the stand-alone versions.
Clearly, the two have been designed to play together. Clocks and ramp dividers play a key role in both instruments, and clock inputs and outputs means that either one can be master or slave thanks to internal or external clock switches. Build quality is good, although I notice that the rubber of the knob caps seem to rub on the wooden panel surface so the knobs don’t always feel smooth. The cases are very solid, however, and powered by a 12V adapter with positive centre tip. The Arpopone case comes with two PSU inputs, one which can be used to daisy-chain power to another unit like the Multicassa, providing you have a suitable cable, which is not included.
The Multicassa is undoubtedly the simpler of the two, so we’ll start there. A Cassa can produce all manner of excellent analogue drums using a short pitched pulse, feedback and distortion. The three voices are identical, other than their tuning ranges. There is a low, mid and high Cassa. The first is excellent at kick drums. The other two can manage everything from toms, wooden blocks, claves and metallic hi-hats. Or, if you prefer, howling feedback drones. Each has its own dedicated output and mix control, as well as being routed to the mix output.
The three tonal controls don’t always behave as you might expect. At some settings the Distortion control seems to do nothing, and sometimes Frequency affects the timbre more than the pitch. The Feedback control can go from timid wallflower to wild banshee in a millimetre, and will...