Listening to Tangerine Dream’s soundtrack to Thief and thinking ‘this is weird’ but then thinking it’s not quite as weird as what I’m about to write, which is more or less an obituary for my reverb until. Not just any reverb unit, though, mind you, but a 1997 Alesis Nanoverb. It didn’t die, per se… we never quite got there, but she’s been on her last leg for quite some time. Her inputs are scratchy and make everything fuzzy, or worse, audio levels drop off entirely mid-performance. And I know that you’re asking yourself ‘what kind of tool writes an obit for a reverb unit?’ but I’m telling you, at no time, have I had a piece of gear that was better than this Alesis Nanoverb. I think she cost about $100 bucks new, if that, you can get ‘em on eBay for a fraction of that, and have been able to at least since the Nanoverb 2 came out some times in the last ten years. No matter, though, I stuck with my Nanoverb, she was a real beaut!
I bought my Nanoverb in 1997 before I even knew what ambient or spacemusic was, along with a Nanocompressor, well, because knowing nothing about home recording and I think because the guy at Guitar Center talked me into it, it seemed like a good idea. I had no freakin’ clue what to do with it. I had always been a bass player, you plugged that it into an amp, if it rattled your lower intestines like a traveller’s case of IBS, you were in business – Let’s rock! However, when I did discover the power of the Nanoverb, it was all done – She was the one for me.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The Alesis Nanoverb was a big deal in a small box. I remember the first time that I learned about the plate reverb with the mix turned all the way up. My friend and I were doing a gig, a background kind of acoustic jazz gig that I was doing at the time, and he brought the Nanoverb and started playing with it on my guitar. I remember so clearly: We were at a café, it was early spring, just off Biddle in Wyandotte, a “downriver” community south of Detroit, and as he turned up the mix, I played my first bit of ambient guitar. I didn’t know that at the time, I just thought it was pretty cool. I made a mental note, wrapped up the evening by playing a few crummy covers like Stairway to Heaven with 9th chords or something to make it more jazzy (keeping in mind that at this time, I thought jazz fakebook was doing just that: playing 7th or 9th chords over rock stuff and tricking would be listeners at cafes into believing it was jazz, which paid more than covers of Blowin’ in the Wind).
To be sure, the Nanoverb sat on a variety of shelves for a variety of years, but some time in 1999, I picked it up and began to use it. I found it immediately useful. Soon I couldn’t be without it. I’ve played probably a few hundred ambient gigs and it has been to every one. I’ve gone through dozens of guitars, more than several dozen other effects units, and at least a dozen laptops and other computers; literally tens of thousands of dollars worth of gear, but the Nanoverb, she’s been my trusty ally.
Her power connection has been getting ever more scratchy and her outputs and inputs are bad. She’s even rusted; I can’t say that about any of my other electronic gear. I knew that she was getting a little long in the tooth, but I just couldn’t bear to part with her. I started exploring other reverb options a couple years ago knowing that any day she would give up the ghost. I’ve looked at a variety of offerings, but finally had to make a move, and frankly was kind of looking forward to it, as the Nanoverb has also been part of my sound, as long as I’ve had a sound. I didn’t know that the trip to Echoes would be her last journey. In fact, at one point, she started to die during the performance, though, with all of the doohickeys I have hooked up, I didn’t realize it was her until I was back home and doing diagnostic work.
I can think of no better send-off than to have her take this crazy journey with me and to die when we both, together, ascended the mighty new age, ambient (or depending on your preference, contemporary instrumental) music ladder to finally get some national radio exposure for the work that we created together.
When I was finally removing her from the effects chain I couldn’t help but feel like I needed to honor all of her fine work on my website. She’s done good, real good. For anyone ever looking for a fine, durable ambient unit, the likes of which do not seem to be made anymore, I say to you, check out an Alesis Nanoverb, you just might find your new best friend. In the meantime, I look forward to her whiling a way her days resting in the studio, looking on, while all of the younger devices and doohickeys build on all that she created for all those many years. Take a break, sister, you deserve it.