Source Audio’s Vertigo is one of our favourite tremolo pedals of all time, but it might just have got better, particular for fans of the sadly defunct Boston post-punk legends Mission Of Burma, whose guitarist Roger Miller has just collaborated with the digital guitar effects pedal specialist on a signature take on the versatile stompbox.
The Vertigo Vs is a love letter to Miller’s wiry, psychedelic electric guitar tone. It’s also a love letter to Boston, where Source Audio is based, and where it is being sold exclusively through The Music Emporium, the city’s top music store.
It was the versatility of the original Vertigo that makes it such a success. The range of sounds is exceptional, and the level of control you have over them once you hook it up to the accompanying Neuro app, is comprehensive.
The Vertigo Vs, taking its name from the Mission Of Burma debut album from 1982, is built in a similar spirit, and incorporates the core signature choppiness you would hear from Miller on tracks such as Secrets, Trem II, and Tremelo – evidently, the effect was never far from Miller’s mind.
Miller’s original unit was something of a one-off, which also makes this Source Audio release worth paying attention to. What Miller used back in the day was a two-knob unit custom built by Lou Giordano. Again, there’s the Boston connection; Giordano was educated at MIT, and upon graduation would work at Fort Apache recording studios in Cambridge, Massachusetts throughout the ‘80s.
Without this custom tremolo unit – which became known as the ‘Vacu-Trem’ – songs such as Trem II would not have been possible. Giordano’s design took the effect, one of the oldest guitar effects, to new extremes.
“He took a tremolo and just put it on steroids so it was so fast that it would pitch-shift almost, piling stuff on top of each other, and the tremolo was so extreme it was almost like an on/off switch rather than a gentle pulsation,” says Miller.
For this special edition pedal, which is limited to just 50 units, Source Audio reached out to Miller and got him to design six different tremolo sounds.
A three-way toggle switch selects the exact sounds used on Secrets, Trem II, and Tremelo. Miller, for his part, says he could never get the same sounds out of any other pedal but his custom Giordano unit until Source Audio released the Vertigo.
These sounds are kind of nuts. Lots of players might have the Vertigo on their board to recreate the classic throb of the onboard effect of a Fender Deluxe Reverb tube amp but the Secrets setting ups the max rate to 50Hz. Tremelo is not as fast, but the hard chop is hard to miss.
Trem II is slow with a quick attack but the real secret to replicating Miller’s sound on record is to learn to pick your notes in time with the pulse so they fade out rhythmically.
Miller’s other sounds include the Leslie-esque Rotationary RCM, the extraterrestrial percussive weirdness of UFO RCM, with Shifted RCM rounding out the signature sounds with a slow phase shifting effect running behind a quicker tremolo chop.
The Vertigo Vs is illustrated with the floral Holly Anderson cover art from the album, and it is priced $249.