Chorus is something of a deceptive concept. It’s a trifecta at its core, taking one’s dry or unaffected signal and giving it two companions that waver in and out from the original note’s relative pitch.
The results are nearly universally appreciated, but it’s also a criminally slept on and underutilized effect. Yes, there might have been some overkill here and there, and it’s possible that we ignored entire genres, if not decades worth of music altogether because of it, but as we’ve gotten more into texture over the years, it’s usefulness has become unquestionable.
It’s also a very math rock friendly effect, for all intents and purposes. You’ve got all the Tera Melos albums to pick through, for instance. Hell, even pedal-hater Mac Demarco got his claim to fame from his loose-y goose-y chorus tones. But we digress – it’s not strictly a time based effect, although clocking in chorus settings congruent to your project tempo is essential for some. On the low we prefer to mix it up with more fractional divides though, and speaking of low, this is a frequency where chorus detractors often say the effect suffers. Well, now we know that it certainly doesn’t have to.
After finishing up the Oneder Effects Onederwall writeup, we knew we need to find a recently released pedal that would resonate with our crowd, and chorus might not seem like the most obvious go-to, but hear us out. Our rather, hear the Native Audio Aakii Chorus/Vibrato out.
The immediate hook for us about the Aakii is it’s simplicity – with just three knobs, there’s far more flexibility on tap than you might think, and pretty much the entire spectrum is a sweet spot with an emphasis on deep LFO’s.
LFO stands for Low Frequency Oscillation – an aspect crucial to a good sounding chorus, but often sacrificed when pushing other limits of the effect like stereo spread and exotic gain/volume structures. Not necessarily because it has to, it just seems like people like to play it safe rather than mess with a complex low end in a chorus pedal.
That being said, Native Audio founder and designer Mike Trombley put a lot of thought into the filtering of the Aakii, which is technically a sister version of the Pretty Bird Woman pedal, which has the same effects with expanded range and presets – but it’s also much more. The filtering is slightly shortened on the Aakii, meaning things like pick attack and disposition of the signal path are far more noticeable. In fact, before we even heard the pedal, we had it all plugged in but muted by a tuner, which was literally wavering like a windshield blade. We’ve never seen our tuner do that before, and that was before we even turned the mix past chorus into the vibrato.
Vibrato is like chorus but instead of splitting things three ways, your signal remains singular and bends like a worm. The subtle s-curve of your signal (or not so subtle at high depths/speeds) give a more intense sense of motion to your notes, and if we’re honest, it’s one of our favorites. The way it can emulate human cries actually calls to something ancient in a modern way, with this vocal quality increasing to a point that’s basically impossible for vocal cords to handle as the rate knob gets cranked, but never totally implodes.
For three knobs, there is so much going on, and all of it operating at a high quality level with zero dead spots to speak of thanks to Trombley’s thoughtful alterations to the details that really matter.
WHICH BRINGS US TO THE BEST PART:
We have too many pedals at this point in our lives to keep this one, which is a damn shame, but we think we’ve found a fantastic way to turn it around:
Mike Trombley was kind enough to do an interview with us a few weeks back after we initially picked up the pedal. We talked about a lot of things, and you’ll get to see it all soon in a separate article, but one thing we touched on was the importance of language. Trombley grew up on a Blackfeet reservation, and as recently as the mid-90’s, as little as 0% of the children in the Blackfeet community could speak their native language.
This is a cause that’s very near and dear to us, not just as users of language, but as citizens of the southwest US, where indigenous culture is celebrated on a superficial level but largely ignored when it comes to meaningful engagement. When we were working on a documentary out here with Pete Sands, we were escorted through Diné/Navajo reservations in the Monument Valley area, and learned a similar plight was affecting not just the Diné, but dozens of local tribes. We couldn’t imagine that happening to us, but once we did, it was a sobering thought.
We’re really glad there are places like The Piegan Institute that can help preserve what’s left so that future generations that stay in touch with their ancestral roots, so decided we’d try something a little different. A little Not Another Fecking Gear Giveaway, if you will.
For a chance to win a brand spankin’ new Native Audio Aakii (new, of course, in the sense that we’ve played through it for about two hours total for this review)…
SIMPLY DO THE FOLLOWING:
1. Donate $20 to the Piegan Institute here and send a screen shot of the receipt for a ticket to the raffle.
2. Donate $30 to the Piegain Institute here and send a screen shot of the receipt for TWO tickets to the raffle.
3. The same rules apply if you donate directly to our PayPal – $20 for one ticket, $30 for two! You can notate the payment with RAFFLE. We’ll be donating the money to the same exact place. The email for our account is email@example.com
4. You can also DM us on social media or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need any confirmation – this is the same address you will want to send the screenshot to once you’ve taken it. At the end, the winner will be drawn by lottery.
Deadline will be 9PM PST 11/24/23.
THAT’S LITERALLY IT.
If you think about it, worst case scenario, you’re just being awesome and donating to a great cause. Best case scenario though, you’re out $30 on an amazing $200 pedal, and you’re still awesome. A great price, great cause, great pedal. You can check out more about the institute here, or more about Mike Trombley and Native Audio here. Thanks for reading – now get to it!