Riding the Mooer Ocean Machine’s Ambient Wave with Devin Townsend

With twenty-three studio albums under his belt and a catalogue that defies genres, if there’s anyone worth talking to about the interface between analog and digital or creativity and craftsmanship it’s Devin Townsend. As Devin was over in the UK recording his next creation, Dan had to deliver his new pedalboard build and crashed the studio for a meet-and-greet turned TPS episode.

The board was brilliant and undoubtedly unique. With pedals as diverse as the EarthQuaker Devices Rainbow Machine, Dunlop Echoplex Delay, Hudson Broadcast, and Way Huge Saucy Box, there was arguably one pedal that stole the show…literally. The pristine blue box that is the Mooer Ocean Machine Delay/Looper was front and center on the board.

The Story Behind the Ocean Machine

Every pedal starts somewhere. This one began with a need for ambience, those washes of reverb and delay that create immersive and expansive spaces.

As Devin shared, this pedal is the result of years of design collaboration with Mooer. “I had talked to a bunch of companies about making a delay, but my ideas that were finally actualized with this were so specific that the technological requirements for it were beyond what people were willing to invest or willing to do for a price point that this is at.” After talking with the creative crew at Mooer, the artist-engineer mashup was ideal.

So what is the Ocean Machine and how do you ride its waves?

The Settings of the Ocean Machine

It’s tough to distill down everything this pedal can do into a blurb. Yet as Devin summed up, by looking at its front face, you get a sense of the parameters on the surface and depth below. “You’ve got three effects: two delays and a reverb.” Each of these settings is instantly customized by a main rotary knob for models as well as dedicated smaller knobs for tailoring each modelled effect. In this way, much of the pedal’s digital controls have that hands-on analog feel: you can dial in your sound with the twist of a knob without getting hypnotized and lost in an on-screen menu.

For those that thrive in the deep depths of options and submenus, however, the Ocean Machine enables you to dive deep beneath via editable parameters in its clear and intuitive interface. If that’s not enough to get you happily lost, don’t forget about the expression pedal capabilities which only extend the creative and responsive qualities of the Ocean Machine.

The Sounds within the Ocean Machine

Devin gets asked a lot about how the Mooer pedal stacks up against other multi-function and deep-customization delays. “It does all that…but one thing that is common to all my records is a love for ambient music.” This is where the Ocean Machine really shines and sets itself apart.

As Devin demoed, the delay and reverb can be set to cascade into one another as well as feed each other with a frozen sound from the guitar signal. Once the note is captured, the sound can be sent back and forth through the different effects of the pedal—the dual delays and reverb—to ramp the feedback and elevate the mixes so the result is a spacious wash that truly reminds you of depths beneath.

As Devin concluded, “What’s interesting about this is that you can then change the model of the delay as it is repeating…or change the order of the effects [in parallel or series].” These design features provided an almost synth-like performance control to the sound. In this way, you can go from the ocean deeps to otherworld with the twist of a few knobs.

Deploying the Ocean Machine

The Ocean Machine is truly endless, which means there’s no one right way to integrate it into your songwriting, studio session, or stage rig. Devin’s uses arguably fall on two ends of the spectrum, so anything in between is pretty much a go.

On the one side of things, it’s ideal for creating chaos. As summarized above, freezing a sound and dispatching it back and forth within the pedal is an exceptional way of making a sound that is chaotic yet highly controllable.

On the other end of the spectrum, it’s also perfect for providing a pad beneath your playing. With a built in looper to capture a washy and wavy sound, playing overtop means your sound has an instant ambient foundation. As Devin noted, “with the tails on, now whatever I feed this is not going to interrupt that [pad].”

These days, reverb and delays are as foundational to most players’ pedalboards as gain sources. If you’re looking to dive deep with a single pedal to get the job done, head over to Riff City instore or online and we’ll get you set for your oceanic journey. If you’re in need of some ambience of other types, check out our huge stock of reverb and delay pedals to add space and time to your rig.

TPS Rig Rundown:

Guitars: Framus Stormbender Devin Townsend Signature, Fender Custom Shop 1952 Telecaster Relic.

Pedals: CAE Wah MC404, Hudson Broadcast, Way Huge Saucy Box, Maxon OD-808, Aleks K Production Maple Leaf Royakl Drive, Barber Electronics Tone Press, ZVex/JHS Fuzz Factory, MXR M300 Reverb, Mooer Ocean Machine, Dunlop EP-103 Echoplex, Red Panda Particle, Diamond TRM1 Tremolo, EarthQuaker Devices Rainbow Machine.

Amps: Fender Hot Rod Deluxe, Fractal Axe FX II XL.

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