Suspended over Highway 10 on the way out of Los Angeles, a green sign directs the traveler by way of white arrows pointing toward Indio and “Other Desert Cities.” It’s one of those things you have to be a native to appreciate, but the ambiguity of “other Desert Cities” captures the attention of writers and artists (and t-shirt makers) who travel underneath and imagine what “Other Desert Cities” could signify instead of what it actually is (boring desert towns).
The sign or the outlaw cities of the imagination inspired by it also inspired Audio Damage’s fascinating reverb tool. It’s one of the most unique reverb filters I’ve ever used. The developers say that like the sign, there are “many strange and wonderful things lurking inside” their plugin.
Like Igor Vasiliev’s SpaceFields (covered in 5 Mag #201), Other Desert Cities is a simple app that does one thing and does it well. Coming up with the kind of space cadet delays that Other Desert Cities can generate would require probably a room full of obsolete hardware powered by analog ampere gauges and vacuum tubes. Instead, Other Desert Cities provides six algorithms out of the box, each seemingly more eclectic and unusual than the last. There are multiple parameters to adjust and manipulate and just plain mess with the output from each algorithm, including a full suite of modulation, two tempo-synced LFOs and an envelope follower, a diffusor and what Audio Damage calls Other Desert Cities’ “secret superpower”: I/O control. “Every aspect of the signal chain’s gain structure can be controlled and modulated,” the developers write. “Anything can be ducked, panned, oscillated, enveloped and controlled to your heart’s content.”
Even with the most basic, out-of-the-box settings, I’ve never heard anything as odd and freaky from a reverb plugin as what I made from passing simple chords through Other Desert Cities. Immediately I thought electronic music producers would be all over this. Probably a few have checked this one out. But when I was looking for more details on how to work the diffusor, I noticed many if not most of the people using Other Desert Cities seemed to be guitar players. This surprised me because the musical possibilities of a delay plugin like this for electronic producers should be obvious.
Other Desert Cities is available from Audio Damage for Windows, macOS and Linux for $79. The price for the iOS app is only $7.99. (The unlicensed product functions as a demo but stops working after 20 minutes.)
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