Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd
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Friday, April 3, 2015

Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd, and the Binson EchoRec.

Syd Barrett Binson EchoRec
If there is one effect that truly defined the Pink Floyd sound from the beginning, it’s the Binson Echorec. The "Binson" has a unique sound and both Syd and Rick Wright (Roger too) used it to create sounds that were quite innovative at the time. That so many have enjoyed the strange, lush atmospherics of the Echorec, if not it’s name, is thanks largely to Syd Barrett and David Gilmour. Syd Barrett used it for psychedelic echo effects on songs such as “Interstellar Overdrive”.

Syd Barrett Binson EchoRec
Barrett used the device to conjure manic sheets of sound and unrest to complement his whimsical outings live and in the studio for The Piper at the Gates of Dawn LP in 1967. In Barrett’s hands, however, the Binson’s unusual multi-head design and capacity for convoluted, syncopated, and interstellar repeats helped shape the foundations of U.K Space and Progressive Rock. When Barrett left, Gilmour took up the lead guitar role and began expanding on the sounds that made the band famous.

Syd Barrett Binson EchoRec
Syd had seen a Binson Echorec being used in May 1966, when he'd been invited to watch experimental electronic band AMM recording their debut album with Joe Boyd. AMM's guitarist was Keith Rowe, who favored an unsentimental approach to his instrument that made use of effects, treatments and the use of assorted household implements on his guitar strings making for an unusual grating sound.

Syd Barrett Binson EchoRec
Apart from Interstellar Overdrive, Syd used this trick on the middle section of Arnold Layne while the guitar was routed through the Binson. Seeing AMM liberated Syd; he began to use his guitar more as an effect generator than a mere device for playing chords and solos. The Echorec was a spectacularly sounding device as can be heard on tracks like Interstellar overdrive and Astronomy Domine, it's interesting to note that rumours had Syd Barrett placing 2 different Echorecs in 2 different Amps to have a more 360 degree sound!

Syd Barrett Binson EchoRec
Produced in Milan, Italy, the Binson had its peak in the 60’s. They were unique in their construction, utilizing a specially designed steel/alloy disc or drum, which carried a durable flat metal ‘tape’. The drum was driven by a powerful AC motor, in most cases, via a rubber jockey wheel, which kept the transport very stable. Record and playback heads were arranged around the drum periphery.

Four playback heads were mounted at different distances from the record head and these delayed the input signal at different times, up to about 350 milliseconds. You could switch between the heads to choose a delay length or combine them for additional sounds. Complex, fragile and fussy, they were capable of incredible sounds, but also a source of great frustration.

Syd Barrett Binson EchoRec
The original Echorec's tube preamp imparted a flavor to the guitar tone, even in delay bypass mode. In general, it warmed up the guitar tone and helped to drive the signal just a little. The Echorec pedal incorporates a preamp that provides a lush, open sound that doesn't get muddy in the deep delay settings. When not engaged, the true bypass pedal seems to have little noise or effect on the guitar signal. It also has a buffering effect that works well with other pedals, too. You can also select whether the repeats are cut, or continue to “trail off” as the effect is disengaged. That's a nice feature to have available. This is a pedal that opens up your playing simply by virtue of its sounds.

Syd Barrett Binson EchoRec

Armed with a Fender Esquire, a Danelectro 3021, a Binson Echorec, a Selmer Treble N’ Bass 50 head, and a Watkins Dominator (a 2x10, 17-watt combo), Barrett unleashed furious, jarring blurs of chordal shrapnel on Piper’s “Astronomy Domine,” and delivered proto-metal palm-muted chunks, and loopy, string-mashed-on-polepiece skronk for the psychedelic tour de force, Interstellar Overdrive.
Barrett worked wonders with the Binson and the wah-wah pedal, and, perhaps most impressively, turned the slide guitar (previously associated mostly with the blues) into an integral component of his space odysseys. Syd’s Piper at the Gates of Dawn was Psychedelic Pop, and everything but conventional, including it’s song titles, like Pow R. Toch H. and Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk. Released later than the UK on September 11, Piper was criminally butchered in the U.S. by Capitol, and released omitting the amazing tracks "Flaming," "Bike," and "Astronomy Domine. When Gilmour joined Pink Floyd in early 1968 he continued with the same setup Syd Barrett had been using for some years, – Telecaster, Selmer amps, Vox wah wah, Fuzz Face and the Binson Echorec 2. 

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Blogger Andrew said...

Thanks alot for that piece. Any idea of the cost of Syd getting hold of a Binson Echorec back then? Would it have been a substantial outlay?

December 16, 2016 at 5:46 AM  

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