Singer/songwriter/guitarist/producer Lulu Santos contributes this piece on tape echo...
The Original Gangster (Tape Echoplex)
My fondest memory of an Echoplex is watching it boldly spit out it's tape all over the floor during a performance. At the time I thought, actually I knew, it was only acting as recipient to some real warped static coming from this jealous guitar player fellow in the audience.
I would play the thing by itself for ages. You could have it feedback then move the mechanical lever to change the speed rate...and it would go wild, extra sci-fi (these were the mid 70's, no Lucas films around).
Being able to generate your own really "professional" U.F.O. sound was a kick. And then the sweetness of the repetitions, yes the hiss 'n all, but with just the right amount of hi frequency roll off, that made it sound sweet. The naturalness of the decay, you'd believe the thing! Big canyons here...big canyons. And that did something to you. Time would move, rather hold, peculiarly.
Yes, you could have it loop too. I don't really recall for how long, but it couldn't have been more than a minute. One loop at that, then you could switch it in and out, to cut up.
The soundscapes ended up vaguely impressionistic once you played along with the unpredictable results. Then again, that was part of the fun of it. Things would get buried, then lost because of the layering. So there was this regeneration process and if you kept it up long enough things could go all the way around to the opposite direction.
I especially loved it for the delay, the realness of it. Just recently at NY's Bass Hits recording studio, mixing a sequenced song, a Roland (tape) Space Echo was added to a guitar part because nothing else would cut it. It's a matter of taste. As recently as last year I read in some magazine that somebody or other had released this digital delay with hi-end roll off -- Chandler out of California I believe. This I had to see! I even had it ordered in a store, never got it though.
I really do feel that digital echo is too harsh and toppy. Naturally occurring echo repetitions sound considerably muffled, and that is what makes it real and comfortable. As a matter of alchemy tape echo should be the right device to wet sounds going to loop machines.
Am I right?
--Lulu Santos 9/96