Even in today’s golden age of boutique
stompboxes, not many pedal builders
embody the boundlessly imaginative,
renegade spirit of pioneers like Electro-
Harmonix, Morley, and Mu-Tron quite
like Mississippi’s Juliet Collective. As
a peek at any of the Collective’s short
YouTube videos illustrates, they like to
do things their own way—traditionalists
be damned. Juliet Collective’s irreverence
is more than just posturing, though: The
young company, which is headed up by a
partnership that includes designer Robbie
Spears, builds pedals that break away
from established templates and rewards
adventurous approaches to the guitar. The
Circadia polyrhythmic auto wah is the perfect
embodiment of the Juliet Collective’s
philosophy. Not every player will find a
need for one, but those who do are likely
to cover interesting new ground.
In Search Of…
The Circadia is nothing if not an eyeful.
The graphics, which are actually screened
onto a thin piece of plastic and applied to
the round metal chassis, aren’t likely to be
mistaken for anything else on your pedalboard.
The control set is a little unconventional,
too, and it takes a few minutes
of playing with the thing before you really
understand how they work together.
The Mode function enables you to
scroll through the Circadia’s preset polyrhythms,
which play behind your picking,
and the presets range from cool, Bolerostyle
3/4 rhythms to drum-and-bass-type
syncopations and four-on-the-floor beats.
Rhythms are visually represented through
the glowing, multicolored JC logo on the
left of the pedal, which looks a lot like a
lighted disco floor.
The tempo of any preset can be altered
with the Speed knob, which can take your
preset rhythm to the stratosphere or slow
things to a glacial crawl. Twisting it completely
counterclockwise selects tap-tempo
mode, which is activated by turning the
pedal off and then on again.
The Fat knob makes wah swells rounder
and more vowel-like as you turn it clockwise.
The Level control is both aggressively
voiced and reactive—especially when
you use the Fat knob to create
resonant peaks. At high Level
settings, the peaks can
be downright dangerous,
but set just right
they can be a funky
accent for solos.
Thanks to the
does things that
no ordinary wah
or auto-wah can
do. Slow, odd-meter
tempos create cool,
wah-like swells ideal
for rhythmically oriented
ambient work or slower soul
and blues tunes—and they can also
inspire cool counterpoints to a vocal melody,
or even a whole drum part.
For the latter reason, control freaks may
have a hard time with the Circadia. It often
does seem to have a mind of its own. And
it may, at times, ask you to play to what it’s
doing instead of the other way around. But
jamming away in my rehearsal space with a
drummer, a syncopated rhythm played off
a simple funk rhythm became a whole new
groove, mood, and song. In this way, the
Circadia has the potential to be one of those
magic bullets when you’re in a compositional
rut. It may not have the answer you were
looking for, but it can lead you down paths
you may not have known to exist.
Tweaking the Fat knob gives you a
Funkadelic-/Garcia-esque envelope filter
effect, regardless of the tempo, and the
resonant peaks can punctuate percussive
picking in an intriguing way.
The Juliet Collective Circadia will take
you on an adventure every time you plug
it in. However, it demands that you release
a lot of preconceptions about how a pedal
should work—and at times you almost
have to regard it as an accompanist or an
additional member of your band who leads
the way. The controls aren’t entirely intuitive,
either, but this isn’t really a pedal for
a player who wants things neat and easy,
anyway. Sign up at your own risk, but get
ready for a wild ride.
you’re fearlessly adventurous and intrigued by the thought of an auto-wah that sometimes seems to have a mind of its own.
4/4 time is about as tricky as you like to get.