A Comp Meant to Mash with the Melvins Maestro
Buzzo’s signature squish machine is surprisingly subtle. The PG Hilbish Compressimiser review.
Recorded via Shure SM57 and Apogee Duet to Garage Band with Rickenbacker 370-12, Fender Jazzmaster, and Fender Vibro Champ.
Electric 12 string track features a arpeggiated loop and lead through the Compressimiser at 70-80% squish and 30% level.
The lead track is run through a Strymon Flint ’60s reverb and then through the Compressimiser at 70-80% squish and 30% level.
Transparent, sensitive, subtle compression. Rangey controls. Awesome enclosure.
Can be noisy.
Ease of Use:
I don’t know about the rest of you Melvins fans, but when I consider the guitar sound of the mighty Buzz Osborne, compression isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Travis Beans? Sunn amps? For sure. But even if you did know Buzz used MXR Dyna Comps, there is little in the Melvin’s recorded output that would compel you to run straight to Big Al’s Guitar Hut to score one. As it turns out, though, King Buzzo considers pedal compression essential—so much so that he now has a compressor designed and built in his honor: the Hilbish Compressimiser.
Apart from the image of a cartoon fawn mischievously weaponizing its flatulence, the Hilbish looks as classic and utilitarian as an old Craftsman tool chest. It feels sturdy and substantial like one, too. In further affirmation of Buzzo’s absurdist sense of humor, perhaps, the circuit board takes up a small fraction of the enclosure’s space. The Compressimiser may be unnecessarily huge, but it looks incredible. And if you don’t like it, you can go talk to Buzzo about it.
As the diminutive board suggests, the Compressimiser circuit isn’t complicated. Like a vintage Ross compressor or its close relative, the MXR Dyna Comp, it utilizes a simple control array—just output volume and compression. A control layout isn’t all the Compressimiser shares with Ross-derived compressors. There’s an audible resemblance, too. The Hilbish, however, relies on a Voltage Controlled Amplifier to generate compression, like some outboard studio comps. The Hilbish also feels more direct and less complicated than a Ross—if that’s possible. Consider a car analogy: If a Ross is a ’64 Ford Falcon, fresh off the lot with with all the extras, the Compressimiser is a Falcon stripped-down for drag racing, where the only concern is translating piston spark to horsepower in the straightest possible line.
Pillow of Winds
Though streamlined and uncluttered, the Compressimiser is not barbaric or lacking cultivation. On the contrary, the Hillbish’s VCA compression feels smooth, warm, and quite transparent. Compared to the pretty decent sounding old Dyna Comp I have, the Compressimiser is much more open and oxygenated at aggressive compression levels. It’s often felt rather than heard. This might confound a few expectations, given the Melvins associations, but sometimes the best word to describe the Compressimiser is “gentle.”
The fact that the Hilbish doesn’t beat you over the head with dynamic-flattening squish doesn’t mean it lacks potency. The extra sustain is considerable and silky, and applying it liberally never seems to suck the air from your signal. The output volume control, meanwhile, puts a lot of extra kick and headroom at your toe tips. At the lowest compression levels, it’s a fantastic boost, lending body and thickness to clean tones and exciting high-mid harmonics. The Compressimiser can be a bit noisy—a trade-off for the unconstricted, straight-line circuitry, perhaps. And if you play in mostly mellow settings, the Compressimiser’s occasionally high noise floor may preclude using high compression or output levels.
Built to Bolster Buzz
The Compressimiser sounds fantastic with fuzz and distortion. And, just as with clean tones, it doesn’t excessively or negatively color the output of a fuzz. Paired with a silicon Fuzz Face, it highlighted the pedal’s most exciting tones while corralling the saggier aspects of its output. Alongside a Civil War Big Muff clone, it added welcome and perceptible focus—stripping back strident, sizzling overtones, and adding punch in the pedal’s midrange without inducing tone claustrophobia.
The Compressimiser’s high output and capacity for transparency also means you can boost fuzz tones without dulling their livelier side. Adding clean boost to fuzz usually generates extra amplifier compression, which can rob you of dynamics anyway. But if you tend to use a high-headroom amp like a Fender Twin or Hiwatt (or a solid-state unit, like Buzzo), boosted settings give you acres of extra room to roam.
You may not equate subtlety with the world of the Melvins. But the Compressimiser has it in spades. It’s classy sounding, fairly linear, and does the things most folks want a good vintage Ross or Dyna Comp to do: enliven buried harmonics, generate smooth sustain, and lend focus to fuzz and distortion without blunting color or excitement. It probably won’t be the quietest compressor you meet. But in exchange the Hillbish delivers compression that sounds and feels unfettered, transparent and, at times, even thrilling.