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Pizza - BASTL Instruments

Pizza - BASTL Instruments

by Jason Czeryck

Ever since I reviewed Bastl Instruments’ Ikarie [Waveform, issue #6], it's been a filter I love—especially when I'm putting together an abbreviated rig for travel—due to its versatility, sound, and deep functionality, all of which is packed into a small, 8HP space. In the same vein, Pizza, Bastl's hot-from-the-oven digital FM and wave-shaping oscillator, contains the same type of compact versatility, also at 8 HP.
Pizza is laid out in a similar manner as Ikarie, with its combination of knobs, sliders, and buttons, and is unofficially broken down into sections; Pitch, FM, and the Shape Section, along with the inputs/outputs. Starting with the Pitch section at the top, the main visual draw is a medium-sized PITCH knob for controlling the main oscillator’s pitch. On the right side of the PITCH knob is a button that determines how the PITCH knob controls the tuning, and toggles between OCTAVE [+/- 4 octaves] and DETUNE modes. One of the things Bastl does so well is to use one knob for dual functionality by splitting the controller by the left and right sides. In the case of Pizza and the PITCH knob, when in DETUNE mode, turning the knob to the right detunes the OCT and RATIO oscillators exponentially, whereas turning the knob left of center detunes them linearly. If you long press the OCTAVE/DETUNE button, there’s some flashing to denote a change in the controls, and you enter TUNE mode where you can fine tune the pitch with SEMI and FINE options. The whole top Pitch section controls all the three oscillators and it’s very well done with the way that it’s set up. This seemingly simple configuration [one button, one knob] is way more useful than it has any right to be, and makes it very versatile. Along with onboard assignable CV routing [more on that later], this little section offers up a lot of control.
Below the Pitch section is where the FM Section lies. A diagonal slider controls the frequencies of the modulating oscillators [the RATIO OSC on the left side of the slider and the OCT OSC on the right] with the slider crossfading between the two. You can patch some CV into the FM INDEX with an input in the bottom section for external CV control, and there’s an attenuating INDEX MOD control to dial in the right amount, with center position at zero.
There are a couple of buttons that flank INDEX MOD that pertain to the modulation oscillators. The RATIO OSC’s button lets you select between four frequency ratios for the RATIO OSC. These are predefined, but you can change them by long pressing the button to enter the RATIO SETTING mode and then you can change the ratio in a selected spot. There are seventeen ratios that correlate to various semitones [fifths, octaves, minor 7ths…] and the way this is done is pretty clever, allowing you to do some minor fraction [fine…ratio] creation. Yes, it involves some button presses and consulting the manual for all those who don’t have photographic memories, but it’s a really nice feature and not really much of a hassle, especially since it’s not something that you’ll be changing that often, most likely. The button on the right side, the OCT OSC button, switches the octave range from -1 to +2 octaves. You can really get a lot of mileage with just these two top sections.
Pizza has a SHAPE section for the two modulation oscillators that has a slider control that goes from a pulse wave [hard left] to a sine [center] to a saw wave [hard right] with an external CV input and a [SHAPE] CTRL attenuverter for dialing in the desired amount of external CV. The WAVE/FOLD/RING button to the left of the slider selects between the three modes, determining what the SHAPE is correlating to. When experimenting with this, I had to pay close attention to what the overall settings for the module were, as just moving things around might not produce any changes. For example, when in WAVE mode, moving the SHAPE slider from left [square] to center [sine] to the right [saw] and then back and forth didn’t do anything to the MAIN output sometimes, because…well, there needs to be some FM applied from the modulators to the MAIN oscillator via the FM INDEX slider. It seems simple enough, and it is, but it reinforces the point where you have to be present, do some thinking, some paying attention and perhaps a little sleuthing, and not just turn a bunch of knobs hoping for some amazing sounds to come out, though that happened a lot anyway! When the slider is towards the left, and FOLD is selected, Pizza applies a Buchla 259ish style of harmonic folding to the MAIN oscillator. When the slider is on the right side of center, the folding is polynomial based. When using CV, the position of the knobs or sliders matters a lot, as it can just modulate only one side of a controller [say, just the left side Buchla wavefolder in the SHAPE section], or a little of both sides. It’s really quite genius, and if you use a square wave you can switch between the two halves of any control [depending on the position of the control and how much CV/what type [uni or bipolar] is being inputted] and get a lot of unique accents, changes, etc. Syncing a bunch of stuff up with some clocks and you can highlight a note or passage of a bass line, something I did with an ALM PNW, using a square wave to CV the SHAPE in this manner in order to accent one note of a six-note sequence. Here I dialed in a square wave at 8% [at 44 BPM, on /3] on PNW so only the one note would have a waveform change. You can do the same with percussion, and it’s a pretty fun exercise to turn Pizza into a drum voice by patching CV into the various inputs all synced up. There aren’t too many single modules that you can do this with that sound this good.
With RING selected you can use either the OCT OSC, the RATIO OSC, or an external modulator patched into the EXT in at the bottom to modulate the MAIN OSC. Again, you get a lot out of this seemingly simple setup, utilizing the options for each of the two modulation oscillators. So many sounds, so little time...
One of the greatest things about Pizza is the CTRL knob. By long pressing the WAVE/FOLD/RING selector button you can determine where to send the CTRL CV. This allows you to CV control almost any parameter via the CTRL knob or CV with just a few pushes of a button. While on its own CTRL offers from +/-6v, with, CV patched in the knob becomes an attenuverter for precision control. Even without any constant CV modulation, by just being old fashioned and using your hand to twist the knob, CTRL offers a lot of potential tweakability. CTRL is Pizza’s special sauce and really elevates this module.
The bottom section of Pizza, the last piece of the pie so to speak, has all of its CV inputs; SYNC [which resets all of the oscillators phase], CTRL, INDEX, EXT [for using an external oscillator as a modulator], and V/OCT, as well as the three outputs; PULSE [outputs a pulse wave of the MAIN oscillator], MAIN, and OCT OSC. With the three outputs, you can stack sounds, mix and route in a ton of different ways, and make Pizza sound like a lot more than one module. Patched to the hilt with some random, unsynced LFOs on the ins, and all outs patched to various effects and panned L, R, and C, respectively [with the PULSE out multed and used for pan modulation of the effects], and you can get your crazy on. I think I’ve conjured sounds and soundscapes on Pizza that I’d never heard before, and that’s saying something. Pizza even has a calibration mode to make sure you’re in sync with your V/Oct source as well as a somewhat hidden bi-polar internal VCA via the CTRL control.
When it comes to incoming CV, remember that since each control is controlling two different parameters, that negative voltage will affect the left side of the control, and positive the right so that by using a bi-polar CV you can switch from, say, modulating the RATIO OSC to the OCT OSC with only one instance of CV. This is pretty powerful, amazing really, and you can get wild with LFOs, audio rate modulation, or even audio itself. I patched in a sample of a Car Talk [who doesn’t love Click and Clack?] radio part into the CV in for the FM INDEX and got pretty interesting, fuzzed out audio coming out. Actually, using Pizza as an FX unit, patching audio in the EXT, FM INDEX CV in, and/or the CTRL [while messing around with the destination settings for CTRL] brought some quite interesting results. I highly recommend checking this out.
Bastl has put in a lot of options on Pizza, and there’s a lot to discover. Sure, when it came to the configurable RATIO settings I needed to consult the manual, but otherwise, it’s all there right in front of you and there’s a lot to play with. I have had a lot of fun experimenting with it, and teamed up with a module [like Pam’s or the 4ms QCD] and a handful of LFOs, VCAs and envelopes, made for some darn good times. I would highly recommend taking at look at Pizza [and Ikarie], especially for anyone wanting to put together a small, powerful, and versatile system with plenty of options and patchability. Thin crust, deep dish, gourmet wood-fired, cafeteria style with ketchup, and now this…Bastl has risen like the perfectly rested dough to the occasion, and has given us all a new Pizza to love.

8 HP +12v 90mA -12v 20mA
Price: $283