Mystery Box Challenge with Mark Guiliana & Jonathan Maron

Welcome to the third installment of our ongoing Mystery Box Challenge series, where we give unsuspecting musicians a random grab-bag of gear and see what improvised sounds they can come up with. In this edition, participants Mark Guiliana (Brad Mehldua, David Bowie, Meshell Ndegeocello) and Jonathan Maron (Tupac, Maxwell, India Arie) team up to explore a spacey set of noises all centering on a Roland TR-8 Rhythm Explorer. Unlike some of our previous Mystery Box segments, this sonic exploration took a decisively more rhythmic format with a groove that will stick in your head for days.

For his smooth, enveloping bass part, Mr. Maron deployed a Fano PX4 Bass through a set of pedals including Strymon Deco, an Earthquaker Devices Levitation, an MXR Phase 90, and a Mu-FX Octave Divider (a reissue of the classic Mu-Tron pedal). Also in the chain was a Black Yorba Fuzz from Daredevil Pedals, which provided the tight, fuzz tone heard in the middle section of the jam. Notice how Mark takes the reigns of the Strymon Deco while Jonathan is playing to control the swirly tape saturation effect on the bass.

While Mark Guliana is usually seen behind a drum kit, his dexterity with a drum machine is just as impressive. For this challenge he ran a Roland TR-8 - a modern sequencer with roots in the TR-808 of the '80s- through a Boss RE-20 Space Echo pedal as well as a Function f(x) Clusterfuzz. The ways in which the steady groove of the TR-8 interacts with the Echo pedal is especially compelling.

Watch the video above for a sensational illustration of how this selection of gear can be deployed, and take a look at the images below for a clearer picture of how everything fit together.

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