I came to the NAMM show for the music, and boy, did I ever get it. Outside the Anaheim Convention Center where NAMM is taking place, a genial gent calling himself Lordblobbie and wearing heart-shaped sunglasses is playing a thrillingly unique instrument called the Soma Pipe. The Pipe works with a contact microphone to let its user generate a bewildering array of sounds just with his mouth, breath, and a few modulation dials. I’m not kidding. In the video above, Lordblobbie goes through the full range from laser beams and bird chirps to beatboxing, drums, and whale noises. It’s. A. Trip.
The Pipe is the brainchild of a Russian inventor called Vlad Kreimer. It has 12 different preset modulation algorithms, including ones named Orpheus, Octava, Pulse, and Harcho, along with three varieties of Bassdrum. Lordblobbie, real name Robbie Kirkhuff, tells me it took years for him to convince Vlad to sell him one of these Pipes. The cost of this extremely unusual synthesizer is $600, and by the looks of things, each one is manufactured to order. (As a neat personal gesture, Vlad signed the interior of Robbie’s Pipe).
Vlad claims that singing into the Pipe is also possible, though the thing that appeals to me most about it is the fact it’s so unconventional and, at the same time, limitless in possibilities. This is clearly an instrument that lets you develop great skill, but, more importantly, doesn’t require much skill to just pick it up and rattle off some pleasing noises.
Photography by Vlad Savov / The Verge