Let’s talk about art, cymbals, and personal struggles with GAS. Gear Acquisition Syndrome (or GAS) affects 100 percent of drummers. This well-documented affliction forces us to run out and buy all sorts of shiny new things, with cymbals being one of the most irresistible triggers. That’s because cymbals have always offered the sounds of adventure and bliss in a small, (relatively) affordable package. But the last decade has also seen the growth of cymbals as pieces of visual art. Beyond the aural satisfaction, drummers are now subject to the allure of stunning aesthetic beauty as well. We GAS sufferers simply don’t stand a chance.
But hey, that just means more things to hit. And if lusting after Hammerax cymbals makes me an addict, I don’t want to be cured.
Hammerax is a smallish company with a keen eye for making cool stuff. The company’s newest line, Liquicy, joins a family of art cymbals that already includes exotic goodies to hang up and hit with intriguing names like Bash, Boomywang, Crash Course, Culebra, Dustbowl, Flyhat, Glass, Indigo, Lash, Meanie, Skyhat, Splashvine, and Whipcrash.
The Liquicy cymbals look at first glance a lot like “regular,” albeit heavily textured, cymbals. In fact, they’re something else entirely. Liquicys are made of a proprietary copper-heavy alloy, rolled and beaten into very thin discs with small bells. They are alive with wobble, have been rained with pockmarks, and are dramatically flexible in hand. There are five sizes available: 24", 22", 19", 16", and 14". A close inspection shows just how different these cymbals are.
Liquicy cymbals seem to jump around in your hands, wobbling like a cat trying to escape containment. There are no smooth surfaces to be found. Every square centimeter has been hammered and etched. The face of each Liquicy is a moonscape of small canyons and sinkholes. There’s plenty of shiny coppery color that peers out through the dark-brown matte background. The underside is more bare and gray, and is signed by the Hammerax artisan that made the cymbal. Oh, and each cymbal has three holes drilled in it for optional rivets.
First up for inspection was the 24" Liquicy cymbal. 24" is big, even bigger than most cymbal bags. I call this one the Mulder-and-Scully cymbal. You know, the X Files characters that were always running into aliens. Aliens came to mind a lot as I was perusing the Liquicys.
Played like a ride cymbal, the 24" gives back a watery, ghostly wah-wah sound for every note played. The entire cymbal wobbles on the stand like an agitated alien bird flapping its wings. The fluttering, long tremolo sounds a bit like cinematic helicopter blades churning during a scene from Apocalypse Now. And the disc is so thin you can easily play it with your hand and activate that freaky bird-creature wobble anytime. It’s weird. Weird and very cool.
Of course, you can’t play ride patterns on it with your hand, but you can ride it with a stick, and it’s good. Quite a bit different than your trusty 21" rock ride, but equally good. It sounds like a controlled trash-can lid — ambient concrete garage included. You can also crash it, which elicits a short, dark, intense crash with long, fluttering, alien bird-wobble decay. I had fun doing weird things to the Liquicy pies to get exotic new tones. Slapping, scraping with stick tip, dragging over the face with car keys — these were just a few of my favorite things to do to the Liquicy.
The 22" Liquicy crashes short and dark like the 24", but the wobble after-effect is increased. By the way, the profile shape of these cymbals tends toward tall, and that makes the wobble even weirder. It’s not like shaking a flat disc of metal. The 22" rides well, with a nice, high-and-dirty ting atop heavy trash-can-lid wash. And the metallic roar and flutter is very reminiscent of the sheets of tin that Foley artists use to make “thunder” for soundtracks. And I would really like to know how Hammerax gets that “ambience” into a cymbal. They should be advertised as, “Cymbal For Sale. Ambient Room Included.”
The 19” Liquicy has a higher pitch that takes it out of contention for the job of dark ride cymbal. Besides, the “weird factor” of this one is pretty high on the scale. Using the tip of the stick on the cymbal’s face produces a delicate, dry, coarse ping that floats above abundant, loud-and-fast tremolo/wah-wah sound. If this were part of a movie soundtrack, the scene would be “Martians hover over target.” Crash the cymbal and you get “Martians fire on target.” But for extra weirdness points, you can spank rapidly on the face of the cymbal with your hand. The sound is wow and flutter like the synthesizer patch from Edgar Winter’s classic oldie, “Frankenstein.”
The 16" Liquicy has quite a high pitch, and a thin, dry bark of a crash. Boy, was I glad I didn’t stop there. In playing around with it, I found numerous exotic sounds available. The bell is quite dry, and very different in character from the face. The edge of the cymbal also gives off a different character, so the rather pedestrian move of bell/face/edge produced widely ranging tones.
I had the most fun when, by accident, I flexed the cymbal while hitting it. Woah! They will flex in your hand, allowing a whole new slew of Flexi-Tone sounds. Placing the cymbal on a stand, I leaned one edge into my abdomen (I was standing up) and played the cymbal like a talking drum. Cool wah-wah metal hand drum oozing Martian secret sauce! Should be a lot of fun for drummers who are recording effects and percussion. And of course I realized that all the Liquicy cymbals could be flexed for further pitch-bending weirdness. Soon I was dancing around the room, flexing Liquicy cymbals while playing interstellar dumbek rhythms with my knuckles, sticks, mallets, whatever came to hand. My favorite was the 19" Liquicy played with a black Sharpie. Hmm … what would a silver Sharpie sound like?
The 14" Liquicy cymbal has a wisp of a tone, very much like a smaller, maybe 10" splash cymbal when crashed conventionally. It exhibited the least amount of weirdness of the bunch when played on a stand with a stick. But it was the easiest and perhaps most versatile one when played in the hands. I held it like a steering wheel and shook it for that flapping vibrato sound of shaking your cheeks with your fingers — Martian style. I stuck it on a finger, instead of a stand, and played a roll on it with my free hand. It sounded like an enormous gong warming up, but in miniature.
Alternative, tremolo-rich cymbals that can be played and manipulated in a variety of ways; flexible and durable in construction; very attractive, exotic, and wonderfully weird.
John Stannard, President, Hammerax
Liquicy cymbals are weird and wonderful. (Frankly, I have never used the word “weird” so many times in one review — in a good way.) I only wish I had more gigs that could use them. These are fun new sounds for unwritten music. They are pleasing, adventurous, and exotic. For so many of us who suffer from GAS, that alone is more than enough to warrant a purchase that will keep the symptoms at bay for at least a short while. See Liquicy in person, or check out the very decent short video clips on the Hammerax web site. And just between us, don’t be surprised if you find these beauties selling in the real world for for substantially less than the prices listed to the left.