Eno/Lanois, U2, and the “shimmer” effect

As a teenager in the 1980’s, I listened to a lot of U2. I loved their early work with Steve Lillywhite, but the albums produced by Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois took U2 into a more ambient direction. One of the most distinctive sounds of the Eno/Lanois collaboration with U2 is a reverb effect with octave swell. You can hear this on the “infinite” guitar in “With or Without You”:

The effect is more prominently featured on the instrumental “4th of July”:

Nowadays, this effect is referred to as the “shimmer” effect. Judging from browsing a bunch of forums, a lot of people have tried to figure out how to get this sound with current gear. Over the next week, I will discuss the shimmer effect in more detail, with some examples of its use pre-U2, and a detailed technical analysis of what is going on inside the effect.

About the author:

Sean Costello is the "algorithmic reverb plugin wizard" [citation needed] at Valhalla DSP.

Comments (5)

  1. That “Edge” guy is a guitar texture & tone wiz of course, but who knows what box load of gear he is daisy chaining at any particular moment. 😛 I hear multi= tapped delays or at least two delay lines being used on guitars on a couple tracks. With delay lines in series you can get some pretty interesting rhythmic patterns. At the end of With Or Without You is a very nasty and distorted sounding echo pedal on the guitar… I remember that sound, and that it was very easy to get, by simply using what were at the time considered to be really cheap and noisy analog delay pedals. If one really wanted the sound to get nasty, one could open the pedal and tweak the clock frequency trim pot to a lower frequency. This would serve to lower the sampling rate, as it were, and for a given delay time, the delayed sound could become quite distorted and strange. There are plenty of those still floating around out there in closets, garages, shoe boxes all over the world I would imagine, just waiting to be plugged in again… One of the neat effects one could do with a cheap analog delay pedal was real time pitch bending by twisting the knob for setting delay time. It was an effect common to the H910 and H949 harmonizers, but grittier with the cheap guitar pedals, more perhaps, depending on one’s tastes.

  2. Sean which Pitch Shift mode in Shimmer do you think is best for the Eno/Lanois Shimmer ?
    Single, or Dual ?

    cheers

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