Turkish JC Soundscape Series Cymbals
by Micheal Dawson
Esoteric and worldly tones for those exploring the unknown.
The Soundscape series is a collaborative collection designed by U.S.-born/Europe-based drummer/percussionist Jarrod Cagwin and the Turkish cymbal company out of Istanbul. Much of Cagwin’s work is in traditional Middle Eastern and Northern African genres, world-influenced jazz, contemporary classical, and film scoring. To suit those specialized situations, Cagwin sought to develop a unique palette of sounds that exhibits a wide range of earthy tones with controlled volume and the flexibility to be expressive when played with hands, mallets, and brushes in addition to drumsticks.
Each of the JC Soundscape models is named in relation to something in nature, such as wind, water, snake rattles, geographical climates, and astronomical events. The series is organized into five groups. There’s the super-dry Atacama, which includes a 14″ Arid crash and a 20″ Precision flat ride; the 21″ Snake sizzle ride and 12″, 13″, and 14″ hi-hats (with rivets); ultra-thin Water crashes (18″, 20″, and 22″); 9″, 10″, and 11″ Satellite discs; and a trio of effects cymbals (6″ and 7″ splashes and a 22″ China). Let’s take a look at each.
Atacama 14″ Arid Crash and 20″ Precision Flat Ride
The Atacama is a large desert plateau in the Andes Mountains of South America that’s known as the driest place on Earth. As you’d expect, these are super-dry, earthy, and raw cymbals. The 14″ crash is thin and completely hammered except for the bell. This cymbal has a dark and splashy sound with minimal overtones and a fast decay. It’s great for lower-volume live gigs or recording situations where you want to be able to hit quick accents without them being too loud, bright, or excessively “splashy.”
The medium-thin 20″ Atacama flat ride sounds extremely dry and has almost no overtones, which results in incredible articulation and utmost dynamic control. This would be the cymbal to go to when all other ride options at your disposal simply produce too much volume, such as light jazz and unamplified world percussion gigs, chamber percussion concerts, and studio sessions.
Snake Hi-Hats and Ride
Like the Atacamas, the 12″, 13″, and 14″ Snake hi-hats and 21″ ride are unlathed and heavily hammered everywhere but at the bell. They have a very dry, dark tone, but they also feature rivets to provide some extended sizzle. The hi-hats, which have a thin top and medium bottom, come with two clusters of two rivets installed on the top cymbal and one cluster of two rivets on the bottom. The rivets add a controlled rattle to the cymbals’ minimal sustain when struck partially or fully open or when splashed with the foot. The sizzle is subtle; you don’t really notice it, but it gives the cymbals’ sustain a darker and more complex tonality with no clear, discernable pitch.
The 12″ hi-hats are a good choice for quiet playing, as well as for electronica-inspired beats or for use as higher-pitched secondary hi-hats. The 14″ hi-hats, which were my favorite, provide a wider, darker, and less defined sound that translated well on a moderate-volume club gig where I wanted the hi-hats to blend with the band rather than cut above it. The 13″ Snake hi-hats split the difference between the others, providing quick articulation for modern jazz and fusion playing styles while remaining dark, complex, and controlled.
The 21″ Snake ride has eight rivets around the perimeter that simultaneously control the cymbal’s sustain while also adding an underbelly of complex rattle to each stroke. The bell is wide and flat, which produces a rich, integrated tone. Crashing on the edge elicits a dark, moody texture, and riding on the bow gives off a warm, classic “old K” vibe with tight sustain and defined articulation. This is another excellent choice for gigs requiring extreme control and expressivity.
If surrealist Salvador Dalí had designed crash cymbals, they’d look like these. Available in 18″, 20″, and 22″ sizes, the Soundscape Water crashes are extremely thin, unhammered, and intentionally warped to give them a floppy, droopy appearance. Striking them causes the entire cymbal to shimmy. The shimmy adds visual drama, but also vibrato to the sustain. Water crashes are designed to produce a concert gong/tam-tam sound rather than a traditional crash. They are super-expressive at all volume levels and respond well when struck with all types of implements, including fingers.
The 20″ Water crash was my favorite of the three. It has the most balanced blend of clean attack and trashy overtones, and the vibrato is less dominant. The 22″ can double as a unique-sounding specialty ride in lighter situations, and the 18″ has a more splashy and wobbly tone when struck aggressively. Definitely not for all-purpose use, the Water crashes would be something to consider when you need a dramatic gong-like tone from a more portable and easily mountable instrument.
The most esoteric items in the Soundscape series are Satellite Bells. These small, flat discs are essentially miniature versions of the flat ride—they’re unlathed and heavily hammered—and they come in three sizes (9″, 10″, and 11″). The volume output of these cymbals is very limited; the 9″ barely puts out any audible sound when hit like a splash within a moderate-volume funk groove. But they’re quite expressive at low volumes. You get identifiable bell-like tones when you strike them with fingers and mallets, and you can get articulate ride sounds when struck on top. Harder hits on the edge bring out a choked splash effect with some interesting metallic undertones. These would be unique additions for drummers/percussionists looking for unusual sounds for super-quiet situations.
Splashes and China
Rounding out the Soundscape series is a pair of tiny cymbals—a 6″ Gamma splash and a 7″ Löß—and a larger 22″ Karaburan China. The 6″ Gamma splash is the most conventional model in the series. It’s unhammered but features regular lathing and a shiny brilliant finish. It’s designed to produce a sharp, short sound, which is why it’s named after an ultra-penetrating form of electromagnetic radiation called a gamma ray. This clean, glassy-sounding splash provides a nice contrast to the dry, dark tones of the rest of the series.
The 7″ Löß splash, which is named after a very thin and fragile rock, is a paper-thin accent cymbal with a brilliant outer edge, a regular-finish inner bow, and a raw bell. It sounds wider and less focused than the Gamma, and it has a touch of China-like trashiness that allows it to blend well with any type of cymbal setup. It has a flashy attack, rich sustain, and fast decay—all of which is exactly what I look for in a splash cymbal.
The 22″ Karaburan China takes its name from the powerful wind that blows across the Gobi Desert in central Asia during the spring and summer months. Fittingly, this cymbal possesses a deep, dark tone that can wash away everything in its path when played aggressively while also providing an amazingly dry and articulate tone when coaxed with more gentle strokes. I loved its rich and controlled ride and bell sounds, and it produces an awesome deep, funky crash when hit to accentuate fills and phrase endings. The flange at the edge of the cymbal is less acute than it is on most other Chinas, which helps minimize harshness and tame a bit of trashiness. While it could be used as a massive accent cymbal, the 22″ Karaburan China also functions very naturally as an alternative ride source.