HitSound Producer Series CDs
Coldcut, David Ruffy
Wilf Smarties looks for the perfect beat in two new HitSound sample CDs, from production team Coldcut and drummer David Ruffy.
The two latest additions to AMG's Producer series of HitSound sample CDs come from Coldcut and David Ruffy. The Coldcut CD features samples provided by Jonathan More and Matt Black, dance producers extraordinaire; Bruce Davies undertook the compilation, and also incidentally composed the quintessentially Coldut-esque demo loony tune that introduces this collection of collectables. Presentation is slick: an Archimedes-generated conga playing software cowboy adorns the sleeve, reflecting the boys' interest in computer graphics. All samples are listed, and entries for loops give their tempi to the nearest bpm. Matt Black even offers a key to Coldcut terminology: know what a "Hed Noise" is?
On the cover you are promised non-stop zany action, and, with the inevitable few exceptions, that's what you get. Flicking through a selection of some of the 1,164 samples on offer, we find that the CD opens with the aforementioned demo, which neatly illustrates what can be done with only a tiny fraction of its contents. The first several tracks contain a fairly fresh collection of drumloops: nothing to get terribly excited over unless you have never worked with loops before. (If you haven't, you probably think the electric guitar was invented in 1977.) All are truncated fore and aft, and sampling and looping should be a doddle. The not-strictly-drum loops are perhaps the most interesting. I see I have 'Space Bell' (track 8:4) marked down for an early audition in my S770. 'Old Timer' (9:2) is amusing.
Track 11 has some tasty percussion loops that might wander into my current portfolio of dance tunes. By track 12 we are getting into deep Coldcut: Hed loops, designed to grab the attention of even the most jaded listener. Best described by the phrase "What was that'?"
Track 13 sports four (why so few) hi-hat loops, 14 and 15 are filled with rolls (mostly pretty tasty, but it's a shame about what sounds like a sampling whine). 16 through 20 sport turntable effects for those of you who aren't friendly with a DJ, or fancy that a bit of scratchin' might help you resurrect a flagging musical career. Some of these effects (scratching excluded!) are actually still very viable.
I recognise some old friends in the percussion loops of tracks 21 and 22, but I will definitely be tapping into some of these before you read this. As with the rest of this CD, the quality of the music content is very high; fidelity ranks a poor second.
I have yet to sample the basses that come next; they sound like typical dance material on the disc: only when sequenced will they show their true colours. The cheesy organs of track 27 leave me in no doubt: into the S770 they will go. David Moralez might like these. (Incidentally, some of these 'organs' sound distinctly inorganic.) While the synths disappoint, the atmospheres of the next track (29) rediscover the plot. Nice to see the 'Necronomicon' (of the mad arab Abdul Al-Hazred) getting a namecheck.
Guitars begin at (track) 30, followed by sax, some very viable horns, wind, bells and a rather wimpy string section. George Martin Matt Black is not. I feel particular empathy with the UNCLE-ish flutes-and-bongoes of track 36. Track 37 has a multisampled marimba. This is quite brilliant, and definitely going into the S770. For the unwary there follow a few orchestral hits, and loadsa stabs. Track 40 contains the best noises here. Moving along to track 45 we find the basis for a human drum kit: vocal impressions of most of the major ingredients in a drum kit. Also included: 'Roots Nose Bass'.
The next section contains a large selection of dialogue clips ("Say kids, what time is it?"). Rather than use these, why not make up your own? Just video any old American cartoon/movie/documentary and sift through. There are always some quotables to be found. Of those on offer, the rowdy crowds of track 53 sound freshest, while the computer voices are just a little old hat.
The Hed FX find Coldcut back on top form. Percussive hits, reverse noises and high Q values are all prominent here. The siren on track 66 is up for an early entry onto my optical disk. 808 loops from multitrack are not battle winners, particularly when accompanied by leaky hi-hats, but although the sounds are traditional, some emphasis seems to have been applied to them, and for that reason sampling a few to see how they compare with your own back catalogue might not be a bad idea. The last selection reminds me of the ethnic percussion on our trusty old Emulator II. Now there was a library!
Record rumble and/or tape hiss are more or less constant companions throughout this collection. In most cases I am sure it comes from the sources, although the appearance of the odd bit of whine does pose one or two questions about its technical integrity. Nonetheless this CD represents another 'must have' for any serious dance enthusiast with a sampler at the ready.
There are not too many high fidelity or demanding multisample sets here: instead you will find rough and rowdy one-offs raring to go. (Warning: be careful you don't become 'son of Coldcut'. A lot of the musical character of the team is to be found in this disc — dissect and absorb their influence, but don't take their, or anyone else's, word as gospel.)
Although both the Coldcut and David Ruffy CDs are aimed primarily at the dance market, their production values and presentational style could hardly be more different. Where Coldcut's sets off with a jolly ditty, David sensibly gives us a test tone for level matching purposes. Coldcut's samples are raw, wicked and packed into the terraces. David's are, by comparison, laid back and spaced out. AMG told me that originally they had planned to issue this CD as a set of drum samples and sequence data. When the latter proved too difficult to encode, it was decided that David should play the drum patterns instead, and the bulk of this release comprises a series of some 123 (I think) loops thus recorded.
"Although both the Coldcut and David Ruffy CDs are aimed primarily at the dance market, their production values and presentational style could hardly be more different."
Recording quality is good, though not much stereo imaging was in evidence. The patterns employed cover a wide range of styles, dancey without being 'dance'. The variety present in the playing is, however, not reflected in the kit sounds. In fact, all loops were recorded using the same kit in the same studio, though both close and distant miking has been used. Good to see exact tempos given.
Following the drum loops is some turntable groove noises, presumably to superimpose on the drum loops to make them sound 'rare'. I tried doing this and it just sounded silly. If you want to dirty up David's drumming I suggest you turn to that heavy metal pedal lying under the bed instead.
A bizarre electronic interlude bisects the 130 or so natural loops and the tasty collection of some 265 single hits that follow. It is a pity that the single hits are not referenced to the loops viz-a-viz miking the setups used, as this would have made it easier to match them up.
Tracks 48-52 contain the residue of an abortive attempt to fit Akai S1000 sample data onto the disc. Apparently, this feature did not work on the Pascal Gabriel CD either. Bringing up the rear is a small RSS encoded section. Nothing startling here.
Regarding the loop section again: some samples comprise around four cycles of a pattern, with each successive pass being slightly different. This could be very useful in disguising the fact that you are using samples at all. Treat each cycle as a sample and you have effectively got four for the price of one. Other samples comprise a sampled loop being played back three or four times. While it is nice to hear how the sample will sound when looped, this is an unnecessary waste of precious CD time, and suggests that perhaps the material has been somewhat stretched out.
I did find a worrying feature when sampling these loops in that a whine appeared when some samples were detuned. I suspect the culprits were those which had already seen the inside of a sampler. I was also surprised, given that the facility of a multitrack studio was available during recording, that some loops were not broken down into individual kick, snare or hi-hat tracks. An opportunity missed.
For some reason, this type of CD has not been available before now (to my knowledge), though I myself have had easy access to studio recordings of drummers, and I'm sure that hi-fi quality drum loops are widely used in the industry. For that reason alone this collection merits some attention. However there is scope for someone to come up with a substantially better product along the same lines. If you are (and maybe you should be) concerned about rumoured impending EC sampling legislation, perhaps you should be prepared to pass on the vinyl and make a place for David Ruffy in your tunes instead. He more or less has a beat for all seasons, including emulations of many commonly used breaks, and there are no copyright problems.
If you only have £50, and no qualms about grand larceny, go for Coldcut's disc. A point about CD: where you have a large selection of samples (as in the case of Coldcut) this is a much more convenient format than DAT to sample from. Finding tracks is so much quicker and easier. Happy sampling.
Producer Series CDs £49 each.
Advanced Media Group, (Contact Details).
Review by Wilf Smarties
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