AMG PRODUCER SERIES
When someone like Vince Clarke decides to select all his favourite sounds and release them on a sampling CD, you could be forgiven for thinking he's flipped his lid. I mean, why would he want to reveal all his best bits in public? Does he need the cash or are this group of analogue blips, stutters and fizzes not really that good? In answer to the above read: it's for charity, no and no.
The eagerly-awaited Lucky Bastard CD (Vince loves the name by the way) contains few surprises - you expect lots of quirky, interesting analogue material from the ex-Depeche, ex-Yazoo, ex-Assembly and current Erasure mainstay, and you sure get it from this collection.
After a demo song made up solely of samples from the CD, Lucky Bastard opens with a strong set of sequenced loops from the Roland System 100M. These will probably have a lot of people reaching for their sample record buttons straight away, but hold on, there's much more to come. Close on 20 different sections are included, broadly divided by the analogue classics in the Clarke collection - the ARP 2600, Moogs, Oberheims, the VCS3 etc.
Following what seems to be a trend on sampling CDs these days, complete sequenced sections of music are followed by individual recordings of their component parts. This, of course, makes it possible to reassemble a sequence in a different way (perhaps omitting certain parts) - or simply to resequence the original parts at a different tempo without affecting the pitch. BPM figures, incidentally, are listed for every sequence.
Included among my personal faves are a set of excellent filtered lines from a Korg MS20 and an Obie 2. The metallic/noisy/resonating sequences a Roland System 100M were interesting too, and I particularly liked the 'Misc Synth Drums' section with its inclusion of various rhythmic twiddles, biting bass drums and dramatic crashes and splashes. The percussive theme is continued by a whole range of drops and bursts, courtesy of the ARP2600, and the Serge Modular comes to the fore with a range of sounds that would add a little toppy interest to any rhythm track.
There are one or two misses though. Of the VCS3 Vince says, "I had this for two years and couldn't work out how to get a decent sound out of it". Unfortunately the few VCS3 samples included only serve to prove the point - many of them comprising nothing more than rasping squiggles. But if it's any consolation to Vince, I've always had trouble with the VCS3 too. The only other minor criticism concerns the handful of similarly grating snippets from the Emulator Modular - perhaps only useful for lovers of that industrial, chainsaw sound or for those determined to alienate their audience. The number of pads on the CD is also rather limited, though this is hardly surprising from someone more renowned for sharp percussion, bleepy analogue sounds and oddball basslines than vast, layered stringy washes.
Long-time fans of Vince will instantly recognise much of what is included here and if not, towards the end of the CD, there's a list of samples with the name of the source song included. Some of the samples are so obviously Clarkesque it may prove difficult to incorporate them into other styles of work. But used with care, this CD could fulfil most analogue dreams, be they industrial, ambient, techno or just clouded, gibbering fantasies. Andrew Jones
Price: £50.95 including delivery and free Now! That's What I Call Sampling CD
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by Steve Wright
No, it's not the Steve Wright that's on 'in the afternoon'. This is another Steve Wright who is actually Making Music magazine's Mr Soft (nothing personal, I hope) and who has put together a 40-page booklet aimed primarily at the complete computer music novice.
It's all too easy to assume everyone knows something about computers and sequencers, but of course this is by no means the case. Even though there are only a handful of computer types on the market, it's no easy task deciding which one is best suited to your needs. And with so much software available, choosing suitable packages ain't easy, either.
The book is very much a beginner's guide. It starts off by explaining what MIDI is and what types of music software are available - sequencers, scorewriters, editors and so on. There's a chapter on sequencing and the types of editors you'll find in sequencer programs. There's a short chapter on scorewriters and a further chapter which looks at five programs in more detail - Cubase, Notator and Notator Logic, SeqWin, Quickscore Deluxe and Band-In-A-Box.
Details of the ST, Falcon, Amiga, PC, Mac and Archimedes computers are included along with a selected list of software available for each machine. But it has to be said, there's very little depth here. Surely even the Acorn Archimedes is worth more than a scant two paragraphs? The photo is nice, though...
Perhaps most importantly for a beginner's guide, a 3-page glossary is included covering all the most commonly-used terms.
As I said, there's no great detail here - but detail is what confuses people. This, essentially, is an overview, but not without value for the absolute beginner. The layout is open and it's a very easy read. You'll pick up information without knowing you're learning.
If you've found yourself fighting shy of computers and music, but think it's time you started to get involved - and it is, you know - then this booklet will give you as painless an introduction to the subject as you'll get without an anaesthetic. Ian Waugh
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