This month we take delivery of a pair of CD's from a brace of sampling veterans who should know better, starting off with Paul Hardcastle. Will this CD live up to it's dangerously immodest title? Can P.H. seriously lay claim to be "The Godfather Of Sampling", as the sleeve suggests? Can pigs fly backwards? Read on...
An electro-rockist Son Of 19 opens this selection from Paul Hardcastle's sample cupboard. Unfortunately those which follow it are, in the main, just as unexciting. Tracks 2 through 5 contain 40 'Techno FX + Phrases'. A selection of single samples play similar retro techno riffs. Surely the music should be left up to the samplist? One hit would have been more than enough in most cases. Some melodies have filters sweeping across them, and their inclusion in full is therefore slightly better justified.
The next section, 'Key Riffs', falls into the same trap as the first: too many tunes, not enough noises. A few chord stabs are pretty usable, though. An OK selection of orchestral snippets lead us into 'Bass Riffs', 12 thereof. Wouldn't you rather program your own?
Next up comes a well tame bass and synth note palette. Safe sex with a Jupiter 8. Track 21 holds 'Looped Synths'. The looping isn't fantastic, and the sounds are, once again, ultra-ordinaire. Track 22 (One Shot Synths) matches #21 for excitement.
You would be hard put to find a more tedious and threadbare collection of loops as those propping up track 23. Track 24 has music fragments: bass, drums, synth in various combos. Well into track 25 and there goes a flexitone. Actually, there is a semi-programmed ethno loop on track 26 I liked a lot.
It's track 28 now, some modest tambourines and triangles are playing, and so far I have heard nothing seriously new. The following single kicks are no better than those in your average current drum machine, though the snares fare slightly better, tending towards the toppy and tight. I liked the brushes. The military drumming could come in handy — in fact this is the first item that has tempted me to boot up the S770. Single toms are usually guaranteed to get me yawning, and these are no exception. Open and closed hi-hat samples are not exactly an entirely new concept, as aren't cymbals and percussion voices.
All of which brings us to the 'Speech' parade. Really, all I have to do to persuade you that your hard earned would be better invested almost anywhere else is to quote from the master's voices: "Rock Da House" and "Nnnnn...ineteen". A dozen 'Kungfu' grunts precede a similar number of 'Vocal Effects'. The solo operatic voice is habitable. Likewise the three 'Oriental' vocal samples, and there are some nice backing vocals and ad-libs tucked away in tracks 57 through 60. Those across tracks 61-64, which seemed to feature the same female voice throughout, left me cold, though I could see others having fun with them. A single ensemble hit rounded off this section nicely.
Incidentally, (almost) all samples are level matched, except the set stretching across tracks 61-62, which are scaled as taken, ie. only the loudest take is level matched. This is a nice touch.
'Guitar FX' (ie. odd riffs & chords) are almost all polite sounding (clean DI plus a little reverb or chorus) and unconvincingly played. Among the brass, brass synth and sax collection there is one particularly fine held note.
Track 74 features a flautist soloing. The wet flute riffs of track 75 are reminiscent of 'Supersense'. Tracks 76, four music intros, and 77, a further five, are pleasant and well constructed, but they're not yours. The 'Music Atmos' (six samples) open with a fine but hardly revolutionary held chord. Subsequent samples include evolving digital filter sweeps and a cycling arpeggio.
The 'Sci-fi' techno selection is about par, as are the 'Sound FX'. 'Manic Printer' has a bit of doinginess about it, for those of you who like to jump at six in the morning. The second-to-last sample is a sustained finger cymbal, and I'm pretty sure it featured on the intro of the 12" of 'Slave To The Rhythm'.
After around 800 samples we come upon Track 83, a reference tone at 0dB for level matching, which comes with the comment, "At last — one that's long enough". For what?
This CD shows off Hardcastle's compositional style as much as his sample library, and this collection is not exactly breaking new ground when compared to many of its predecessors. Obviously it is possible to get a viable composition from the ingredients of 'The Wizard', but that's true of just about every general sample CD I've heard.
The sound quality is Synclavier-esque throughout, and the all-mono sample count is adequate, but very few of them will blow away seasoned collectors. Unless you are a big fan of Mr. H, shop elsewhere for new noises.
£49.95 inc VAT.
Time & Space, (Contact Details).
He of the Trevor Horn stable of over-production and founder member of The Art Of Noise brings you...
The by-now-obligatory Lee Groves demo tune gives way to track 2, which is a precis of JJ's Fairlight classics, comprising a few low vox, a kick, snare, fill, timpani roll, and others. Tracks 3 and 4 house brass samples. Some are particularly widespread classics, but there are six tasty multi-sample sets. Especially valid was the 7-sample 'Lo Mute Fart'. Tracks 5 through 9 are given over to old gold bass samples. Reminiscent of the old Emulator II library, these are not deep house booms, rather they are the sort found propping up classic Heaven 17, ABC and early Human League tracks. Pops, snaps and plucks, acoustic, electric and classic Moog basses abound. The selection is not stingy, and once again many duo- or multi-sampled sets are offered, something most fly-by-night dance CDs never bother with. Nice to see serious samplists being catered for.
Tracks 10 to 12 have classic guitar samples, both acoustic and rockist. Not so big as the bass set, but just as viable. The 'Acouverb' 5-sample set caught my attention. What is providing the reverb? Could it be an EMT plate? The distorted samples are very Emu II and, despite their age (or perhaps because of it), still sound sorted.
The snares and kicks which follow do not stand the test of time quite as well, though the bright bitty hi-hats could easily pass muster on the dance floor. The tom-toms, too, sounded smaller and more interesting than the current crop of pristine samples to be found almost everywhere else.
'Misc. Drums' is a microscopic loop/fill collection, somewhat garagey and dated. Track 19, 'Cymbals and gongs', is a trifle ordinaire.
There follows a number of tracks with percussion hits and loops, organised into single or 2-instrument sets — djembe, congas/loops, bongos/loops, shaker/cabasa/maraca, and so on. Most prevalent are single hits, taken with varying degrees of natural reverb (all the way down to dry). Once again these voices are noticeably different from the current crop, probably due to the recording acoustics, and sampler (Fairlight?) character. Plus, sampling was fresh then, and perhaps those responsible for doing the recordings were sufficiently vibed up with the novelty of it all to give 110%, as they say at Fulchester United.
Tracks 28 & 29 offer a great collection of miscellaneous percussion voices. I'm confused: wasn't that the finger cymbal from 'Slave To The Rhythm' again? Gets everywhere these days.
Tuned percussion is a pleasant oriental experience, giving way to a lush, warm 12-sample xylophone. As usual the quality of sound surpasses the fidelity, which is itself better than acceptable, though not quite NED.
'Breath Flutter' stands out from a collection of well viable flutes, pipes, and a seriously classic accordion, marred only by a single nastily looped object towards the end of track 36. Several multi-sampled sets are again offered.
Next up come 'Sung Vox and FX'. Long multi-sampled sets of men and women going "aah" (some mysteriously underpinned by a metronome ticking away in the background) are classic, breathy, a little noisy and well-atmospheric. These used to be a major cliche, but have not been heard in action for some time. Track 38/39's vox samples are a bit crunchy, but more varied.
Tracks 40 through 42 are home to dialogue. Quirky, rather than your typical dance "get up and use me" stuff. I'd still rather you found your own, though. There is a biggish 'Sound FX & Atmos' section spanning eight tracks and around 120 samples. Once again these are quirky snippets rather than blockbusters. 'Booiinnggg!' is the one you've all got already. Those you haven't tend to be unexciting. You could do better than 'Have your coins dropped?' or 'Shopping Trolley's Over' yourself, though 'Waterbows' was creepy. By and large, skip this chapter.
A fairly rudimentary if slightly unusual 'Orchestra' set is offered, followed by some synths. These are mostly not particularly drastic analogue voices, though there is a nice chord strike lurking in there which I'll be having. More interesting synths are to be found on the shorter track 53.
Track 54 is a biggie, with over 50 string samples, including sustained multisampled ensembles, sets of runs, pizzicato and falls, and a number of one-offs. We play out with a banjo and digital piano. Some voices are offered again as an S1000/1100 data stream. Check with AMG to see if it actually works, since as often as not this information gets corrupted in the CD mastering process.
One minor grips is that the multisample sets are not properly annotated (eg. 'Strings T-19'). Perhaps there was not enough room on the sleeve for key notes to be given for every (any) sample? If so, why not include another page or two?
So is this CD worthy of your attention? I suspect some samples may be clever 8-bit, such is their charm. Our beloved (and accursed) Emu II was only 8-bit (hear it on the first Blue Nile album), and there is a similar character from much of JJ's Fairlight library. If you are looking for right-on current dance fashion, pass. If, on the other hand, you have the foresight to look for sounds not uppermost in everyone's RAM, consider taking a chance on 'The Art Of Sampling'.
Don't expect instant gratification, however — for maximum benefit this CD requires some serious effort, what with all those multi-sampled sets to wade through. There are well over 1,000 samples in store, and around half are worth taking, I'd say. By the time you've finished you will have a well equipped '80s library. There are no repeats or wasted space, and the presentation (gripe notwithstanding) is above par. All samples are level matched, and the spaces between samples within a track are uniform, making for easy sequential sampling. I can't remember hearing any stereo samples: file under Monophonic Slice Of Sampling History.
£49 inc VAT.
AMG, (Contact Details).
Review by Wilf Smarties
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