Groove guru Wilf Smarties reports on the sample CD scene.
Wilf Smarties rounds up another selection of newly-released sample CDs.
And they just keep coming... this month there's a new sample CD from AMG, who brought us Coldcut and Pascal, but first off the blocks is an unexpected monster loony rave party number from Abba-land — more than 3,000 samples on a double CD, including no less than 512 loops, for under £80! So, maximum points for price per sample ratio. Let's put it onto the Onkyo and see what comes out of the optical output. The S770 is ready and waiting...
I'll start with the loops as usual (which, incidentally, is what every sample CD seems to do). There are 16 samples to a track, which is fine by me (I hate it when there are irregular numbers per track — this invariably makes repetitive sampling even more tedious). Here, the loops are given sensible names, and bpms are shown. From the title of the volume and the antics of the young lady on the cover, I think we could be in for the definitive rave collection, so here goes.
There is a reference tone for setting levels: this I have done. We're on to track 3, and already there are some points worth noting — for example, we have the usual mixture of hoary and fresh loops here. At least the old favourites seem to have come from fairly well-cared for vinyl, and the samples are mostly well chosen and recorded.
All loops are two bars in length. In most cases, this means one bar (or less) has been played twice (or more). I find this annoying, as in order to conserve valuable disk and even more precious RAM space, I always cut my loops down to the bone. That extra beat which makes looping easier is, however, thankfully there. Samples are grouped according to tempo and style, so adjacent loops should work together after a bit of fine tuning. Most programmed loops seem to be off vinyl, therefore their value goes up (in my book). All samples on this disc are in mono; on a few multi-looped samples there is a strange evolution of frequency content and phase; a legacy of some smoothing algorithm, possibly? So far, with tracks 1-16 of CD 1 out of the way, some 256 of the 512 loops, I like this CD.
The vast majority of the loops are ravey snippets comprising programmed beats with bits of 'character' thrown in. As far as I can tell, most come off vinyl, with the odd sample repeated twice using different EQ or FX of some kind. A decent programmer should be able to create similar but infinitely more versatile beats using individual voices. Those on display veer more towards the Hed Noise variety found on Coldcut's Kleptomania, created with perhaps a little less emphasis on finesse. There are, however, loads to choose from.
The loops continue unabated from track 17 through 32. The first eight of these feature drum machines, programmed and (from track 20 on) effected. The most common effect seems to be overload distortion, which is fine by me. I must admit I wasn't looking forward to this section, but there were plenty of pleasant surprises. With hindsight, I now feel that a substantial proportion of the preceding loops were probably also home produced.
Tracks 25 and 26 have some more sequenced loops, this time using weird old analogue sounds. Track 26 is entitled 'Dusseldorf' — get the picture? The last six tracks are all live ethnic percussion loops. I want them all, but unfortunately I've run out of optical disks. Time to phone my supplier.
There follow loads of 808, 909 and other drum machine single sounds: just about every possible setting for the 909 snare and kick are included. There's one hit only per voice, and almost no silence in between. No time-wasting here.
By track 65 we are into single hit drums 'off D record'. There are literally hundreds of these to choose from, with 16 tracks, each containing eight kicks and 16 snares. This is total overkill. I like it. In fact, single drum hits take us almost all the way to the end of disc 1. Before we get there, however, we are treated to three demonstration tunes using only the X-Static Goldmine, an S1000 and a Quadraverb. Sounds like it, too.
Disc 2 kicks off with the usual melee of vocal snatches — eight times 16 of them, in fact — and not too many you haven't already heard. This is followed by some gratuitous TB303 loops, and a fairly standard selection of single synth bass notes, 'Hits & Chords', 'Rave Buzzes & Bleeps & Blips', in rapid succession. Some really stand out. 'Concussion' includes some Hi-Q effects which have a brutal high-frequency content, a regular feature throughout this collection. 'Ambient' and 'Sci-Fi' produce some pretty viable 'dark' textures.
Tracks 33-35 contain 'Voco Loops', which sound like drum patterns put through a static flange with regeneration. There follows a mixed selection of instruments like piano, strings, and so on, with the odd didgeridoo thrown in for good measure. You won't be buying the XSG for these.
The robot voice snatches (and alphabet) are pure Kraftwerk, and there are lots of them to choose from. In track 55 ('Man Machine') the machine seems to be a ring modulator. Next door it's definitely a vocoder (thinks... I must get one!). Tracks 57 through 72 feature men, women, and children being silly.There is a track of classic drug quotes, plenty of B-movie dialogue, a fair dose of toasting, and some gospel snippets. My favourites were the Islamic prayers and Gregorian chants.
From track 73, we are treated to another vast selection of percussive effects, too numerous to list... I liked the water splash. Taking us out are a selection of atmospheres. Jungle birds, fire, rain and the like.
"The sonic credentials of this CD are impeccable, and the excellent performances contained therein will your music no harm at all. A connoisseur's product."
All in all, this is a very comprehensive selection aimed squarely at Ravers. For sheer quantity, diversity, and relevance to the genre, this double CD can't be beaten. The downside? The packing density makes sequential sampling tricky, in that there isn't enough space to pause between samples. If only the drum loops had not been repeated, there would have been plenty. To complain about the sound quality of some of the samples, however, would be churlish, since this probably reflects that of the sources (sampling whine notwithstanding). The overall level is fairly 'hot', so watch those input gains. If you're into Rave, buy. No question.
£79 inc VAT.
Time & Space, (Contact Details).
Once again we have two sample CDs catering for the dance market, but with production values that are worlds apart. Polestar Magnetic's platter housed 3,000 mono hits with plenty of firepower. Immaculately played and recorded in stereo, on the other hand, the samples on this latest CD in the Producer series from AMG number no more than a few hundred.
The cover shows a photo portrait of Mr. Cummings getting into a performance. Mr Bould's turn comes inside, and a right-on moody pair they make too! This is 'serious' music, which wouldn't be out of place in Real World studios.
There are two chapters to this book. The first is entitled 'Grooves'. There are eight multitracked and overdubbed percussion grooves. Each evolves over a minute or two, and is succeeded by soloed subsets of the full mix. For example, under the heading 'House Builders' (125bpm), tracks 32, 33 and 34 are all devoted to the full mix of three distinctly different portions of what was probably a much longer jam session. Tracks 35 and 36 sport only the congas and bongoes, track 37 has shaker and englehart (!?) panned left and right, and track 38 has a shaker on one side and a triangle on the other.
Other groove sets rejoice in the names 'Stateside' (98bpm), 'Orient' (95bpm), 'Mardi Gras' (91bpm), 'Mean Machine' (116bpm), 'Let's Gogo' (96bpm), 'Smooth' (80bpm) and 'Stomper' (120bpm). I wonder who thought up those titles? Instruments used are predominantly congas, bongoes, shakers, tambourine, cow and agogo bells, and various blocky thingies. We are talking hi-fi here, by the way. The full mixes are obviously meant to be the flagship product, but for my money the broken-down, soloed voices provide much the more usable (and adaptable) loops. The former sound too produced to act as other than an almost complete backing track. Difficult to slip into a tune without telegraphing where it came from, I would have thought.
A minority of the 49 tracks in this section neatly illustrate what not to do with a Roland RSS. Such natural-sounding percussion is hardly enhanced by rapid circular panning. (You don't agree? Philistines!) It would surely have been better to have offered a selection of stable 3-D placements. So far so good. But it gets better...
The second half of the CD is entitled 'Single Hits'. This is a misnomer, since included here are a considerable number of single instrument percussion loops, including conga, bongo, djembe, udu, bata drum, sabar and sarouba, shakers and rainmakers, cow and agogo bells, tambourine, guiro, and talking drum patterns. A pretty viable selection, I'm sure you will agree. The accompanying complementary single hits, as good as the best in the Synclavier library, are well chosen, and sound fresh.
There are plenty of patterns to choose from, and the inclusion of single hits means that you can quite easily customise them by adding in accents. A tone for level matching brings up the rear.
Treat the full mixes as demo tunes, give the RSS a miss, and the rest of this CD could be inspirational indeed. Its sonic credentials are impeccable, and the excellent performances contained therein will your music no harm at all. A connoisseur's product.
£49 inc VAT.
AMG, (Contact Details).
Review by Wilf Smarties
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