Wilf Smarties takes another new sample CD for a spin.
Wilf Smarties gets into a 70s groove with a new release from Time & Space.
One more from the domain of Mr. Ed (Stratton, as if you didn't know). This CD opens with 120 'vinyl style' drum loops, grouped 10 to a track. At first I thought 'why have I not heard these before'. Then I realised that they are not taken from records; at least not directly. What M. J. Dunne (of Ronjon productions, for it is he) has done is to use snare, percussion, and kick samples taken from crunchy vinyl to create sequenced patterns which, on a cursory listen, sound like extremely rare grooves. I think I can hear 909 hi-hats in there too, but these also could be 'off D record'.
Just about all are 2-bar loops, and, as you might expect, there are maybe several variations on any one theme. BPMs are given, but experienced loopers will bemoan the lack of that extra beat, the value of which I can't over-emphasise when tuning a loop to an exact tempo. The sounds are very well chosen.
Tracks 13 thru 17 each sport eight 2-bar loops under the general heading of Loop Classics. If these, too, are not programmed I'll eat my CD player. Bongo beats, funky drumming and 'hot beats' are included.
I wasn't entirely happy with the way that, as the loops wear on, it seems the hi-hats start to creep up in the mix. Since the loops are programmed, would it not have been better to present them with kick/snare etc. panned to one side, and hi-hats on the other? Here they are inexplicably in mono, thus wasting valuable user mixing and matching potential.
Beyond the loops we run into Horn Hits and Stabs. Actually, this is probably the best collection of its type I've come across. I think they are home-grown, which is quite clever. (There is a certain homogeneity to the sound texture which leads me to this conclusion: I would guess that discords are made up from layered samples, etc.) Certainly there are no chestnuts. There are slightly fewer than 200 of these to wade through, and some are inevitably quite similar.
Funky Sax FX plays what has to be this CD's strongest card, presenting a huge collection of mean sax notes, howls, sputterings and squeals. Very, very comprehensive, and obviously played by a mean blower. There are around 100 samples for the taking. However, while the playing and choice of samples is excellent, the fidelity is not. Sax is a bitch to record cleanly: the SPL at the bell exceeds almost anything else in a studio. Didn't the recording engineer have an RE20 mic to hand? While the clipping in evidence here might not trouble too many committed ravers, this brass has too much muck for me. Which is a pity, as it mars what would otherwise be a fine library.
Next up, guess what? — funky guitar licks. As with the preceding section, we seem to have one player, this time on one instrument throughout, which in this case could be just about any electric guitar. Its sound is fairly authentically '70s mid-toppy rather than '80s glassy. I think it is being DI'd through, perhaps, a valve pre-amp; there is a hint of 'warmth' (slight even harmonic distortion) hovering around. I hear a little 'room' on top, but suspect that this comes out of a box. From the somewhat under a hundred licks on offer here there are no major surprises or disappointments, though I could live without the hiss.
Funk snares follow. Each is hit twice, second time around in the same 'room' as the preceding guitar. There are plenty of these snares, and they're good — for me, the best samples on this CD in fact. No passengers here. No doubt, together with the kicks, crunchy hi-hats, and percussion that follow them, these were used in the creation of the drumloops which opened the collection. Perhaps Zero G will issue MIDI files, together with sample assignments, for the latter, as was done for the Dance/Industrial CD I reviewed a few months back.
Bringing up the rear are some useful Hammond tones and chord stabs, though it's a bit of cheek to include half-octave samples with a faster Leslie than the roots. I would advise you not to waste time sampling those! Top off with 30 programmed percussion loops (all around a similar theme), a colourful Fender Rhodes piano, and that's your lot for this volume.
So there we have it: a well-targeted, well played, well programmed collection of funk elements — over 1000 samples in all — somewhat compromised by sloppy engineering. On this note, M. J. Dunne has gone to some length to point out that the production values employed in the preparation of this raucous collection were closer to Public Enemy (who deliberately distort their samples) than, well, Within A Dream. Fair comment, except that the distortion on some of the sax samples in particular sounds accidental rather than intentional.
Zero G Funky Element MC 1 £49.95 Inc VAT.
Time & Space, (Contact Details).
Review by Wilf Smarties
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