The Sample Shop is awash with product these days, so apologies to anyone awaiting review — Paul promises me more space next month to catch up with the backlog. Interesting stuff this month includes those four slabs of picture vinyl from Time & Space that I promised. But first, another high-profile release from the AMG stable.
The sleeve is either red and yellow, or orange and lime, depending on what you've been eating. It looks like it should be psychedelic, but isn't (the letters don't jump about when you shake it).
Skip To My Loops borrows its name from the old playground song, and is the brainchild of one Norman Cook, formerly of The Housemartins and the hombre behind Beats International. As 'Dub Be Good To Me' was one of the coolest releases of 1990, this CD merits serious investigation.
Guess what? There are drumloops on this CD — lots of them, grouped according to tempo (why aren't all looping CDs grouped like this?). Before these comes a demo ordinaire by a certain Lee Groves; best not taken too seriously.
The loops reside in tracks 2-35, and there are around nine in each. Drumloops start at 84bpm, but by track 15 they're touching 112. As you might expect, there is a lot of lazy swinging and rarish grooving going on (though 'PSV', which opens track 12, might wake you up). Off-record examples exhibit the usual amount of vinyl groove noise.
I'm on track 14 already. Almost all loops comprise one bar, cycled four times. Easy to hear the groove, also easy to fill the CD quickly! (2-bar loops run through twice.) No stereo is in evidence yet. (Nor was it at any time!) Particularly later on (track 18, for example), some loops are created from cut-ups of old favourites. Others are obviously programmed. There are several old pals. But a surprising number (concentrated on the earlier tracks) sound as if they might have come from records I have not yet plundered.
By track 20 we have accelerated towards 120bpm. This is the low point. By track 22, only 1bpm faster, we are getting livelier again, tempo peaking at 134bpm on track 25. Track 26 sports 'Toy Drums', augmented vintage beatbox loops; 27 has nine hi-hat loops. There follow 12 cowbell/block/timbale/triangle patterns, seven shaker loops, nine featuring tambourine, and 20 with congas. Tracks 33-35 sport more percussion loops, whereupon we get a few tracks of single hits, including toms, log drums, kettle drums and timpani (there's a difference?), a pretty viable, if truncated, percussion library, plus a few well chosen kicks, and some rather ordinary snares and claps. 10 stabs isn't exactly overdoing it, but the 30 tuned hits (well varied) proved useful, as did the DX and bass sections. All single hits so far are played twice — once to hear if you like it, and again to sample it. From now on, it's once only per sample.
Track 47, 'Sound FX', starts off in spaghetti western territory. Tracks 48-50 are all FX tracks: quite an interesting selection of samples here. Track 50 has some 'Heddy' loops in it. Track 51 has an alphabet! Track 52 houses a diminutive reggae selection — I thought Mr. Cook might have given us more — and 53 moves into sci-fi. Track 54: more Hed loops. Tidy.
Tracks 55 and 56 have a wide if modest selection of guitars. Track 57 has some tasty flutes. I noticed a nasty background hum during many of these and some other later samples on track 58, which included attractive mouth organs.
Almost all of the rest of the CD is given over to vocal snatches, some unexpected, some amusing, and some downright predictable. That background hum kept cropping up from time to time. Tch! It's really starting to bug me.
Nevertheless, I guess there will be plenty of takers for these. After all, set three or four into a decent groove and you've got a club hit. It's not fair!
Track 76 gives a short, noisy, but relevant palette of hip instruments. Track 77 has 10 basses, 78 has 10 lead synths, 79 has 10 analogue FX, and track 80 gives a line-up tone. Tracks 81 and 82 are only of interest to Akai owners. Still, I suppose there are one or two out there...
There are those who say drumloops are getting to be rather passé. Liars! This is a collection with character. It is not consistently wonderful, in places it's a little wasteful of CD space, and reveals a very annoying background hum on too many samples. Nonetheless there is more than enough here to justify a purchase — 300-ish loops, all told, and the rest. (Incidentally, this CD is recorded fairly 'hot' — no problem providing you watch your input levels.)
£49 inc VAT.
AMG, (Contact Details)
The Vinyl Countdown... Zero-G have broken with tradition. Instead of picking samples from records and compiling them onto a CD, here they have plundered their own CD sample library and put it onto vinyl. I've been given Zero-G Mix 1 and Zero-G Mix 2 for review. Each is a 2-record set cut at 33rpm, and containing somewhat over half of the corresponding Zero-G Datafile CD (Mix 1 = Datafile 1). There is also a Mix 3 set, which is cut from the Datafile 3 CD I reviewed favourably earlier in the year.
Each disc comes in a clear plastic sleeve, all the better to show off the platters' garish colour schemes of red/green and blue/orange. A sample listing is given on a 12-inch circular paper insert that looks unlikely to last the pace.
Mix 1 has 27 tracks in all, each with an average sample count of around 20. Mix 2 has 25 tracks, with slightly more samples in each. Around three seconds of silence is allowed between tracks for easy cueing. I say silence, but really I mean a rather pleasant stereo wash of groove noise. The pressing quality is pretty good, and all samples are mono.
There are no loops, multi-samples or instrument tones. The majority of samples are vocal snatches, the remainder being given over to stabs, animals, synth FX and the like.
So why vinyl? Obviously Ed has targeted this product at DJs, the idea being that they will be able to mix individual samples into a performance. An interesting theory, but does it work? My market research involved lending the review copies to Huddersfield maestro, DJ Tolley. He says that the samples are generally not long enough to mix in, and that single hits would be best played in from a sampler. (Of course, maybe he's just not nimble enough, but I've watched him spinning, and he seems well up to speed to me). I suspect that some DJs will take up the challenge, though.
Nevertheless, my advice to sample vinyl progenitors is: get ambient. Also, Mix 1 and Mix 2 are full of last year's samples. Would any self-respecting DJ recycle them? Yet?
Apart from DJs, are there any other takers for this product? Well, 'straight' samplists like myself would always resort to the CDs: better sound quality, easier cueing. Some warped minds might like to try out turntable stops or scratching over the samples, others just might like to have a bit more vinyl in their sounds. I would suggest, however, that the best reason for buying these is as an investment: you should recoup 10 times if you hoard them for 10 years, as they are likely to become collectors' items!
Star rating? Not a comparable product. Make up your own.
Zero-G vinyl sample discs £19.95 per pair (three pairs available, in a limited edition of 500 copies of each disc).
Time & Space, (Contact Details).
Under consideration here are two of a series of three regular-price CDs (£11) from Ninja Tune.
On the CD are breakbeats originally released on vinyl by the same label. Some of the beats from Volumes 1 and 2 have turned up supporting some well-known club stompers. What effect Volume 3, which was reviewed here a couple of months ago, will have on the dance market is anybody's guess.
Volume 1 opens with a slow, sparse, low yoyo of a groove, largely comprising a familiar 2-bar vinyl bass loop topped with a couple of lazy drum-loops and a car horn. Track 2 is busier, redolent of the JBs. Track 3 is a simple enough beat with an 808 kick dropped in. Track 4 is soulful, with organ, brass and a big loose drum sound. Track 5 is Soul II Soul-esque, 6 is unusual, and 7 leaves little to the imagination. Track 8 opens with a subtle scratch'n'sniff intro, then gets into a synchronised bass and tenor loop. Track 9 houses a collection of short snippets, from which the preceding tracks have been compiled. That probably represented the end of the original vinyl volume 1 (CD volume 1 = vinyl volumes 1 and 2).
Track 10 is an interesting off-beat jazzy number, with plenty of layers. Treated funky guitar and flute ornaments a busy and heavyish shuffle on track 11, which goes on a bit. Track 12 is from the 'Papa was a Rolling Stone/Shaft' school, and Track 13 features some fine funky drumming, before a hyper-busy bass comes in, after which there is no room left to manoeuvre. A different drum loops on uninterrupted through track 14, while 15 features cool sax and guitar, and 16 is more aggressive, with dead stops every eight bars. Track 17 starts well, with a nippy synthbell sequence, then the bass gets busy, the Syndrums get going, and the dish-pan snare comes in. Track 18 opens with sequenced hi-hats, and builds up; 19 is pretty odd and therefore worth a test drive. Track 20 catches you out when the kick comes in, 21 is environmentally sound, and 22 is safe skafunk house. End of part 1.
'Peace' opens a heavy swing beat with ambience, brass, and cheap synths on track 1 of Volume 2. This is followed by a 1-bar funk loop with brass stabs, Rhodes, wah-wah, chanting and percussion, and a flute solo. Next is a slow beat with didgeridoo. Track 4 is a pleasant beat never without a rather insistent raspy filter sweep, with '70s flutes, stabs, wahs, etc. on top. Track 5 is based around a 1-bar hip-hop loop which soon gets jazzy. Track 6 has a lovely beat, well exposed, high in fidelity; percussion plays variations on the theme. Track 7 is busy, full, and not much use.
Track 8 is well gated, with a hard-working drummer leaving as little room as possible for the rest of the band — sorry, I forgot — samples. Track 9 follows on from the previous in tone and tempo. The intro to track 10 sounds like me cutting reclaimed skirting boards with my circular saw. It soon becomes clear that the meat of the track is another too-dense-to-be-sampled piece.
Track 11 is a very fast, JB-style piece. Track 12 is weirdly frantic, and could find a home. Next, a big cheesy synth sweep leads into a very heavy groove headed by some very dirty stabs and iced with some Velo-Reso work. Nasty. Track 14 is the title track of the series. Track 15: Now That's What I Call Saxophone, well augmented by an unexpected wobble board sounding beat, some cool vibes, and guitar chops on the snare. Then comes a Jr. Walkerish guitar loop over clean drums. Track 17 has a nice high synth string threaded though it before it amusingly collapses under the weight of some heavy Q, only to regain its equilibrium. KC could be involved in track 18. Track 19 opens wide and the drums are far enough apart in tone to keep it that way — good sample choices. Track 20 is dense — pass; 21 features a surprising guitar lick over a slow beat. Track 22 has a nice intro fill, but the loop sounds awkward. Track 23 is a another dose of samples and snippets. Samplists go there first.
Many of the breaks and beats in these volumes are less developed than those on the Coldcut-driven Volume 3. Hence they are probably easier to assimilate and/or mutate. Plus points: they are cheap, and double up as music CDs.
Ninja Tunes, (Contact Details).
Review by Wilf Smarties
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