Time & Space Zero-G Datafile 1 & 2 Sample CDs
Elsewhere in this issue, you'll find an article which attempts to remove some of the mystery surrounding the production of dance tracks and remixing. During the course of the article, mention was made of sampling CDs, and here we have a couple for review. Time & Space's Zero-G Datafiles One and Two, produced by Ed Stratton of Man Machine, contain a good proportion of the fruits of his sampling career, digitally edited, level matched, and nicely presented. Most prominent amongst the samples are a vast selection of breakbeats and rhythm patterns. These patterns can be sampled and looped, or triggered via a sequencer to provide an instant rhythm track — but there is much more on these disks, such as bass sounds, vocal hits, speech and individual percussion sounds. Amongst the vocal hits and speech are hip, dance-type exclamations ("I cain't stop" and "Groove!", for example) and actual sung phrases, of the "ooooeeee" and "Ay-hey-yeah" variety. There are quite a number of film, TV and cartoon extracts as well, most so tantalisingly short that it's all but impossible to identify where they came from. It doesn't half make you feel smug when you do identify one, though.
Both Datafile One and Datafile Two contain over 1000 samples each, arranged in 99 CD tracks. This makes getting around relatively easy, despite the sheer volume of material on a single disk. Luckily, the disks come with booklets which list all the tracks, although with so many items it's not surprising that there is repetition and the occasional short cut: for example, track 78 on Datafile Two is described as 'Industrial percussion/fx 1-9'; tracks 79 and 80 cover 'Industrial percussion/fx 10-31'. There is a similar lack of description amongst the seemingly endless House Snares, Synth House Basses and so on. Most of the vocal hits, however, are fairly accurately described by the phrases that are sung or shouted ("Take me to the top" and "Waaaow" etc). The huge number of breakbeats are sparsely described as well; you can only discover what some of these items are about by listening, and listening to over 1000 samples is best done in small doses. You have been warned.
To be honest, there isn't much to choose between the two discs, since they both offer pretty much the same type of material, though with a different selection on each disc, obviously. Differences that do spring to mind are the Roland TR909 and TR727 samples on Datafile One, as well as assorted "house" percussion sounds and house sub-basses. Datafile Two offers Kraftwerk-type percussion, human beatbox, Roland R8 drum machine and Alesis HR16B samples, and some longer, atmospheric samples — which provide some very interesting, spacey textures similar to those found on the Korg M1 and Roland D50 synths. Both offer a good range of breakbeats, bass sounds, sci-fi zaps and burps, industrial noise, vocal hits and speech.
The sound quality is excellent, especially on the drum machine samples and first generation material; the snatches of film and vinyl records contain the occasional scratch or slight distortion, but this is to be expected. Other than that, the constant level means sampling is easy, looping — where possible — is easy, and a final result can be quickly achieved.
There is an argument against CDs of this sort that says you'll be using the same samples as everybody else who has the CD. This is partially true, but there is so much material on these two disks that the chances of anyone recognising a small snippet or two are very remote, especially if you place any samples you use in a novel context. So for about 50 quid each, you get the benefit of years of hard work and 1000+ quality samples, all with no headaches.
Using the samples provided on Time & Space's CDs won't guarantee you a hit record or a groovy track if you haven't got any ideas of your own. Even with something as apparently on-a-plate as these CDs, there's still no substitute for a little bit (or a lot!) of talent and creativity. However, Zero-G Datafile One and Two can provide a credible basis for a contemporary-sounding track if you know what you want to do.
Zero G Datafile One and Two £49.95 each including VAT and p&p, or £89 for both.
Review by Derek Johnson
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