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Review: Sample Magic Tech-Funk Breaks

May 14, 2009
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Admittedly, I sometimes become very disillusioned with sample collections. These days every sample-based software instrument out there is packed with 5 to 40 GB of usually very high-quality and diverse sounds, and between the editing capabilities of modern DAWs and the high-level sound of modern digital instruments, a lot of sample collections we see at Remix just seem redundant.

Of course, some that feeling stems from listening to a lot of multi-gigabyte collections of drivel. Increased competition in the soundware market has made it harder to get away with putting out crap, but even still, we''ll listen to some generic-sounding, hyperbolic title such as Ultimate Big Room House Anthems or Ultra Essential Trance Beats and then wonder if the producers are even paying attention to modern music.

Fortunately, that''s never been a concern for Sample Magic, the young British soundware company that has consistently delivered spot-on collections of eminently usable material such as Electro-House and Minimal & Tech House. After only a few seconds of listening to the audio demo for Tech-Funk Breaks, it''s clear that as with all the Sample Magic collections, the producers are inspired by what''s currently moving asses in clubs and downloads on the music sites.

While the name Tech-Funk Breaks may spark up some nostalgia for glory days of the ''90s raver elite such as The Chemical Brothers, Prodigy, Hybird, Uberzone and others, this kind of music doesn''t die, it transmogrifies. Seemingly, there will always be a need for the kind of gut-wrenching analog basslines, distorted synth and organ lines, chunky/funky drums and tweaked out sound effects -- especially when they''re done this well -- whether it''s for throwback big beat and acid house or for some of the ever-splintering sub-genres of todays dubstep, breakbeat and electro tracks.

Tech-Funk Breaks includes an hour-long audio CD for you to audition all of the bass, synth, drum, percussion and multitrack loops; hyper-edited vox mash-ups; single drum hits and one-off scratches and effects. The 2.3 GB of stuff on the DVD includes more than 2,400 files, including 845 24-bit WAVs; Apple Loops, REX2 loops and Stylus RMX loops (698 each); and patches for EXS24, Kontakt, Halion and NN-XT samplers.

Sample Magic never follows the construction kit protocol of sample collections, which I think is beneficial. It encourages heightened creativity on the part of the user, and I imagine it also helps the producers stay inspired and on their toes while cranking out the material to not have to squeeze off countless formulaic mini-tracks that the user will piece back together.

However, the loops are organized by tempo (125, 127, 130, 135 and 140 bpm) and when applicable are key-labled, so some of the samples intentionally and/or naturally go together. The selection I''ve chosen for you to download here (with permission from Sample Magic) exemplify those natural fits, but they only represent a tiny sliver of the overall sonic variety on offer.

In stark contrast to the majority of collections out there, most of the samples in Tech-Funk Breaks stand a realistic chance anchoring, distinguishing or supporting one of your tracks, rather than being ignored or deleted from your hard drive.

The 133 bass loops drip with real analog nuances and sound almost alive exploding out of a good set of monitors. A folder holds 119 synth loops that range from digital 8-bit, low-budget circuit-bent meanderings and bouncy, highly resonant liquid-sounding tones to stinging buzzsaw analog arpeggios, staccato chordal stabs and much more.

Beat freaks are well covered with 129 single drum hits and 151 drum loops that swing like the gates of electro heaven. The producers display a knack for thick slabs of meaty snares, thudding kicks and aurally inventive “tops” and ear candy that create additional movement through tasteful effects modulation. To complement the drum loops, you get a selection of 149 “Tops and Perc” mostly bass-free rhythm loops.

Many of the 95 multitracked “Combi” loops are almost like fully-produced mini-tracks, some of which sound like they contain samples from commercially released music. While good for gathering inspiration or pulling as-is for some minor usage, these loops are the least likely of the bunch to land inside an original production.

Tech-Funk Breaks doesn''t mislead you with it''s title. While it''s produced with a clear technical mastery on a choice selection of gear (see the list below), the loops stank of a funky dancefloor sensibility that can only come from the soul of its human creators. With its genre-based sample collections, Sample Magic not only wants to represent the fresh sound of today, but also to give you something to chew on when exploring the new sound of tomorrow.

£58.67 plus shipping for the physical box from SampleMagic.com

$65.95 US for the WAV, REX or Apple Loop digital downloads from Sounds/To/Sample

$78.99 US for the full download from Sounds/To/Sample

At a glance: Drum, synth and vocal loops and hits for divergent genres of breakbeat, electro, dubstep and more. Audio CD and 2.3 GB DVD with 24-bit/44.1 kHz WAV, REX and Apple Loop audio files, along with EXS24, Kontakt, Halion and NN-XT patches.

EQUIPMENT LIST FOR TECH-FUNK BREAKS:

Computers, recording hardware:,
Apple Power Mac G5, MacBook Pro
Lynx Two soundcard

Synthesizers:
Harmann Neuron
Korg ESX1, MS20
Oberheim Matrix 1000
Roland SH009
Yamaha RS7000

Effects and dynamics processors:
Alessis 3630 compressor
dbx 165
Empirical Labs distressor
Electro Harmonix 2880
Eventide Harmonizer
Focal Twin 6BE
TL Audio EQ1
SPL Gain Station

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