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electronic MUSICIAN


By Mike Levine | April 1, 2005


EarthBeat is a collection of great-sounding multitrack drum-and-percussion loops with a world-music flavor.

Every time you look around, it seems as though another drum-loop library has been released. The musical styles of these products vary, but there's one thing that most have in common: they offer only stereo loops. Although stereo loops are convenient for quickly putting drum parts together, they limit you to using a mix that was made independent of your song or project. Discrete Drums provides an alternative by offering drum libraries in multitrack format, which allow you to create your own mix of the individual drum and percussion tracks. Stereo loops are provided as well.

The recently released EarthBeat ($229) follows in the footsteps of Discrete Drums, series 1 and 2. But unlike those collections, which concentrate on pop and rock, EarthBeat's content is focused on world-music styles.

Under the Hood

EarthBeat comes on eight discs in a utilitarian wooden box. It is composed of 16 songs, each offering several verse, chorus, bridge, and breakdown variations, and a number of fills.

The multitrack parts come in the form of 24-bit WAV files and are contained on five CD-R discs. For each song, you get separate files for the various parts (verse, chorus, fill, and so on), and each of these is broken up into kick, snare, toms, overhead, and room tracks. The kick and snare are mono, and the others are stereo. The percussion tracks are offered individually (most stereo, some mono) and mixed together.

Another 24-bit CD-R contains individual samples of all the drum and percussion instruments, offering both “dry” and “room” versions of the various hits, giving you the raw materials to supplement the loop performances and to set up some impressive sampled kits. Yet another disc offers the stereo versions of the loops in 16-bit WAV-file format, with the drum and percussion loops offered both separately and mixed together.

Manual Override

An audio CD for auditioning the different songs and parts before loading them into your sequence or sampler is also provided. On the audio CD I received for the review, however, the first two songs (“Box of Rocks” and “EarthBeat”) were reversed on the listing on the back of the CD. And for some of the songs, the audio CD tracks didn't play the parts in the same order as the listings provided on the disc jackets. Discrete Drums has posted the accurate track information for the audio CD on its Web site.

I recommend using the audio CD for getting an overview of a particular song. You are better off listening to the specific song segments in the file-browser window of your sequencer (assuming that it has an audition feature) before importing them into your project.

Earthy Kit

The heart of EarthBeat is its stellar grooves. The songs have a range of solid drum grooves with cool, multilayered percussion on top. The percussion, played in African and Latin styles, adds the world-music feel to the performances. It doesn't seem as though Discrete Drums was trying to re-create world styles beat for beat, but rather to use the percussion (played by Eric Darken) to lend a world-music flavor to the rock, funk, and pop grooves (laid down by drummer Greg Morrow). The content is extremely well recorded, and the drums have a big, clean, beefy sound. The EarthBeat tracks are among the best-sounding loops I've heard.

Plenty of room sound has been mixed in on the 16-bit stereo WAV versions of the songs. If you're using the 24-bit multitrack loops, you have control over the mix and can tailor it as you wish. To maximize the loops' organic sound, the leakage between tracks has not been gated or edited out. Therefore, depending on your mixing style, you may want to apply gating to some of the tracks. Overall, the quality of the drum and percussion recordings is so good that mixing them is a breeze.

Because each song segment has five tracks of drums and several percussion tracks, you'll be loading a lot of files and will need to be well organized to avoid confusion. If you use Ableton Live, Discrete Drums has provided Live Sets, which load up an entire song's content at once.

They Got the Beat

You get a lot for your money with the EarthBeat collection, including well-recorded and well-played loops that feature huge-sounding drums and multiple layers of percussion. You also get the flexibility of having multitrack and stereo files. More detailed documentation would be helpful, but overall this is another winner for Discrete Drums.

Overall Rating (1 through 5): 4

Discrete Drums

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