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electronic MUSICIAN

DISCRETE DRUMS

By Mike Levine | May 1, 2005

Discrete Percussion: the Eric Darken Collection from Discrete Drums features multitrack loops that mix conventional percussion instruments with improvised ones such as watering cans, computer keyboards, toilet seats, and briefcase latches.

When listening to the loops in Discrete Percussion: the Eric Darken Collection ($129), you quickly realize that percussionist Eric Darken is a master operator of the standard tools of his trade, and has an uncanny aptitude for turning everyday household objects into instruments. This two-disc collection seamlessly mixes reliable standbys such as congas, shakers, and tambourines, with the sounds of toilet seats, briefcase latches, computer-keyboard spacebars, egg cartons, watering cans, stick-bag zippers, and other improvised percussion.

A lot of creativity went into the construction of these loops, and they offer a fresh twist on the standard percussion repertoire. But don't get the wrong idea — this is no collection of bonks and boinks; these loops are very musical and will fit nicely into a wide range of pop styles. And, if you're producing music that's more “out there,” you'll find fodder here, as well.

Darken Your Doorway

The collection consists of 40 multitrack loops in 16-bit, 44.1 kHz WAV format. Each loop has a separate main section and an ending hit.

The loops are also split into separate tracks (some stereo, most mono) for their various percussion elements, and each loop has a stereo drum machine track that accompanies it, programmed by Discrete's Rick DiFonzo. Taking all 40 loops into account, there are a total of 890 tracks on the discs, featuring 102 different percussion instruments.

You also get a series of full mixes and alternates for each loop, including a dry full mix, a full mix with effects (generally reverbs and delays), and dry and wet full mixes without the drum machine.

The multitrack nature of Discrete Percussion: the Eric Darken Collection makes it possible to use as many or as few of the instruments from a given loop as you'd like. You could have a single percussion element, a series of elements, or the full complement — depending on your needs.

You also get individual hits of all the instruments (except for the drum machine), making it possible to, for example, load a sampler with bizarre percussion or augment the loops with a hit here or there. The sound quality is excellent.

Getting Loopy

Each loop is offered at a single tempo, and the collection features loops ranging from 69 to 175 bpm. The loops are composed of standard percussion instruments interspersed with nonstandard ones. For example, on a loop called The Cruise, the instruments include talking drum, shakers, cowbell, and a paint can. One of the more bizarre and amusing loops in the collection is called Throne Room, which features four different tracks of Darken drumming on various parts of a toilet, along with a spring-drum track that provides flushlike sounds (see Web Clip 1).

Overall, the loops offer an eclectic mix of percussion feels — there are Latin, African, and even Native American influences woven in and around pop/funk drum machine grooves. When you do include the drum machine track, the loops are full enough to support a song without additional drum tracks (see Web Clip 2).

Although the full mixes are fairly intense, you can include fewer tracks to achieve more subtle textures. I pulled out a single track of the loop called Carpal Tunnel, featuring Darken drumming on a computer keyboard, and used it to supplement some percussion from another collection on a song I was arranging. Mixing in Darken's loop brought new life to the track.

The one shortcoming of this collection, as seems to be the case with Discrete Drums products in general, is the lack of documentation. It's particularly noticeable here; there is no manual — only a list of loops on the back of the box. You do get an audio disc featuring the loops, which allows you to audition them. There are no track numbers listed on the box, however, which makes it difficult to keep track of which loop you're listening to. A numbered track list would add greatly to the audio disc's usefulness.

Percussive Thoughts

Documentation issues aside, this is a solid collection. Darken's chops and creativity, combined with Discrete's production values and additional programming, make it fun to listen to and very musical. If you're looking for bread-and-butter percussion loops, you may want to look elsewhere, but if you want different-sounding textures that will fit nicely into most pop-music styles, go to the company's Web site and give this collection a listen.


Overall Rating (1 through 5): 4
Discrete Drums
www.discretedrums.com

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