Big Fish Audio Big Beat Megaton Bomb Vol. 4 Review

Big Beat: Megaton Bomb, vol. 4 The ultratrendy, flavor-of-the-month elite declares the big beat genre dead. Its leading acts, such as the Chemical Brothers

Big Beat: Megaton Bomb, vol. 4The ultratrendy, flavor-of-the-month elite declares the big beat genre dead. Its leading acts, such as the Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim, have progressed away from the style. This raises the question of whether a collection of big beats is still relevant. Big beat music mostly derives from samples lifted from predisco funk records and 1980s hip-hop, so if you are interested in producing music based on breakbeats and high-energy, funk-inspired grooves, the answer is yes.

It's the BombBig Fish Audio's Big Beat: Megaton Bomb, vol. 4 ($99.95), provides two audio CDs filled to the brim with 148 minutes of delicious drum loops and hits, sleazy synths, big basses, and percolating percussion. Most of the samples are arranged in construction kits, but the discs also include a generous helping of individual drum and percussion loops, bass tones, hits, arpeggios, and atmospheres. In all, you get 50 construction kits composed of 4 to 12 elements; 217 drum and percussion loops in tempos ranging from 85 to 152.5 bpm; 84 individual hits; 37 atmospheric and ambient samples; and an assortment of bass tones, arpeggios, and female vocals.

The construction kits cover the gamut of big beat styles, including high-octane, distorted synth-driven riff rock a la Chemical Brothers and Prodigy; cheeky Fatboy Slim - style grooves with 1960s guitars; R&B horns, pianos, and organs; and robotic-sounding 1980s electro hip-hop with vocoders and mechanical drum machine beats. Most trend-conscious producers will probably avoid these prefab configurations, but there are still plenty of tasty loops lurking within the kits that make suitable foundations for creating new tunes.

Block Rockin' BeatsThe best sounds on the Big Beat collection are the drum loops and hits, which sound as though a live drummer with an innate sense of funk played them. Unfortunately, many of these sounds are heavily processed with reverb and compression to make them sound as huge as possible. This is fine if you're going after a bona fide late-1990s big beat sound, but it can be frustrating if you prefer to individualize loops with your own processing.

The synth sounds consist of squealing, squelchy, sawtooth lead tones; fat, round basses; and simple analog string pads that were probably sampled from pre-MIDI instruments such as the Roland TB-303 Bass Line, Minimoog, and Roland Juno-60. The ambient and atmospheric samples on disc 2 are some of the most creative and inspirational sounds in the entire collection, and you can apply them to a variety of styles because they are not beat-based. By contrast, the female vocal samples consist of cheesy, pornographic-sounding groans and moans, and are the type of throwaway, cliched material that would sound more appropriate on a big hair collection than on a big beat collection.

Big beat may be yesterday's news, but just as the progenitors of this style created something new out of loops plundered from the past, this sample collection could serve as an inspiring springboard to the next big thing. If you like your music funky, gritty, and tough, you can sink your teeth into plenty of raw material here.