Overall EM Rating (1 through 5):3
Brush-kit samples have been included in sound sets for quite sometime, but they are considerably more difficult to program than standarddrum kits. The variety of articulations you can achieve with brushes ona snare can be bewildering, especially for nondrummers.
To address this problem, Big Fish Audio has released BrushArtistry ($99.95), a two-disc set of audio tracks and 16-bit, 44.1kHz Acidized WAV files. The collection features the work of PatCampbell, who has worked with Willie Nelson, Tom Waits, OranjSymphonette, and the Tin Hat Trio.
Brush Artistry's eclectic mix targets swing, bossa nova,country, and backbeat-oriented pop. Campbell provides a useful varietyof individual hits: an assortment of brushed-snare articulations suchas taps, drops, and swishes; snare hits sampled at three dynamiclevels; sticked and brushed toms and cymbals; and kicks. However, thecollection's main focus is on grooves, and most of the groove activityis on the snare drum. Campbell replicates his performances at a varietyof tempos, but you can also use the Acidized WAV files to fine-tunetempos with a minimum of time-based artifacts.
You'll Swing for This
Brush Artistry is weighted in favor of swing styles, andCampbell swings hard. Each folder at a given tempo contains a singleGroove file, with two-beat and four-beat variations that often have thesame snare pattern. Consequently, there is little in the way ofvariation.
In the swing folders, the orchestration is restricted to kick,snare, and an occasional hi-hat; I would have appreciated more variedcymbal work within the grooves themselves, but the Fill sections— which usually include an intro, a mid-song fill, and an ending— provide additional cymbal and snare color. The swing files arerather conservative and seem more suited for pop, folk, and rockabillyapplications than jazz. For example, the collection could really usesome contemporary bebop stylings, where the kick plays something otherthan downbeats and the snare provides off-beat hits and accents. Butmost of the variety in this collection comes from fills, and the singleviable fill in each folder isn't enough to create a convincing beboprhythm bed.
The Jazz Waltz files offer a bit more variety in the snare patterns,but the kicks rarely hit on anything but one, two, or three. Toalleviate the repetitiousness of the kick patterns, you can use thesnare-only loops in conjunction with the individual hits or another setof drum samples. That's a nice feature, but with only one snare loopper group, you have few options. The addition of a few snare-only fillswould be nice.
The Ballad files have a nice laid-back, lazy feel. However, theeighth notes are too even to be called swing, which is how theirfolders describe them.
Brush Around the World
The four Bossa Nova folders fare much better, with delicate brushstrokes, crisp side-stick work, and foot-closed hi-hats. The sidesticks have a rather long reverb tail, whereas the rest of the kitpossesses minimal room ambience; given the difficulty of processingindividual instruments in a stereo file, the reverb is a nicetouch.
The snare-only tracks in many of the Country folders could be usefulfor enhancing guitar and mandolin rhythm parts. The 140 and 160 bpmfiles in the Country 4 folder, for example, would be great for up-tempobluegrass and country-rock tracks.
The 6/8 offerings have a nice swing to them, including one thatresembles the groove of Steely Dan's “Babylon Sisters.”Unfortunately, the 6/8 performances provide only a single full-kit loopand one snare-only loop for each tempo. The same is true for the bulkof the Backbeat folder and all of the Groove files. A fill or two foreach of these would be a welcome addition.
My main gripe with Brush Artistry is that it spreads itselftoo thin. By attempting to shoehorn so many styles into a single CD, itgives short shrift to most of them. Multiple CDs holding morevariations per style or a single stylistically focused CD would havehelped mitigate this collection's tendency toward repetition.
Still, given the scads of “slamming,” highly processeddrum-loop sample CDs, Brush Artistry is a welcome relief.Campbell maintains a strong pocket throughout, offering subtlety anddrama as needed. As befits Campbell's skills, the recording is highquality and captures the nuances of his brushwork in great detail. Ihope Big Fish Audio is encouraged to release more specialized andfocused projects in this vein.