Big Fish Audio's Phat Beats from the Boxis an outstanding collection of human-beatbox sounds spanning a numberof styles and tempos.
Four well-known New York City artists — Kenny Mohammed, theHuman Orchestra; Omri Anghel, the Human Beat; Baba; and Hesher —provide the vocal percussion collected on the 2-CD Phat Beats fromthe Box (audio and data, $99.95). Although Mohammed is the bestknown of the vocalists outside of New York (having appeared on TheTonight Show with Jay Leno and MTV), Baba and Omri Anghelcontribute the majority of the tracks, and in that sense are the mainforce here. However, all four artists contribute top-notchperformances.
Hand to Mouth
All of the sounds in the collection are created using variouscombinations of the voice, lips, tongue, nose, throat, and chest.Sometimes the performer cups his hands around the mic and his mouth toget a little extra bass using the proximity effect. A bit of studiotrickery is also used on occasion, such as distortion and pitchprocessing for bass and horn lines, which helps give certain sounds alarger-than-life character. Some tracks even include post-productionstereo processing and echo, often to good effect.
The audio disc offers 48 tracks divided into 16 sections, each inits own style and tempo. The data disc adds two more style/tempofolders; for the most part it includes the same material as disc onebut as 24-bit, 44.1 kHz Acidized WAV files. An additional data folder,Single Sounds Bank, contains all of the individual samples from theaudio disc — bass drums, snares, cymbal hits, hihats, effects,percussion, and “raps n scratches.” This is the place tobegin if you want to create multilayered setups in your sampler.
Each style/tempo section on the audio disc begins with ademonstration track showing how the sounds can be used together. Nextcome the individual elements themselves, presented as a track of loopsfollowed by a track of samples. An audible click is inserted betweeneach loop phrase to help delineate the loop's end. The click is anespecially handy reference for loops that include large silences.
The collection's tracks range in tempo from 75 to 184 bpm;compelling rhythms are provided at each tempo. Some have a naturalswing that is irresistible.
My favorite elements include the many synthlike basses and leadlines (which often include realistic-sounding filter effects) andMohammed's vinyl-scratching sounds and bass effects. Many of thepercussion sounds have an uncanny resemblance to the real thing. Inthat respect, Anghel's tom fills in All Day are exceptional.
My only gripes about the collection are minor. First, the namingconvention for the WAV files is generic. For instance, each Samplesfolder lists the bass drums numerically: bd01.wav, bd02.wav, and soforth. If you plan to mix and match instruments from different styles,start with the Single Sounds Bank or you may end up with two differentfiles with the same name. On a similar note, I wish the booklet offereda list of the sounds used in each style on the audio disc, so I don'thave to pop the data disc into my computer and poke through the filesthere.
The sounds I found most difficult to work with were the spoken-wordexclamations. If you're looking for shouts of “New YorkCity,” “work it,” or “do you want it, unhunh,” you've come to the right place. I found myself slicing outand grafting consonants from some of the words onto the beginnings ofloops to add emphasis, and I was satisfied with the results.
Can't Touch This
If this collection sounds like it's meant merely for use in rap orhip-hop projects, guess again. The organic-sounding beats and one-shotslend themselves to any style of music, and I found it easy — andexciting — to surround the vocal-based sounds with real andsynthesized percussion.
Phat Beats from the Box is a thoroughly enjoyable collectionthat offers a nice range of styles and tempos. So enjoyable, in fact,that I sometimes play the audio disc in the background while I'mworking at the computer. When was the last time you did that with asample library? I would recommend Phat Beats from the Box toanyone interested in unique sounds, regardless of genre.