Big Fish Audio''s Roots of South America, vol. 2, captures authentic Latin American grooves that were tweaked during performance for contemporary music.
Big Fish Audio's Roots of South America, vol. 2 ($99.95), is a generous assortment of traditional Latin American rhythms that are adapted to meld with modern styles of pop and jazz. The collection doesn't restrict its scope strictly to South America, unless you consider South America to be any Latin country south of the continental United States. Grooves from Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, and of course Brazil coexist with Cuban and Mexican loops. According to Big Fish, the producers recorded the tracks in the context of jazz, funk, hip-hop, and other styles, so the grooves can impart an authentic vibe to a wider variety of contemporary projects without resorting to digital audio surgery to force the feel.
The single DVD-ROM offers roughly 2 GB of content in Apple Loops, WAV, and REX2 formats. I put the Apple Loops through their paces in Apple Logic 7.1, used the REX2 files in MOTU Digital Performer 4.61 and Propellerhead Reason 2.5, and auditioned the REX2 and WAV files in Cakewalk Sonar 5.2.
If you want to sequence the grooves from scratch, the Apple Loops and WAV folders include a subfolder of 29 different instruments, each with a multitude of hits and articulations. For example, the Udu folder has separate subfolders for low, mid, and high instruments comprising 61 samples total. Abbreviated text in the file names provides a key to the articulation of the instrument sample. For example, MF indicates mezzo forte, OT represents an open tone, LH delineates a left-hand hit, and GN means a ghosted note. The otherwise skimpy documentation provides a full list of the terms.
The focus of the library is the grooves, which are presented in 26 construction kits consisting of repeating patterns of up to 16 bars. Each kit represents a distinct regional style. The collection offers loops of the constituent instruments, letting you change dynamics by altering the rhythmic density of the performance. The title of each groove's folder reflects its tempo and time signature (when deviating from 4/4). Given a choice, I would prefer a song-form approach with more bars of music. But most of the loops here worked very well within the more repetitive confines of pop.
Unless you are familiar with the styles, you'll need to do some listening to find what's right for your music. Fortunately, each folder has a full-mix groove you can audition or simply drop into a track and loop. Some loop sets have additional tracks not found in the main mix to add variety. Auditioning any single element reveals the human origin of the performances: beats deliberately drag and then catch up. In the context of the full percussion section, it all makes perfect rhythmic sense, as the elements push and pull against each other, swinging subtly sometimes, or creating an edgy, propulsive feel at other times (see Web Clip 1).
Down in the Grooveyard
The REX2 versions are easily the most adaptable of the format, offering the widest range of tempo scaling along with the ability to easily change dynamics and feel in detailed, by-the-slice fashion. In addition to the aforementioned hosts, I successfully imported the REX2 files into Native Instruments Intakt 1.03 and Sonar 5's RXP REX-File player. Tracks looped smoothly without any rhythmic hiccups.
The overall character of the percussion is intimate and detailed. Despite the manufacturer's claimed attempts to avoid ambience, the recording is far from sterile or anechoic; at times you can hear the bleed-through of other instruments, and all of the grooves are imbued with a sweet, subtle ambience.
Singling out any groove as a favorite would be futile and would be a disservice to the diversity of this collection. The loops could easily find homes in projects ranging from Latin pop or rock to jazz and Latin-inflected fusion compositions. More documentation, particularly notes describing the styles and their origins, would be useful. I'd also appreciate information on the various instruments and their role in a particular groove; that could be of immense help if you wanted to build your own grooves from the individual instruments. Longer tracks allowing more development would be great too, but at such a reasonable price, it's hard to quibble. Roots of South America, vol. 2, sounds terrific and grooves hard. I recommend it highly.
Value (1 through 5): 4
Big Fish Audio