TheDiscrete Drums Series Two collection gives you a largeassortment of song-length, multitrack drum performances covering arange of styles.
Manygroove-based sample CD-ROMs use a “construction kit”approach in which different instrument parts from a song or groove areprovided as separate elements. Users can then choose to use all or someof these parts, depending on the needs of their song. Discrete DrumsSeries Two ($549) takes the construction-kit concept and appliesit to drums and percussion.
The main feature of the Series Two collection is itshigh-quality, song-length drum performances, recorded in a professionalstudio with the kit elements separated on individual tracks (kick,snare, toms, overheads, and percussion). Having multiple tracks givesyou much more flexibility for processing and mixing drum elements thanyou'd get from ordinary stereo drum loops. The set includes room tracksfor each song section, which provide nice-sounding sampledambience.
Series Two comes with 18 discs. Of those, 11 are CD-ROMscontaining multitrack performances, and 1 is a CD-ROM of individualdrum hits, all in 24-bit, 44.1 kHz WAV format. There are four CD-ROMscontaining 16-bit stereo versions of the multitrack performances inAcidized WAV format. (These four stereo discs are also availableseparately as the Series Two 16-Bit Stereo Loop WAV Volumes for$229.) Finally, you get two audio CDs containing demo versions of thegrooves, which are useful for auditioning the samples.
Because the CD-ROMs provide files in WAV format, they're easy toimport into your digital audio sequencer, sampler, or even a personaldigital studio. (Most personal digital studios support 24-bit, 44.1 kHzfiles). I used MOTU's Digital Performer 4.01 during my testing ofSeries Two.
Discrete Drum's previous collection, Series One (reviewedin the March 2002 issue of EM), focused on rock andalternative rock. Series Two offers a wider range of styles,including rock, pop, funk, hip-hop, and modern country. Of course, it'sdifficult to cover all of the bases to everyone's satisfaction —even with a collection this size — but the additional percussionloops help create more supple and varied grooves. Furthermore, theability to add or remove individual drum tracks within a performanceexpands your opportunities for dynamic and textural variation.
The recording quality and instrument sounds are uniformly excellent.There were a few instances in which a particular drum sound wasn'tperfectly matched to the style at hand, but overall, I was quiteimpressed.
The performances range from tight, in-the-pocket, up-tempo funkgrooves to lazy, loose, half-time rock offerings. Among my favoritesare the laid-back 6/8 of “Brick in the Waltz,” with itsbrushed toms and hand-drum percussion; the swampy, percolating feel of“Bubble;” and the equally swampy half-time grooves of“Lava” and “Slam It.” The very tasty “ILove Loosely” captures that quirky Akai MPC60 swing favored insome hip-hop styles, albeit with real drums. Oddly enough, thepercussion loop on “Swing Theory” seems to swing harderthan some of the snare tracks, and yet they meld beautifully; it's allvery human, and I like it.
The manual gives you general setup instructions, tips, andfile-naming conventions, as well as song descriptions. Although theycontain accurate tempo information, these descriptions are oftensketchy. For example, the description for “Light It Up”simply says, “The coolest vibe ever. Could be jazz, pop,R&B.” Listening to the demo versions on the audio CDs isoften the best way to find out what you need to know about a particularperformance.
The demo songs are broken down into example tracks with percussion(when it's present) followed by soloed percussion loops and each song'sindividual drum patterns. The cymbals on the demo tracks are mixed toohigh, but once I imported the actual tracks from the multitrack discsinto my sequence, I was easily able to adjust the level of theoverheads to my satisfaction.
Putting songs together with multiple tracks requires moreforethought than compiling stereo loops, and Series Two requiresa bit more work than Series One due to the presence ofmultitrack percussion. Nonetheless, the percussion sounds and feelsgreat.
Overall, the grooves and sounds in Discrete Drums Series Twoare inspiring and filled with attitude. The combination of themultitrack format and the individual drum samples allows for plenty ofcreative flexibility. If you're serious about putting together drumtracks that maintain the human element, I highly recommend thiscollection.