e-Lab Foundation 2.0

Foundation is a “construction kit” loop library, cleverly disguised as an eight-track REX file playback instrument plug-in (VST/RTAS for XP, VST/AU/ RTAS for OS X).
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Like Obsession (reviewed 9/04), the first member of e-Lab’s Ignition series, its sound library hits hard on hip-hop. But it augments drum loops with melodic elements: bass, electric piano, chords, flute, scratches, etc.

You can load “multi-track” presets (these are like sample library construction kits), separate breaks/beats tracks, and even mix ’n’ match tracks from different presets. Even better, for individual tracks you can load any REX2 file or other Ignition series library files.

Files are organized according to tempo (90, 100, and 110 BPM), but that’s just to give you an idea of the intent — the quality of the “rexification” is outstanding. Tracks can stretch over a very wide range; for example, I tested a variety of files from 60 to 180 BPM. They not only were just useable, but sounded fine.

Each track also has a full complement of processors: Multi-mode resonant filter, drive, reverse (which reverses individual slices, not the whole file, to play back sounds in the correct order), VCA with envelope, and mod matrix. Mod sources are LFO, a separate modulation envelope, velocity, and mod wheel; the twelve destinations include the usual suspects (filter cutoff, etc.) but also envelope attack, decay, and release parameters. Tweakologists, rejoice.

Style-wise, this rude boy is loaded with lo-fi, crackly vinyl effects, noisy stuff, and big-ass beats . . . it’s not for purists, unless of course you’re a purist about impurity.

Playback is flexible: For each track, loop in sync with the host, trigger loops with MIDI notes, or import a MIDI file (included) into your host to trigger individual loop slices — yes, edit the MIDI data to warp the preset beyond recognition. And, save edited presets/tracks.

Just before this review was completed, e-Lab updated the engine behind their Ignition series to Version 2.0. One of the coolest features is that it adds even more comprehensive MIDI controller functions. You can apply MIDI continuous controller messages to all knobs and sliders, as well as the Solo, Mute, and Reverse buttons — great for playing Foundation with more of a “live” feel. My only remaining wish list item is the ability to choose between “additive” and “radio button” solo buttons. Currently, soloing any track automatically mutes other tracks; you can’t enable multiple solo buttons at the same time.

The file selector has also had a makeover. It now treats library files and REX2 files equally, rather than subjecting REX2 files to a separate “import” function. This speeds up file selection, which makes Ignition series instruments even more of an “open” system. Furthermore, clicking on the browser’s Library button provides an immediate shortcut back to the Foundation library — helpful if you’re wandering around your drives looking for additional loops. Another cool feature: When selecting an individual REX2 file, the browser shows its tempo, number of slices, and channels (stereo/mono).

True to its name, this instrument provides a solid foundation for your hip-hop masterpiece. But what makes Foundation rock is the open-ended REX format for great stretching, and extreme editability. (Note: e-Lab says some PC hosts implement song pointer improperly, leading to inconsistent timing; download the demo to check for compatibility with your host. I encountered no problems with Sonar 4 and Cubase SX3.)