Even with all the drum and percussion loops available, I could pick out EastWest Percussive Adventures 2 (Mac/Win, $399.95) if I were blindfolded. This virtual instrument is a sequel to the original Percussive Adventures, a highly regarded sample disc that's available in various sampler formats and as an audio CD (see the September 2000 issue of EM). Powered by a customized version of Native Instruments Intakt, 3 GB of sampled rhythm beds take advantage of its formidable loop-slicing and processing capabilities.
EastWest Percussive Adventures 2 pairs 3 GB of creative rhythm-bed loops with a host of features for customizing sounds.
I tested Percussive Adventures 2 using a dual-processor Power Mac G4/1.42 GHz with Mac OS X 10.3.5 and 2 MB RAM running MOTU Digital Performer 4.1.2, Steinberg Cubase SX 2.2, and the CoreAudio standalone instrument. Percussive Adventures 2 supports VST, DirectX, RTAS, and Audio Units plug-in formats. The standalone version provides drivers for MME, DirectSound, ASIO, Sound Manager, and CoreAudio.
The Intakt engine has three playback modes: Sampler, which maps a sound file across a selected note range; Beat Machine, a beat-slice playback device; and Time Machine, which offers automatic time compression and expansion (for a full description of Intakt, see the October 2004 issue of EM). Loading most Instruments in Percussive Adventures 2 distributes examples of all three modes across the keyboard, providing instructive springboards for creating your own loops. Notable exceptions include Ambi Ants, which is a map of eerie electronic pads; and Big Hits, which features individual percussion hits for creating rhythm tracks from scratch.
Slices of Life
Although the full version of Intakt costs $170 less, Percussive Adventures 2 provides roughly three times as much content. (For $129.95, an LE version includes a reduced sound set.) However, this is not your garden-variety collection of drum loops. All 80 Instruments are painstakingly recorded and programmed. The producers, Kurt Wortman and Tony Humecke, characterize the beds as “evolving.”
Each Instrument typically starts with a full mix assigned to the note C1. It usually begins with a simple percussion pattern that progresses in intensity and complexity over eight or more bars, overlaying multiple percussion instruments, drones, plucked instruments and harmonics, and pads, sometimes interspersed with a drum kit. Notes above C1 play segments of the full mix or individual overdubs that are mapped to successive keys, so you can reorder the way in which a groove develops. Higher notes play looped or beat-sliced elements of the full groove, individual hits, and processed variations.
Although the full mix might suggest one musical direction, most Instruments supply plenty of material for you to take a different tack. You can recombine loops in a different order, even from different Instruments, and regulate the relative volume between loop elements by varying each loop's Note-On Velocity. As with all Intakt-based instruments, you get two AHDSR generators for filter and amplitude; a simpler envelope for pitch; two resonant multimode filters; two syncable LFOs; and an effects section with distortion, lo-fi effects, and delay. You can save time-slice locations as MIDI files and then remove or rearrange events when you trigger a sliced groove.
At the Movies
Most Instrument titles suggest film-scoring applications, but anyone looking for unorthodox or intensely rhythmic tracks will find plenty of loops to like. Loops range from funky, dance-oriented grooves to creepy, insectile fever dreams that could provide an evocative backdrop for an H.P. Lovecraft tale. Other Instruments could easily serve as song starters for Weather Report-style fusion compositions. What I appreciated most was that so many loops, by virtue of their creative programming, provoke lots of fresh musical ideas.
When playing back in Time or Beat Machine modes, loops automatically lock to the host sequencer's tempo and loop flawlessly. Although the producers make a qualified claim that Time Machine loops sync to reasonable tempo changes, I tested sync with wildly randomized tempo tracks in Digital Performer, and the loops hung in there with a degree of tightness that no human rhythm section could be expected to follow. They also maintained their sound quality at the same time (see Web Clip 1).
I can't think of a more apt moniker for this collection. Almost every loop was a revelation in groove and creative sound design. So many loops inspired compositional ideas that it will be a long time before I can catch up. The multiplicity of editing features afforded by the Intakt engine expands the sound library's versatility immensely, and the sheer depth and beauty of the sound content puts Percussive Adventures 2 in a class by itself. If you're looking for powerful, malleable rhythm beds that can stand out in a crowd, I highly recommend this set.
Overall Rating (1 through 5): 5