Pocket Fuel designs rhythmic instrument and drum loops that it archives in a sound-library series called RADS, which stands for Rhythmic Architectural Design Systems. Each week Pocket Fuel offers a new set of free drums loops on its Web site; you need only register to access them. RADS: The Sound Gallery, vols. 1 and 2, CD-ROMs ($39 each; $25 for registered members) gather a year's worth of the drum loops. Yes, they will cost you, but musicians with dial-up accounts will no doubt appreciate having a half-year's worth of drum samples on each disc without the time and hassle of downloading.
Both discs come with 26 folders' worth of samples. Volume 1 offers samples from weeks 1 through 26, and volume 2 gives you weeks 27 through 52. A single week's folder houses five subfolders — one each for AIFF, WAV, MP3, REX, and RCY versions of roughly a dozen loops. The loops are generally between two and four bars in length, although a few are eight bars long.
The variety of file formats is a good thing, but it also means that samples are redundant, and you're essentially paying for one-fifth of the disc. However, if you use multiple applications, such as a digital audio sequencer along with Propellerhead ReCycle and Reason, or if you use Mac and Windows platforms, then your bases are covered. Furthermore, the WAV files are Acidized, so users of Sonic Foundry's Acid are good to go.
Pocket Fuel's offerings tend toward drum loops — along with some keyboards, percussion, and full mixes — and are quite eclectic from week to week. For example, week 1 features Great Acoustic Drums, which consists of 12 tastefully recorded, grooving loops at tempos of 85, 90, 100, and 133 bpm. Week 2 is made up of 23 acoustic-drum-kit one-shots, and the following week offers Urban Dance Rhythms — 12 processed drum-machine grooves, half of which fall at an urgent 165 bpm. A folder of acoustic hip-hop mixes offers drums with some keys and incidental effects (no bass or guitar).
Get the Map Out
Things don't remain stuck in urban or hip-hop styles, however; the disks quickly jaunt into different territory. The sonic trail is stylistically all over the map, with electronic house, industrial trip metal, drum 'n' bass grooves, and solo dance keyboards.
One of my favorites is Fat Techno Drums. Although there are too few tracks, the eight offerings are forceful, rhythmic acoustic drum loops. I don't know what makes week 35's Asian Tech Drums especially Asian, but the loops are filtered and have a pleasing feel. All eight loops clock in at 100 bpm, so if you like them, you have plenty to work with.
Week 33, Fun with Guitars, is true to its name, but its samples bounce around too much from style to style. Heavy-metal loops go by far too quickly and are followed by dub-style loops and then a couple of funk and R&B slices — all at vastly different tempos. There just isn't enough of any one style and tempo to sink your teeth into to create an entire song. Tech Zeppelin is a hoot, though; its eight loops are all at 100 bpm and feature big, full, Bonham-like acoustic drums with a techno-synth dressing.
Those seeking quality drum loops should investigate these discs as well as Pocket Fuel's Web site. Sonic Foundry Acid users will find these loops particularly useful, especially for dance music. My loop-based dance band has already built a couple of new songs using Acid in combination with these drum loops, and the rhythms are very musical.
I like the discs despite their redundant files and the sparseness of sounds per style. In all fairness, these are archival CDs made available to those who didn't have access to last year's downloads. I doubt that I'd use them all the time, but they will serve well as an addition to my library. I'm going to brave my 56 Kbps connection and keep abreast of Pocket Fuel's new weekly creations.