Sounds: February 2009

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Like some weird genetic imperative, humans seem driven to revive whatever music happened 20 years ago . . . so welcome to the ’80s revival, complete with the trademark glistening synths, metronomic electronic drums, and bouncy bass blorps. And that’s what you’ll find in Syntron-X, along with 23 construction kits, arpeggiations, vocoded voices, effects beats (basically drum patterns through resonance), and four useful electronic drum kits.

Stylistically, this is more the Euro-style ’80s music (Heaven 17, Berlin, etc.), not the frothy, synth/guitar-driven pop of groups like the Cars. In fact, it’s all synths and electronics, save for a couple sampled piano sounds.

Construction kit tempos generally hover in the 115–130BPM range, with a tonic/fifth or minor vibe rather than opting for major keys. Each kit has a mixed track, along with (typically) one to two dozen tracks that make up the kit.

Is there life after the ’80s? Yes—a lot of these loops are suited to today’s dance music, not just for adding a bit of a retro vibe but also because some of these sounds have become standards. Wisely, there’s minimal processing, thus allowing them to fit in more contexts than if they were, say, drenched in reverb.

Whether you want to remember the ’80s or bring them up to date, within its self-imposed limits Syntron-X delivers the goods.

Contact: Big Fish Audio,
Format: DVD-ROM with about 1.07GB of unique 24-bit/44.1kHz WAV files (732 loops, 184 one-shots), duplicated as Apple Loops (and REX files where possible); also has Stylus RMX installer
List price: $69.95


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Born “Heavy Metal” in the late ’60s, Metal has not only survived—it’s having a resurgence due to its ability to mutate for our apocalyptic times. But c’mon, can samples really capture the speakerrupturing, headbanging angst and mayhem of true metal?

Both discs have construction sets with suitably heavy bass, emphatic drums (with individual tracks often broken out separately), and tormented guitars, but the files are organized a little differently than usual: Files from the construction sets have the same basic names, but loops of various instruments go in their respective “Foundation” folders. This emphasizes that you can indeed mix and match easily among the construction kits, thanks to the excellent Acidization.

There are also folders with drum fills, guitar chords and noises, lots of loops in 6/8 time, drum one-shots, diseased-sounding vocal loops, etc. There’s serious raw material here, and 29 “Sound Design” files with unearthly noises—perfect for accenting a tune, or disturbing neighbors. Extra credit: Disc 2 has a video with some highly educational info on how the drums were miked (yes, it’s worth watching).

The loops are very style-specific; don’t expect to use any of this in your remake of Bridge Over Troubled Water. But you really can put together convincing metal with this collection— and I don’t mean scrap metal.

Contact: Sony Creative Software, www.sonycreative
Format: Two CD-ROMs with 1,037MB/1,115 mostly Acidized WAV loops with a some hits thrown in; 24-bit/44.1kHz
List price: $99.95


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Percussion libraries can get a lot of exercise, because good percussion works with anything from hard rock to soft chill to dance. These Latin/Brazilian-based loops, played by Marcelo Salazar, have the usual suspects (conga, guiro, agogo, cowbells, etc.), but among the 63 (!) percussion instruments, there are plenty of exotic options too. Some of my favorite loops are the Derbaque—they can really propel a song—but all of them swing, and have a lively, human “feel.”

The loops are dry with a bit of room sound, so they’re dry enough for dry tracks, but reverb-friendly if you want additional ambience. What’s more, there are plenty of hits—add an off beat or two where needed, or create a cool kit in MachFive, Battery, Reason, etc. Most loops are relatively short, often with variations, so it’s easy to string them together into a complete part.

Unfortunately, the WAV files aren’t Acidized, and the REX editing is sub-standard at best—I’d advise using DSP-based stretching. Of course you could edit the REX markers using ReCycle, or add Acidization markers, but the loops are played by a real human so the beats don’t always line up with the default marker placement— tweaking is required.

Nonetheless, if you can live with the inconvenient stretching, these are fine loops that can add serious percussive spice to just about any tune.

Contact: Future Loops,
Format: DVD-ROM with 1,158 loops/172 one-shot hits/945MB total (743MB of unique WAV files, loops duplicated as REX files); 16-bit/44.1kHz
List price: $99.95 boxed (free shipping), $89.95 download