A Fistful of Drummers, Volume 1
Contact: Drumdrops, www.drumdrops.com
Format: 1 DVD; REX and WAV stereo drum loops
One of several titles in the Drumdrops Fistful of Drummers series, Volume 1 is oozing with old-school breakbeats laced with lots of analog goodness. The producers are keen to point out the tools used in recording these tracks: '70s-era Neve console, Pultec and Langevin EQs, Fairchild compressors, analog tape (Ampex 449 and GP9), and more. Additionally, much of the material is presented dry and effected with classic processors such as EMT plate and spring reverbs. One listen to these tracks and it's obvious your hearing the fruits of die-hard analog engineers.
Equally as palpable are the rhythm performances themselves, which include 40 tracks divided into over 400 loops of 8-16 bars in length. Fistful combines percussion and drumkit patterns played by Nasser Bouzida (Blow Up recording), Jim "the lick" Kelly, Style Scott (Roots Radics), and Jan Kincaid of Brand New Heavies fame. These guys lay it down in such a tasty, vibe-sensitive way.
Tempos range from 69-147 bpm, with an emphasis on funk, hip-hop, and rock. You're not limited to these styles, though. The loops lend themselves to cinematic, lounge, acid jazz, and other moods. I found plenty of solid song-starter beats, as well as material that will undoubtedly serve as future fodder for my breakbeat experiments.
Related loops (various percussion and drums) are organized into folders by tempo, making it easy to load a handful of samples and assemble song sections quickly using WAV- or REX-compatible tools. Note, however, that the WAV files aren't Acidized. This didn't prove to be a problem. I was able to load the loops into Ableton Live, which accurately determined the tempo in most cases. If I hit a snag, it was only that I needed to halve or double the original tempo value.
There's little to find fault with - I was a little disappointed by the lack of individual drum hits. But this is far from a deal-breaker, and can be easily forgiven, considering how much useful material is on hand. And with careful editing, I was able to extract single hits where necessary, allowing me to add extra snare or hi-hat hits, for example.
If this sounds like too much work, then you might want to consider the 24-bit multitrack version, which splits the recordings into discrete tracks (snare, hat, overheads, kick, room, and so on). Whichever format suits your needs, Fistful of Drummers Volume 1 is guaranteed to satisfy your craving for funked up, soulful grooves.
Jam Pack 3: Rhythm Section
Contact: Apple, www.apple.com
Format: 2 DVDs; Apple Loops and GarageBand instruments
Until Logic Pro 7 hit the streets, I hadn't fully climbed on board the Apple Loops/Jam Pack train. After all, Apple's Soundtrack and GarageBand didn't cut it for my pro music projects. And who has time to play around with a new sample library format with looming deadlines, right? Well, I've done a 180-degree turn since I updated to Logic 7. Here's why: Apple Loops and GarageBand instruments are seamlessly integrated into Logic, making it easy to grab hold of the growing list of compatible titles such as Jam Pack 3 - Rhythm Section. As you might expect, the focus of this collection is on bass, drums, and guitar. But here's the hook: JP3 comes well stocked with audio and MIDI loops, as well as multisampled instruments that rival the sonic quality and expressiveness of hardware tone modules.
The content is spread across two DVDs; installation takes no time, but you must install the 5GB library on the same hard drive as the operating system. I'd prefer to keep samples separate from my main system drive, especially considering that adding several titles will quickly eat up precious storage space. (Hopefully this will be addressed with future software revs.)
In the guitar category, I was pleasantly surprised by the inclusion of Dobro and banjo. Many of the patches offer finger and fret noise for added realism. There's a lot to mine on the electric side, too, including guitar patches with power chords and "chugs" mapped across the keyboard, making it easier to sequence "live-sounding" parts. Especially cool: When adding MIDI loops to a song, the appropriate software instrument (drums, guitar, etc.) and its associated effects such as EQ, compression, and distortion are automatically instantiated.
The "studio" and "brush" drumkits are among the best I've ever played. I was able to lay down swing and second-line grooves with all the nuances of ghosted snares, pedal and half-open hi-hats, and so on. What's more, there are plenty of MIDI patterns to kick-start practice or song-writing sessions.
The electric basses cover clean, thick, round, punchy, and warm. I wasn't as impressed with this instrument category, though. Not that the loops and instruments were bad, but they tended to have a "General MIDI" quality in the upper registers.
On the whole, Rhythm Section represents serious bang for the buck. For any commercial composer or songwriter who uses Logic or other compatible program, this is a must-buy.