The Loop Eye in Ueberschall Oriental RnB provides a circular display of the waveform and lets you select loop points.
I''m a sucker for modern worlds-in-collision types of music, where synths and hip-hop loops share track space with instruments from all points of the compass while singers wail in modes you won''t hear on your average roadside diner''s jukebox — unless you''re in a café in Cairo or on Brooklyn''s Atlantic Avenue. Ueberschall''s Oriental RnB ($119.95) focuses primarily on the merging of contemporary American R&B with styles from the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean regions of the globe. The collection presents loops in construction-kit form, offering full mixes as well as individual instruments, drums, and percussion. A small batch of drum and percussion hits is also included. The loops are driven by Ueberschall''s Elastik engine, which lets you easily adjust the tempo of the loops, although not in real time.
A single DVD holds the installer for the Elastik player and approximately 3 GB of sample data. The player comes in a standalone version; as VST and RTAS plug-ins for Mac OS X 10.3 and Windows 98 SE or XP; and as AU plug-ins for the Mac only. The installation process was slightly more difficult than it should have been, owing to unclear directions printed in tiny type and a somewhat convoluted challenge-and-response process.
Commendably, a single instance of the Elastik player can host multiple compatible sound libraries, so you can compile loops from different collections within one instantiation. The user interface centers around the radarlike Loop Eye, which lets you set start and end points for looping tracks. Just click-and-drag the Start and End handles surrounding the circular waveform display to set the playback boundaries of the loop.
The plug-in''s basic work flow consists of selecting loops, editing them if necessary, and dragging them to a virtual keyboard map for MIDI triggering. A pull-down menu allows you to enable attack and release amplitude-envelope sliders, a couple of keymapping settings, and filter controls. The resonant filters include highpass, lowpass, bandpass, and notch, and the slopes range from 6 to 72 dB, so you can effectively kill unwanted material.
You can also tune loops in increments of a semitone or a cent, or change the tempo of individual loops. The time and pitch changes, however, are rendered to disk, rather than adjusted in real time. Furthermore, tempo adjustments are static, which means that the loops will not work with a dynamic tempo map. Clearly, this is a dance-oriented collection.
The sound library comes in two banks that divide into smaller segments. The first bank contains what Ueberschall calls Mix Kits. Most of these break down into a full stereo mix: a version with all instruments minus the drums and percussion, and a version with only drums and percussion. Most of the drum kits are from drum machines or sample-based sources, which are augmented and brought to life with live percussion. The real action, however, is in the second bank, which divides individual instruments into discrete tracks. Many of the synth loops are an appealing mixture of analog synth bombast and home-keyboard cheesiness.
Folk in A
As you might expect, the most compelling material in this collection comes from the ethnic instruments — bouzouki, oud, tar, ney, various pipes, and, of course, percussion — that are played in authentic folk styles adapted to contemporary grooves. Unfortunately, the library''s documentation deals solely with operational matters. As exotic as the grooves may seem to Western ears, these are established contemporary styles with their own set of conventions and practices, and it would be useful to know more about the instruments featured in the collection and the musicians involved.
The music tends to sit in a single key, but you can transpose individual tracks up or down by as much as an octave. Elastik provides several different algorithms for converting the tracks: Drum helps preserve attack transients; Solo 1 transposes vocals with minimal disturbance to the formants; Solo 2 appears to retain punch and attack despite the transposition; and Tonal is designed for pitched polyphonic tracks. Most of the tracks with vocals include some kind of effects processing, so they do not fare well when transposed beyond a few semitones up or down.
Another nice feature is Map mode, in which you can conveniently lay out a loop to play back in half steps or divide the loop into smaller slices automatically across the keyboard — albeit without the high-resolution rhythmic boundaries of REX files. Here, time compression and expansion offer a lot of latitude, often as much as 20 bpm in either direction.
A few gripes aside, Oriental RnB provides a terrific and novel convergence of Eastern ethnic music and modern dance styles. With its unique material, as well as its time-stretching, pitch-shifting, and slice-and-dice capabilities, the library should help inspire your own panethnic creations.
Value (1 through 5): 3