Quick Pick: Equipped Music Slo' Motion: Tokyo Soundscapes

Read the EM February 2009 review on the Equipped Music Slo' Motion Tokyo Soundscapes audio construction kit for Audio Professionals
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Slo'' Motion: Tokyo Soundscapes offers flexible construction kits of atmospheric electronic music in the tradition of the Blade Runner soundtrack.

More than a quarter century after the film's release, the score for Ridley Scott's 1982 classic Blade Runner remains a defining moment in modern electronic film scoring and ambient music. Slo' Motion: Tokyo Soundscapes ($199.95), created by Equipped Music, captures the floating, electronic washes, old-school sequencer ostinatos, and other characteristic elements of the genre in a 2-DVD collection of 24-bit, 44.1 kHz construction kits. One DVD holds WAV audio, and the other offers REX2 files and a ReFill for Propellerhead Reason. I auditioned WAV and REX files in MOTU Digital Performer 5.12 and Ableton Live 7.02, and listened to the ReFill in Reason 4.01.

SHIVER ME TIMBRES

Slo' Motion provides a total of 1,995 24-bit samples, which are organized in folders by type and tempo. Folder names give a good indication of the content and include Bass Loops, Gamelan & Tmbpiano, Nature Fx Loops, Discrete Perc, Rhythm Fragments, Synth & Guitar Tones and Chords, and Tokyo Soundscape Loops.

Tokyo Soundscape Loops consists mostly of minimal chord progressions played on synthesizer pads. Many sounds exhibit some DSP enhancement: a bit of rhythmic, LFO-induced tremolo in one, or a touch of saturation in another. In some instances, there is no chord progression, with suspended chords producing interest through timbral shifts rather than any change of notes. Faint bits of occasional melody emerge from the pads, but it's not clear whether these originate from some inner timbral motion such as self-oscillating resonant filters or simply from subtly ghosted melody notes.

Loops in the Tones and Chords folders use acoustic and electric pianos, guitars, and synths to provide melodic and harmonic motion. Many of the piano parts are simple, ambience-drenched motifs reminiscent of the work of Brian Eno or Vangelis. There is no hard-and-fast rule regarding processing; in some cases, reverb, and in others, rhythmic delays or filter-shaped noise, contributes to the sounds. All for the better, as this adds more variety to the content. Tokyo Noise Loops contains rhythmic fragments of conversation masked by noise, delays, and ambience and contributes to the urban overtones of the collection.

The material sticks to a narrow range of tempos: 60, 65, and 70 bpm. However, you can reasonably adapt the WAV files' tempos to fit a song 10 to 20 bpm above or below the original, and the REX files are even more adaptable. Bear in mind that music of this type wasn't meant to play at fast tempos. Harmonically, the tonal components and pads are all listed as being in minor keys, although the deliberately ambiguous chord voicings allow them to work in other tonal contexts (major and modal, for example). The folders of bass samples derive from electric bass sounds and are simple enough to withstand pitch change and tempo adjustments.

DOMO OBLIGATO

Slo' Motion is an especially apt title for the collection: pads and bass rarely get busier than half and occasional quarter notes. Various folders contain arpeggio voicings. The folders are identified by the instrument playing the arpeggio (gamelan, anklung, and thumb piano, for instance), but many of the instruments sound synthetic to my ear. The origin is less important than the quality of the loops, though, which are imbued with trailing, mysterious tonalities. Additional folders hold sparse percussive loops and special sonic effects, including processed speech and sounds of unknown origin. Still others contain rhythmic loops from wildlife: birds, frogs, and general swamp ambiences. Some of these are processed with pitch-shifting and filters (see Web Clip 1).

The ReFill comprises a lot more than a simple collection of Dr.REX loops; you also get patches arranged for the NN19 sampler, a few Redrum kits, and a generous supply of Combinator patches. Redrum kits all derive from synthetic sources reminiscent of the Elektron Machinedrum. Many of the pads lay out full chords or intervals on a single key, requiring only one MIDI note to supply an entire harmonic backdrop. Yet some pads are sparsely voiced enough to work well in complex combinations with others. I found the Combinator patches to be the most interesting of the bunch. The included controls — knobs for resonance, the frequency parameter of the various filter types, and transposition settings — offer considerable sonic variety.

For all its simplicity, Slo' Motion is one of the most intriguing collections to have crossed my desk in a long time. The sounds are tremendously useful for film scoring as atmospheric backdrops or front-and-center mood pieces. The loops can easily serve as song-starter inspirations for slower-tempo electronic pieces. If you're looking for a feast of loops drenched in atmosphere and drama, you owe yourself a good look at Slo' Motion.

Value (1 through 5): 5
Equipped Music/Big Fish Audio (distributor)
bigfishaudio.com