Hypnotica is an audio sample CD comprising single samples, loops and backgrounds, most of which have a sci-fi feel to them. There's the '50s 'whoo-eeeee-whooo' theremin sci-fi tension cue, complete with delay, plus lots of whooshing, sweeping, pulsing, burbling things that suggest everything from the endless vistas of infinity to the aftermath of a particularly virulent curry. Think Space 1999 meets UFO with a hint of Radiophonic Workshop circa 1960, and you'll be pretty close to the mark. As the disc progresses, the sounds seem to get more adventurous, and there are some nicely eerie processed choral vocals, ghostly backgrounds, alien machinery and cybernetic gibbering.
What's most impressive about this disc is the volume of material supplied and the variety of atmospheres, from Deep Space Nine to deep fried swine, taking in fear, relaxation, the supernatural, alien environments, bubbling toxic waste and a fair share of pure, unadorned cheesiness. The sounds don't have the weirdness or depth of something like Distorted Reality, or Ian Boddy's Ambient, and there are no multisamples, but they are nevertheless useable within the context of trance, ambient, and atmospheric composition, and a few are extremely good. There's a lot of this kind of thing around at the moment, so I'm not going to go overboard with the points, but something on the bright side of three should be fair. Paul White
£ £59.95 each including VAT.
(AUDIO CD WITH MIDI FILES)
Electronica is a collection of processed drum and percussion loops that fit loosely into the electro-industrial genre. Track one is a CD-ROM of MIDI files, so you can try out rhythms at different tempos, or substitute your own sounds. Many of the rhythms are fairly straightforward four-on-the-floor dance rhythms with a nice feel to them, though there are some purely electronic examples that are more like pulsating pads, and other variations that have less obvious time signatures. Many of the electronic percussion parts are treated via vocoders, resonant delays and other heavy-duty processors to give them a more synthetic feel, and even acoustic percussion is heavily disguised in most cases.
Metallic sounds, vintage analogue drum hits and trashy bright reverbs are quite popular, along with the odd filter 'thwip' and sweep, and it's obvious that some industrial machinery has been co-opted for some of the samples. Few people realise how relaxing a flanged angle grinder can be! Tempo information is supplied for each loop, and there are also individual samples of the various sounds to use with the MIDI files.
The disc concludes with over 25 'kits' of individual samples, plus a few more odd kicks and snares, and though there's nothing here that I haven't heard done before, the range of both rhythms and feels is very wide, with tempos ranging from the 60s right up to 170bpm or more. If you're fed up with predictable, TR909/808 drum loops, you just might find something more subtle here. Paul White
£ £59.95 each including VAT; add £3 for delivery.
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The Sound Cube is a 10-CD set from Best Service that's intended for 'Multimedia and Music Production'. All sounds are provided in three formats -- 16-bit 44.1kHz files in both AIFF (Mac) and WAV (PC) formats, as well as 8-bit, 16-bit AIFF files at 22kHz. It's tricky to balance multi-disk collections to appeal to the widest selection of people, but Best Service have made some good choices, with a varied choice of musical genres and a wide range of sound effects that will suit multimedia (and musicians with imagination!). One slight down side is that, despite the supplied Surfer program that appears on each CD (which shows and auditions the contents of all 10), there is no manual. However, the main selling feature of this batch has got to be price. You can buy a single CD for £12.95, or all 10 in a flip-top box (the Sound Cube) for £89.95, which works out at £9 each. I think I'd better stand aside, or I might get killed in the rush!
VOL 1: DANCE INSTRUMENTS
A set of fruity bass synth lines in various keys starts off this collection, followed by female and rap vocals, and then a useful selection of natural and synth drum sounds. Fretwork follows, with guitar power-chords, riffs and solo phrases in several keys and tempos (including nice lines in Hendrix, country picking, and Shaft wah-wah riffs), then horn section stings, 80 loops (mostly of the drum variety, but some including bass guitar), and organ, sax and synth sounds and phrases. Although most of the loops are grouped into two folders at 120 and 140bpm, many instrumental phrases give no idea as to tempo, and there is another folder labelled 'Loop Mix' that adds to this temporal mystery. If you like dipping in and trying things out, this is for you, but finding something specific could be time-consuming. Overall, quite a comprehensive selection of 450 files totalling 96Mb -- not as big as some dance compilations, but plenty to get your teeth into.
VOL 2: ORCHESTRA & CLASSIC
Four folders provide Basic (sustained notes and chords from single instruments and various orchestral groupings); Choirs (various notes, chords and effects with a large male/female ensemble); Female (more of the same, but of the female persuasion); and Orchestra (useful full orchestral phrases to cut and paste, or to use as pad atmospheres). The sound quality is superb, and for classical ensembles you can't find much better. All of these sounds come from products such as Orchestral Colours (five-star rating in SOS February 95) and Classical Choir (five-star rating in SOS November 1993), which still sell at £59.95 (Audio CD) and £149.95 (CD-ROM) for the full versions. If, like me, you want access to the sounds, but don't need more than a selection to raid for your own music, this single CD gives you arguably the best selection from several hundred pounds' worth for a gob-smacking £12.95!
VOL 3: VOICE SPECTRAL
Here we find ourselves in voice synthesis and vocoder territory, with added solo female gospel snippets, a batch of sacred choral ensembles, and a bizarre selection of alphabetically sorted voices from 'Aaahs' (human and robot), dance phrases -- 'Feel the Beat' -- and yodelling (filed under 'J'), to various screams, ending up with 'Yeah' and 'Yo'. It's fun wading through these, and there are many excellent sounds hiding in here, but I wouldn't like to find an appropriate one in a hurry. Overall, a good vocal selection that would find uses in many areas.
VOL 4: WORLD FX HOUSE & LEISURE
Not ethnic samples, but sound effects (obviously, recorded in different places around the world!). They're divided into two main folders: 'House' contains bathroom noises, clocks, doors, kitchen implements and so on; 'Leisure' contains games (roulette, one-armed bandits and so on), mixed (cameras, barrel organs, snooker) and sports (mainly crowd sounds at various sporting events). The sound quality is good, but with some incidental background noise, and these are mostly in mono, although a smaller stereo selection is also provided in a separate folder. However, musicians should not dismiss this volume -- these are just the sort of sounds that, in a different context, would provide wonderful and unusual percussion.
VOL 5: WORLD FX BUSINESS & TRANSPORT
The Business section contains industrial machines and robots, office equipment (plenty of phones on offer!) and a fax machine. Transport covers areas such as planes, trains, cars, bikes (anything from a moped to a Harley) and boats. The car selection is the most comprehensive, with not only engines, but also door slams, car horns, tyre squeals and so on. These sounds, along with many of those in volumes 4 and 6, are mostly culled from the two double-CD sets Sound FX Collection and Film FX Collection -- I have the originals, and have used them extensively. My one caveat is that many of the longer engine or industrial atmospheres are unlikely to fit into most projects, and are far too busy to extract spot FX from.
VOL 6: WORLD FX ANIMALS & NATURE
Animal noises this time, starting with bees and crickets, via plenty of dogs, flies and frogs, and finishing with wolves. More of the interesting ones have been left in than usual (most animal CDs have too many of the easy ones, such as sheep and cows) but there is the very occasional bit of overloading (although I wouldn't have gone back for a second take of those howling wolves either!) The nature sounds have plenty of the liquid variety (fountains, rivers, splashes, sea, rain, hail), as well as various other weather conditions (hurricanes, blizzards, and so on). If you need this one, you'll be foaming at the mouth already...
VOL 7: CRASH BOOM ZAP! TYPICAL FILM EFFECTS
A very useable collection of weapons (pistols, shotguns, lasers), assorted footsteps, fight sounds, futuristic sounds, bleeps and bloops, this is more what the computer games fraternity needs. Again, though, the long atmospheres (wonderful though they are) will probably find less use. A couple of the kung-fu fight sequences probably came from a scratchy film, but the majority are of very good quality -- and with 322 sounds with this much variety for £12.95, you can't really go wrong. If you use your imagination, many things on offer here will also provide even more percussion sounds.
VOL 8: SOUNDTRACKS CYBER ATMOSPHERES
Some wonderful textures here, obviously using a wide range of expensive equipment (such as the Technos Axcel Resynthesiser). If you need to chill out, there are some long, evolving, spatial pads, as well as some shorter effects that escaped from Volume 7. The Libertus folder contains eight files, averaging 7Mb, with lengthily developing stereo riffs -- lovely to listen to, but only possibly useful for Multimedia backgrounds. Finally, four fully blown ethnic loops from around the world -- more long loops, but with far more flavour than those in the previous folder. This disk is a bit of a mixed bag: if you want something different, you might just find it here, but it'd be best to have a listen first.
VOL 9: ETHNIC JOURNEY
INSTRUMENTS, VOCALS, WORLD PERCUSSION
Reviewed in the depths of a British winter, this CD really cheered me up. First up is a taste of Africa (traditional dances, group percussion loops and vocal chants), then a dozen or so didgeridoo warbles, frantic gypsy accordions, guitars and vocals, Indian ensembles, percussion phrases, sitar riffs and vocal chants (some of these sound as if they were recorded out in the street -- plenty of local flavour but some background noise). Next up is another assortment of Deep Forest material, plus prayer chants. Finally, the Oriental folder provides the inevitable shakuhachi, as well as plenty of percussion phrases and ensembles to round off our world trip. Totalling 197 files and 131Mb, this is another good all-rounder, and at this price an absolute steal.
VOL 10: RAVE X HOUSE, TECHNO, JUNGLE CONSTRUCTION KIT
The loops are grouped into nine folders by tempo, with most between 120 and 180bpm; a wide range of kit and percussion styles and sounds is on offer, as well as analogue synth sequences. There's also a good selection of synth bass sounds, stabs and effects, and, finally, a complete set of TR707 kit sounds. In all there are 270 sounds, totalling 73Mb -- some are clean, some dirty (although the recording quality is very good throughout), some traditional, others more extreme. There's nothing very new here, but this collection is not trying to break new ground -- simply giving a good basic selection to work with, and this it does well.
As an overall set, the Sound Cube is superb value -- if you join the queue to buy one, I'll be at the front in my sleeping bag! Martin Walker
£ 10-CD set £89.95; any single CD £12.95. Prices include VAT & UK p&p.
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