Escape From The Planet Of The Breaks
As far as funky live-drumming sample CDs go, the Planet Of The Breaks series has an impressive track record, but can the quality be maintained as the series reaches volume four?
Spanning four CDs (two audio and two Acid-ready Wave CD-ROMs) this instalment in the popular series breaks (if you'll excuse the pun) with the usual format and introduces other elements alongside the drum loops as basic construction kits. As usual, you get a burst of the whole groove, which is broken down into the drum loop (including variations) and a harmonic track. The aim of these kits isn't to provide complete tracks in a particular style, however, but rather to spark ideas, as most of the loops were jammed live and unrehearsed. Fans of the earlier CDs shouldn't worry, though, as in keeping with the rest of the series, the main emphasis is still firmly focused on the drums.
Behind the sticks on this volume is session drummer Shawn Pelton, and the drum loops are all excellently played on a multitude of kits, covering a wide variety of styles from head-nodding hip-hop through punky, rock patterns and heavy drum and bass-like rhythms. Tempos range from 63 to 164 bpm, and the all important 'live' feel is maintained throughout, even on the processed loops.
While Pelton provides the beats, the overall production and accompanying instrumentation is handled by Vinnie Zummo. Already known for his excellent New York Cutz hip-hop libraries, Mr Zummo is never stingy with the sheer amount of material he creates, and puts in some more impressive work for this release. All the non-drum elements are, on the whole, more guitar-based than synthetic, featuring plenty of fuzz, with heavily processed sounds and textures that spark plenty of ideas for almost any genre of music production. Importantly, though, these elements never overshadow the beats. Stir in a dollop of roughed-up, grainy beats, massive booming reverbs and well-handled distortion, and it all adds up to a collection with bags of character -- an element sadly lacking in other drum loop collections.
So does this latest instalment of the series live up to its predecessors? Most certainly. The playing and 'vibe' of the drum loops is first class, while the experimentation in the production and accompaniment is a welcome addition and acts as inspiration to get the creative juices flowing. Sure, if it's squeaky-clean loops or ready-made songs you're looking for, there's nothing on offer; but if you're after a slice of raw groove with real personality, you've come to the right place. Oli Bell