This new library from Big Fish Audio provides 40 loop-based construction kits targeted at mainstream chart rock genres. Each of the kits features a series of song sections, including intro and outro, from which you can build a song structure to suit your own specifications in less time than it takes to say 'Hootie & The Blowfish' with a mouthful of marbles. For each song section you get separate loop layers for drums, bass and each of the different guitar and (fairly scarce) keyboard parts. Where these incorporate double-tracks (ie. frequently), they are usually mixed together and opposition-panned for convenience. The 750-odd main loops (about 2.6GB of audio) are provided in Acidised WAV, Apple Loops and REX2 formats, which is very much par for the course with such libraries. But you do get one much more unusual addition: another 2GB folder containing the multitrack drum files for all the drum loops, including mono kick and snare tracks and stereo overheads, room and toms.
While the multitrack idea is great in principle if you're planning to use these loops at their 65 to 277 bpm nominal tempos, building your song around them, it's not quite as great if you want to adapt them to an existing arrangement at a different tempo. Then you'll have to either time-stretch them (rarely very convincing with drums, in particular, because of processing artifacts) or slice and dice them yourself (not recommended if you still have your own hair). And, given that the chord progressions here are set in stone and not specified in any file names or documentation, you're unlikely to find yourself lifting any of the guitar or keys loops into other productions either, even though those are provided as more tempo-adjustable REX2s.
The styles all plough a well-worn furrow within a series of classic middle-of-the-road sub-genres, sharing a generally glossy, Stateside vibe involving frequent nods to Nashville, although not without the odd pop-punk or heavy rock face pulled now and then. Frequently, things veer pretty close to parody (all but ripping off U2's 'With Or Without You', for instance), but I have a feeling that this won't put off this library's core customers a great deal: this is very much the kind of library that you reach for when you're commissioned to produce an instrumental that sounds a bit like... (fill in household-name band here). What annoys me in these cases, though, is that Big Fish don't just come out and say who has 'inspired' each loop so that you can find what you're looking for at top speed, assuming that pastiche happens to be your poison.
Sonically, the timbres all seem pretty well targeted, and have clearly been carefully chosen to complement each other, as evidenced by the fact that, although most of the loop layers are presented free from reverb or delay treatments, they already blend and balance quite well straight out of the box. That said, I'd be reluctant to use these tracks completely without send effects in a production. The drum loops, in particular, feel like they need a little more 'expanse' to fit these styles, as demonstrated in the audio demos. Overall, then, this library is a solid, good-value collection for 'hit the brief in 15 minutes from a standing start' media composers. Anyone more interested in adding tried-and-true rock attitude to their own existing compositions may find its inflexibility frustrating. Mike Senior.