As any craftsman will tell you, if you get the basics right you can build with confidence. In this case we're not talking about erecting the Pyramids of Giza or constructing the East London Olympic Village, but the much more critical business of knocking up a groovy rhythm track. The building blocks for this enterprise are provided by percussion maestro Ernesto Diaz. Mr Diaz (assistant professor at the prestigious Berklee College of Music) has a background in jazz, world beat, R&B and Caribbean music, and on Elemental Studio Percussion he performs with the staple Latin percussion instruments: shakers, maracas, guiro, tambourine, bongos and congas, for example.
The library contains eight rhythm pieces spanning a tempo range of 80 to 240 bpm, each broken down into its component instruments with a reference stereo mix. These pieces have no particular shape and lack played endings: they just stop in mid‑flow. I enjoyed the drive and urgency of the 140bpm, 4/4 number, in which some nifty conga, timbale and djembe playing over an urgent egg‑shaker and cowbell pulse whip up the excitement. Even if things occasionally get a little too busy, it's clear that these rhythms would add a lot of vitality to a track.
Some of the pieces sound messy in places (the 240bpm effort is the worst offender) and the combination of less‑than‑perfect timing, over‑ambitious ideas and a crowded arrangement spoils the feel. Despite this, when you assemble the components of each piece in a song they all sit fairly well with the click, and the transitions from one four‑bar chunk to the next are clean. Picking the elements that work best together takes time, but (as ever) a little creativity will produce good results.
I'd guess that the player created these pieces largely through improvisation, perhaps with a few ideas sketched out beforehand. When you apply that approach to multitracking 14 instruments, the results are bound to be a little uncoordinated, but what they lack in precision they make up for in imagination and spirit. However, the makers' assertion that Elemental Studio Percussion offers "quick and easy percussion parts” wouldn't cut much ice with pop producers, who I suspect would end up spending a lot of time using Recycle to put these grooves firmly in the pocket.
In addition to the loops, there's a mini‑library of three‑dynamic single hits on all the instruments (including some nice rainstick, agogo bells and mark tree samples), a valuable aid to programmers. The loops are duplicated in Acidised WAV, Apple Loops and Recycle formats and can also be imported into Stylus RMX. Installing all these options requires around 8GB of disk space. Dave Stewart
Big Fish Audio +1 800 717 3474