Produced by Funk/Soul productions for Big Fish Audio, Ambient Skyline provides a hefty collection of loops and one‑shot samples aimed at those looking for some chilled-out inspiration. The multi‑format library is supplied on two DVD‑ROMs, and I auditioned the 5GB (nearly 1000 loops and over 1300 one‑shots) of 24‑bit WAV files. The original recording tempos are laid-back (60 or 65 bpm) and the material is sensibly organised into folders based on looped or one‑shot categories, and sub‑folders based on instrument type and original tempo.
The looped material covers a range of instruments, but is dominated by electric bass, guitar, kick/hat combinations and Rhodes electric piano. Alongside these are additional sub‑folders of atmospheric, rhythm and tonal rhythm loops. The bass loops are mainly four-bar phrases and, as befits the style, things are kept simple and melodic: no frantic slapping or manic note-fests. For the guitar and Rhodes loops, there are both unprocessed and 'FX' phrases and arpeggios that are generally one to four bars in length. The effects loops include additional effects processing, such as delay, modulation or filtering, and there is some excellent material amongst this lot.
The more rhythmic loops offer plenty of variety, from straight or processed kick/hi‑hat combinations to processed percussion loops. My favourites, however, are the tonal rhythm loops, where the rhythmic pattern also has an underlying melodic component. These are all fairly subtle, and many of them would work with just the barest minimum of melodic material layered over the top. There are obvious groups of loops here that are based on similar sounds, so chaining loops, for adding variety to a composition, is made fairly easy. The looped material is rounded off by a collection of NYC ambiences — ambient sounds recorded in New York, including streets, subway stations and restaurants — which is perhaps of less obvious use in a musical context, but an interesting inclusion.
The non‑looping material provides a collection of sax (alto, soprano and tenor), guitar, horn, percussion and vocal phrases. These are most definitely 'ambient', with some significant application of reverb. The sax phrases are particularly impressive, including chilled, languid solo lines, and it is easy to piece the various short phrases together to create a complete melody. There are fewer one‑shots in the piano category, but here the phrases are generally 30 seconds in length. The ambient percussion contains a collection of reverb‑covered single hits, while the collection is rounded off by a nice set of 30‑ to 40‑second, gentle, evolving tonal atmospheres.
The title of this library is well chosen. It's easy to hear the music as a soundtrack to some sophisticated, late-night view from a penthouse apartment over a sprawling city. If that's the kind of musical inspiration you need, Ambient Skyline has plenty to offer. John Walden