Rating: *** 3/5 Stars
(ZERO G AUDIO/WAV)
"One of the most ambitious drum loop CDs ever". Now that's a statement and a half to kick off a set of sleeve notes, but it's exactly how drummer and film composer Chris Whitten introduces Monster Beats, his new two‑CD collection of drum loops for Zero G.
Described as a collection of "brutal, bangin', monstrous beats, loops and breaks", this collection offers over 75 minutes of audio. CD one comprises 90 tracks of loops, with a good range of tempos (mainly 60‑155bpm, with one solitary loop coming in at a whopping 203bpm). CD two contains all the beats sampled, cut and looped in WAV format, with some extra loops and fills not included on the audio CD.
As for the beats themselves, each track features a played drum loop, in both dry and ambient versions, then the same loop processed with extra EQ or run through one of a number of the analogue modular synths, such as the ARP or Roland 100M, listed in the sleeve notes. The loops are tightly played and extremely well recorded, with just the right amount of grit and grime left to add some atmosphere — a nice touch that is sadly lacking in some other collections. Although the patterns included here lean heavily towards the rock/funk/alternative genres (perhaps unsurprisingly, as Chris has toured with both Paul McCartney and Dire Straits), with a little imagination and editing they could be used for just about any type of composition.
The processed beats work well enough, with plenty of filter and frequency manipulation going on, but never too much to obscure the groove and feel of the original loop. As for the "kind of edgy stuff guaranteed to make your ears bleed" that is promised by the CD's publicity, a few of the tracks on offer certainly hit the target. However, overall I felt the majority of the processing was a touch too polite and could have been more aggressive and unrestrained.
So is Monster Beats really one of the most ambitious drum‑loop CDs ever? Well, this CD set does offer a solid collection of wellplayed drum loops featuring usable effects and processing. Producers and composers from all genres looking for something extra to spice up their drum tracks will find plenty to use here. But those out on the cutting edge or looking for truly extreme beats may find this monster just a little tame. Oli Bell