The fact that the market for pre-packaged loops is dominated by audio sample CDs and CD‑ROMs sometimes causes us to overlook more obvious sources of compositional material, such as MIDI files. Keyfax have been creating all kinds of musical phrases, loops and flourishes in MIDI file format for their Twiddly Bits range for as long as I can remember, but this new set represents a departure from previous trends as it tackles the very specialised world of Reggae.
When I loaded it up, I expected the drum loops to be the most impressive things, but when you come to examine reggae more closely, the underlying drum rhythms are nearly always simple grooves that act as pegs to hang the other instruments upon. This turned out to be the case here, and things don't really come alive until you bring in some of the other parts on the disk, such as the excellent bass lines, the instantly recognisable keyboard parts and so on. Do that and you have solid, compulsive reggae that exudes authenticity from every pore, even if you're only using cheesy GM sounds. The additional percussion parts are spot on too, with all the obvious timbale clichés as well as some less obvious variations.
As usual with Twiddly Bits, drag in a MIDI file and you'll find alternate versions of the part on several sequencer tracks, so you can go through them using your mute or solo buttons to find out which ones you want to use. Because they are MIDI files and not samples, the tempo is freely adjustable over any range you like, and you can assign any sounds you like to the parts. Where necessary, the parts are recorded with all the original feel intact, so rather than quantising everything, you can instead make groove templates from the Twiddly Bits parts and then use them to lock in anything you've added over the top.
I can't praise this set highly enough in terms of feel and authenticity. Just plug in a skanky sounding guitar, light yourself a yucca plant and let the spirit of Bob Marley transport you back in time. If reggae is your thing, this is an absolute must-have.
£24.95 including VAT.