Volume Seven in the Twiddly Bits series is a real mixed bag of performance data, loops, grooves and riffs that come under the natty title of a Programmer's Toolkit. Whilst more up to date drum & bass and jungle styles are briefly touched upon, the main focus of the programming seems to be firmly on a retro‑seventies dance floor feel. There are a number of keyboard arpeggios, riffs and licks that all fit neatly into the dance genre and are expertly programmed, with interesting use of pitch bend and rhythm. There are 15 or so four‑bar bass riffs, and the drum patterns and fills also work well.
Moving on to the other main part of the release, we find a host of complex control templates to impose over your existing keyboard parts. These come in the form of large numbers of Pan, Pitch, Portamento and Gate effects. Again, these are mostly four bars long and are designed to be simply dropped over a pre‑programmed keyboard part in your sequencer. On the whole they work well and should encourage us all to think more about the host of effective control features available to even the humblest of sound modules!
The last part of the release has a large number of resonant filter sweeps designed to 'analogue‑up' a MIDI performance and make it whizz and swoop with a strong retro analogue dance feel. These have largely been programmed using Non Registered Parameter Numbers (NRPNs) and are specifically created for use with Roland's GS (Sound Canvas) family and Yamaha XG format instruments (MU series and beyond). NRPNs are generally control messages that different manufacturers often like to assign to different control functions (such as LFO, envelope or filter frequency cut‑off points), and this means that other, perhaps older synth modules could well run into problems triggering these effects via MIDI.
In addition to these there are a few other oddments including some useful synth control panels in the form of Cubase Mixer Maps, and some wonderful wah‑wah template effects.
All in all this is an interesting, and if you have the appropriate compatible sound modules, rewarding collection of programming oddments. I felt that the actual recorded MIDI parts (drum patterns, synth riffs, and bass lines) were perhaps not as exciting or devastatingly original as I would have liked, and with so much disk space taken up with the filter and control templates you aren't exactly spoilt for choice either. Having said that, as a collection of tools to integrate into your sequenced song data, or as an indication of the clever things you can do with even the most basic sound modules, Programmer's Toolkit works well, and like the other Twiddly Bits offerings, is too inexpensive to consider not buying! Paul Farrer