Like its predecessor Action Strings, the Action Strikes percussion library is a collaboration between software giants Native Instruments and the production company Sonuscore, a division of computer games music specialists Dynamedion. Today’s games market demands cinematic production values and a big, Hollywood–style sound, so with that in mind, Action Strikes’ ready–made phrases are designed to bring “instant orchestral drama” to music scores.
Following a well–trodden path, the library combines Japanese taikos (performed by the Dusseldorf–based Wadokyo ensemble) with standard orchestral percussion, whipping up the ingredients into ready–to–go rhythm patterns which obligingly sync to your host tempo. The instruments were recorded from two perspectives: the close-miking contains a fair amount of hall ambience of a very agreeable kind, while the ‘room’ position sounds more distant.
As well as taikos of all sizes, the library contains African and Indian drums, ethnic and hand percussion, rock bass drum, hi–hat and cymbals, concert toms, metals, gongs, shakers and even a waterphone, which contributes some eerie squeaks, slithers and groans. No timpani or tuned percussion instruments are included, but that’s excusable in a library designed primarily for rhythm generation.
Action Strikes’ percussion ensembles pound out exciting, repeated two–bar rhythms capable of many variations: the rhythm patterns comprise simple eighth–note figures, more complex 16th–note patterns, triplets and odd time signatures. Swing feel can be added via an adjustable on–screen control. Featuring various combinations of drums, shakers and metals and sporting names like ‘Heroic Drums’, ‘Monster Attack’ and ‘War Ensemble’, the patterns are thunderous, propulsive, dynamic and (as it says on the tin) optimised for action scenes.
Digging deeper, each ensemble has a Low, Mid and High section which can operate independently, enabling you to mix and match patterns — the ‘high’ section houses lighter, quieter material. Each loaded pattern has five rhythmic variations and a pair of single hits so you can program your own fills. Further on–the–fly variations can be triggered by a set of five keyswitches, four of which vary the number and position of accents in a bar, while the fifth triggers a short ending lick.
The library’s ‘Instrument’ and ‘Hits’ patches open up more options. The first features individual single instruments playing a full set of rhythm patterns, single hits, flams and an excellent set of single and multiple grace notes, while the latter contains 12 useful single–hit multi–instrument combinations with individual controls for each sample.
No time–stretching is used in Action Strikes: rather than recording real performances, the loops were constructed from multi–dynamic single hits, which means you can drastically increase or decrease the tempo without affecting the samples’ pitch or sound quality. This accounts for the library’s relatively small (3GB) footprint; it also explains why the rhythm patterns loop perfectly and feel absolutely great, making this brilliantly executed library a highly effective compositional tool. Dave Stewart