Here's the problem: you're working on a project and you decide you need some kind of shaker or tambourine part, but you're blessed with a nursery-grade percussion collection. And when you break out your sample loops, you find that everything either uses the wrong pattern, tempo or instrument for the track, or else exhibits the rhythmic panache of Gordon Brown. Fortunately for everyone, though, it appears that Nine Volt Audio have also been afflicted with the former PM's maracas performances, and have decided to do something about it, in the form of their new Shimmer & Shake collection.
It's truly an epic venture, comprising almost 5000 samples. For a start, they recorded 22 different instruments, ranging from stalwarts such as tambourine, egg shaker, cabasa and maracas to curios such as the goat toes, Meinl Spin Spark and Pearl Shakerine. These recordings are presented as both a selection of loops (in Acidised WAV, Apple Loops, REX2 and Stylus RMS formats) and a set of Kontakt instruments so you can program your own patterns.
There are 94 loops per instrument, covering 3/4, 4/4, 5/4, 6/8 and 7/8 time signatures. And it's not just the boring old straight quarters, eighths and 16ths you get, either, because there are triplet/shuffle beats, variations with different on-/off-beat accents, and a number of patterns with strategically inserted rests. You also get a choice of downbeat and backbeat options, as well as a handful of one-shots. The recording quality is clear, with a subtle sense of stereo width and a fairly close, dry recorded perspective that, nonetheless, amply captures the unique character of each instrument. The performances are tightly played and quietly inventive, but without any hint of showing off, which is great for 99 percent of real-world production applications — if you want a concerto, go hire a live percussionist! What's particularly great about these loops is that the 94 examples of each instrument set are musically interchangeable, so once you find a pattern that suits your track, it's then a cinch to switch instruments or layer several different sounds together.
If you're still struggling to find the pattern you need (even if you shuffle some REX slices around), you'll want to check out the Kontakt instruments, which feature standard shake samples (with alternates for extra realism), accents, hand hits, looped sustain rolls, and slow/fast crescendo rolls. In addition to those, the instruments all have an innovative Tight control that defines how 'on the beat' each hit feels, by adjusting its onset speed, and this feature is extraordinarily effective when it comes to making sure that programmed parts don't feel like they're lagging at higher tempos.
In short, Nine Volt Audio have scored another absolute bullseye, and at a price that makes it a complete no-brainer purchase for practically anyone making their own music or mixing/producing for others. Bravo! Mike Senior