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Rare Impractical & Deservedly Obscure Instruments

Sample Library
By Mark Wherry

****** 6/5 stars! Formats: EXS24 / HALION / VINYL

Regular Sample Shop readers will be familiar with the name Dave Stewart, a skilled musician and composer who's been reviewing sample libraries in SOS for years. With so much experience in this area, Dave has finally produced a library of his own, and rather than sampling more conventional instruments, he's focused on a collection of unique instruments built up over many years. The result is a library supplied on nine and a half CD-ROMs in EXS24, Halion and 78rpm vinyl formats, containing instruments you literally won't hear anywhere else.

The bulk of the instruments in this collection are percussive, and experienced drummers and percussionists will be pleased to find a library that finally includes an alto hi-hat and a glass cymbal. All are provided with release samples to take full advantage of Dave's recently retiled bathroom, where many of the samples were recorded after a thankful accident led to the discovery of this room's suitability for providing an interesting decay, ideal for recording samples. Some spill from angle grinders, caused by builders working in an adjacent room, can be overlooked in light of this library's naturalistic, laissez-faire approach.

The menacing Irish concussion stick has been captured in a variety of styles, using different stereotypical victims that demonstrate the vast tonal potential of this instrument, such as drunken fool, and (my personal favourite) juvenile delinquent. This part of the library concludes with such gems as the papier-m ché triangle, plasticine sleigh bells, single clave, and the Uillean friction drum. In addition to one-shot instruments, there are a number of pitched percussion instruments included, such as the Malian Giraffe Ribcage Marimba. And while not technically a pitched percussion instrument, the rattlophone family is represented by the inclusion of the viciously pumped hydraulic vibraslap, which allows a fully chromatic octave-range of pitches.

Moving away from percussion, Dave also includes a military bass violin, which is a type of cello most commonly used by marching bands, and the tone has been captured brilliantly — you can even use the modulation wheel-driven crossfade capability of modern samplers to switch between different bow materials, such as cat gut and Mongolian horse hair. Wind players aren't left out, because there's also a contrabass kazoo and a trombonillo, which is a miniature soprano trombone — think Lurpak butter — commonly used in Wagnerian operas to represent eunuchs by way of instrumental characterisation.

Rounding off the collection is a set of sound effects, including 'snow falling' and 'sponge hits brick wall', plus a useful number of jazz-styled theremin licks, for those Beach-Boys-meet-Kenny-G inspired moments, and a novelty stoat call. The only sore point of the collection was the Sengalese Arse Trumpet, which sounded more like the musician in question was playing the instrument with his elbow, with many of the samples sounding slightly flat in tone.

In conclusion, Dave's library is absolutely first rate, and even though you might not instantly think of adding Gnu bells to your next arrangement, the unlikely yet sonically interesting material on this library should provide inspiration for years to come.

£66.60 including VAT.

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Published April 2003