This is the eleventh library in the Loopmasters Origin series. and comprises more than 600MB of sample data split over 1000 loops. Seeing 'Latin' in any sample library title brings the word 'percussion' instantly to mind. However, while there are a good number of drum and percussion loops provided, this library also contains folders of bass, guitar, keyboard, sax, trumpet, and vocal loops, so all elements of a typical production are represented.
All the instrument groups are subdivided on the basis of tempo, and these cover a range from 90bpm to more than 160bpm. Aside from the aforementioned drum and percussion loops, there is also a folder of individual drum hits that covers all the usual suspects. Usefully, there are Reason NNXT, Halion, Kontakt, and EXS24 patches for both the standard kit sounds and percussion sets if you do like to programme your own rhythms. This added flexibility is great, but the drum and percussion loops are also so good that there is an easy route if, like me, your drumming skills are somewhat limited!
Good though the rhythmic material is, what really sets this collection apart are the pitched instrument loops. From bass guitar through to trumpet, the quality and feel in the playing is excellent and, as a result, the vibe created by the individual instrument loops is extremely convincing. At first glance, the file names look a bit odd, but they actually contain a lot of useful information. For example, AL_Bass_Cuba_CFG_115 would be a Cuban-inspired bass loop cycling through the notes 'C', 'F', and 'G', with an original recording tempo of 115bpm. This same file-name convention is used with chord sequences for many of the guitar or keyboard loops, and there are plenty of ninth, 11th, and 13th chords thrown in for good measure — great for a touch of Latin-influenced jazz. For me, the highlights are probably the nylon-strung-guitar loops and the brass (both sax and trumpet), but even the vocal loops are full of character.
I could imagine these sounds would appeal to anyone interested in Latin-tinged music, from pop (think Enrique Iglesias) through to contemporary takes on more authentic South American styles such as salsa or rumba. Throughout, the recording quality is very good, and the user is completely free to use the loops in any type of commercial recording. If there is a minor downside, it is that Loopmasters have avoided going down the construction-kit route and, given the sometimes exotic chord voicings and the often jazz-influenced melodic lines of the brass, it does take a little extra work to find two or three loops that work together harmonically. On the other hand, this could be seen simply as a reflection of the dominance of melodic and chord-based loops in the library. The bottom line is that, while Afro-Latin Producer may not be everyone's musical cup of tea, the playing is full of genuine Latin vibe and it also represents excellent value for money. John Walden
Audio CD and Acid ised WAV, EXS24, Halion, Kontakt, Reason NNXT, and REX 2-CD-ROM set, £39.95 including VAT.
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Regular readers of Sample Shop will recall the reviews of Teknik's two Ghetto Grooves sample libraries, both of which were aimed at hip-hop and R&B styles, and were based primarily on construction kits, but with a very healthy dose of individual hits featuring both drums and percussion. This new release follows a very similar format. The 28 construction kits (dominated by 80-100bpm tempos) are supplemented by folders containing individual samples for drum kits, scratches, vocals, and various special effects. In total, there are more than 3000 files taking up over 650MB of disc space.
Each of the 28 construction kits is based around a small number of loops (usually between five and 10) and, helpfully, a complete mix is also provided for easy auditioning. While the sleeve notes suggest the library is aimed predominantly at hip-hop, some of the construction kits would most certainly work at the sassier end of R&B — maybe Christina Aguilera in a dark mood? Indeed, the overall feel is quite moody and melodic, perhaps not suitable for the grittier hip-hop styles, but I could easily imagine something like an Eminem-style vocal line sitting over the top of these backings. The majority of the kits feature a combination of a drum loop and separate kick or hi-hat loops, plus various instrument loops such as guitar, piano, bass, and synth. While the individual loops mean that it is easy to drop mix elements in and out to create a song structure, it might have been nice to have a few more loops within each construction kit for some instant variety. That said, there are plenty of effects, vinyl scratches, and vocal ad libs (with the occasional bit of colourful language for good measure!) that can be used to add a little extra spice. With due care and attention to pitch-matching, it is also easy enough to mix and match loops between the various kits.
Drum samples dominate the individual samples, and there are some excellent sounds on offer here. All the usual hip-hop classics are present, including various TR808/909-inspired sounds and plenty of crunchy snares and speaker-flapping kicks. The Scratches folder includes not just turntable spinning, but also a good collection of vinyl noise samples — great if you want things to sound like they have been lifted from an old record.
There are a large number of hip-hop construction-kit sample libraries available, so users have plenty of titles to choose from. The Mixtape Toolkit perhaps doesn't break any radical new ground in terms of format or content, but the construction kits are instantly usable and very musical. Given the inclusion of the large number of other samples, it is also hard to dispute that the title offers good value for money. If you like your hip-hop samples both melodic and on a strict budget, then The Mixtape Toolkit provides a decent starting point. John Walden
EXS24, Halion, Kontakt, and WAV CD-ROM, £39.95 including VAT.
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Don't be deceived by the rather naff cover artwork: this library is actually impressively well put together, containing many very usable sounds recorded at 16-bit, 44.1kHz resolution. There are 29 different construction kits, plus an additional folder containing 19 types of single-hit drum and percussion sounds, ideal for programming extra fills or for ornamentation.
The kits cover a 95-130bpm range and stylistically provide more or less exactly what you'd expect. There's a strong hint of the '70s about many of them, although the production is bang up to date and steers clear of any self-consciously 'retro' touches. Live instrumentation is the order of the day, and various musicians are credited for drums, guitar, bass, alto/tenor/baritone sax, keyboards, vocals, and scratch effects. Particular credit is due to one Butch Taylor, who apparently supplies the guitar and the bass parts for this collection, and proves himself equally adept at both.
There's always a danger with this kind of library that the artists will start out demonstrating an affectionate knowledge of the conventions of their chosen genre, and end up drifting into an overdone parody or caricature of the same. Not so here: it's all judged more or less perfectly. So although the construction kits are bursting at the seams with sleazy wah-wah rhythm guitars, thunking slap-bass lines, spiky clavinets, and fat legato synth leads, the results always manage to sound solid, lively, and convincing — funky rather than funny.
The horn parts stab, blast, and generally punctuate the proceedings in all the right places, while some nice organ and Rhodes piano sounds hover in the background. The drummer fulfils his role admirably, never over-playing, and the conventional kit sounds are often augmented by conga patterns, which add some extra life and movement to the rhythm section. Even the sounds which are most difficult to make work (and which a cynic like me might expect to fall horribly flat) are handled with aplomb. I'm thinking particularly of the scratch effects, and occasional spoken or rapped vocal interjections. These could easily have descended into the realm of cringe-making novelties, but instead are deployed tastefully and with well-judged restraint.
This is a top-notch sample library, which maintains high standards of musicianship and production throughout. It delivers exactly what it promises, never straying from its chosen territory. The samples are consistently usable, with no obvious filler. Funk, soul, and urban producers in general will find plenty to work with here, and would be well advised to put Funk City somewhere near the top of their shopping lists. Paul Sellars
Apple Loops, REX, and WAV DVD-ROM, £39.95 including VAT.
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As the 'Nu School Breaks' subtitle suggests, this collection concentrates on drum-heavy, breakbeat-oriented dance styles, and provides plenty of raw material recorded at 24-bit, 44.1kHz resolution: 115 drum loops (115-143bpm), 25 complete construction kits (110-128bpm), and 31 extra synth loops (120-130bpm).
The construction kits all plough essentially the same stylistic furrow. Fat, pounding hip-hop-flavoured drum beats dominate the mixes, while various analogue synths provide burbling basses, rasping leads, and miscellaneous pings and flourishes. Occasional vocal sound bites and turntable scratches are thrown in for good measure, and the whole mixture bounces along very cheerfully.
The beats, of course, are absolutely essential to a library of this kind, and producer Matt Bushbacher demonstrates a thorough understanding of the genre's demands. His drum sounds tend to be dirty, lo-fi, compressed, and EQ'd, and generally pushed as far upfront as possible — which is exactly as it should be! The programming has a bit of swing and funk about it, the patterns aren't fussy or overly complicated, and the overall effect is very convincing. The extra drum loops maintain the same high standards as those in the construction kits, and will doubtless prove useful.
The synth sounds, which are the backbone of many of the construction kits, are also very attractive. The bass and lead lines are nicely melodic, with plenty of filter sweeping and burbling going on. So much so, in fact, that I did occasionally begin to get a little tired of it! A few guitar and organ sounds turn up in some of the arrangements, and it might have been nice if there had been a few more. As it is, some of the kits can seem a bit over-reliant on the same rather similar synth sounds. They're nice enough for the most part, though, so it isn't too much of a problem.
This one minor quibble aside, I have to say that Big Beat 2 is a solid and well-produced library, which fulfils its remit quite respectably. It provides fat, funky, danceable rhythms, with lots of pleasing hooks to grab the ear. It avoids sounding too 'clean' or 'polite', and exhibits plenty of life and character. The collection remains faithful to its chosen genre, and doesn't spring too many surprises, which is a strength rather than a weakness in a collection of this type, and it succeeds in providing loads of usable material of just the right kind. If big beats are what you're looking for, you can feel confident of finding them here. Paul Sellars
Apple Loops, REX, and WAV DVD-ROM, £55 including VAT.
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