We asked our regular sample CD reviewers to tell us which CD gems they'd like to be stranded with on a desert island (with mains power and a sampler, naturally). PAUL WHITE, PAUL FARRER & WILF SMARTIES plunder the Sample Shop archives for sampling treasure...
<h3>Ambient Volume 1</h3>
Ian Boddy is one of sampling's true innovators and this release (one of Time & Space's earliest) set the standard for others to follow. Despite quite a few similar products having been released since, Ambient continues to hold its own, and even after all this time the pads and textures still sound as fresh and exciting as they did when it first came out. An extremely versatile release suitable for techno, soundtrack, relaxation or just plain weird music that is a glowing testament to Ian's love of all things analogue and his attention to detail in effects processing. If you can still find one for sale anywhere, snap it up immediately — you won't regret it! Paul Farrer
Maybe this doesn't stand out from the crowd so much any more, but when it was released five years ago it blew my tiny mind. Compared with the competition — Masterbits Old Gold Synth tone collections and the like — it was dynamite. Instead of presenting boring multi‑sample sets, this release featured sounds carefully culled from a massive and well‑researched record collection, lovingly assembled over a period of years. With old‑school jazz and soul drum‑loops, voice hits, classic stabs and breaks, here was an early and vital insight into the raw material of the dance producer. Only Pascal Gabriel, from the same AMG stable, came close, though I got the impression that his influences and sources were distributed over a much shorter time‑span. Often with remix CDs you get the feeling that the best has been kept back, but More & Co. laid their hearts (and sample cupboard) bare. Slurpy beats, witty soundbites, funky as hell. This is one for the art museum — if you have an original copy keep it safe. Wilf Smarties
This is a truly wondrous home‑grown product that simply defies explanation and has only been rivalled so far by its astonishing follow‑up, Ghost in the Machine. Taking the form of multiple 30‑second atmospheric soundscapes, both of these CDs will take you on a rare and sometimes terrifying trip around the darker corners of your sampler. Unhinged is the strangest, most sinister and downright bizarre collection of loops and textures you'll ever have heard, sounding like a dangerously insane man left alone to play with a ton of hot studio gear, a couple of big buckets of illegal substances and half a dozen top‑flight Lexicons. Weird? You ain't heard nothing yet! Paul Farrer
This disc is a masterpiece of creative programming and has a wonderfully dynamic, textural feel. There are ambient pads, powerful drones, and lots of heavily processed synth sounds that work well in a number of different contexts, from ambient and trance to film scores. I'm also impressed by how little memory most of these sample programs take up, so if you want to use your sampler multitimbrally you probably won't run out of RAM. If you have samples for all the conventional instruments, this is a must‑have first step for exploring the rest. A kind of audio Twilight Zone, but with better plots! Paul White
Seldom in the history of sampling CDs can so many (3000) samples have been created for so few pounds (around 20). This 1993 release from Pure Technology utilises both left and right channels simultaneously, to provide a huge library of samples, all taken at C, each with a slightly different setting on an analogue synth (probably an SH101 or TB303). So simple. Of course, sorting out the wheat from the chaff takes time. I found that randomly selecting a few noises was as good a way as any of getting something out of EAB without sending yourself round the bend. Wilf Smarties
Vlad Naslas is the man who produced this, the first and best of a short series of bass and guitar CDs and CD‑ROMs. The content is predominantly old‑fashioned soul guitar licks, hits and tones, and the surprising thing is how authentically the sound captures the mood of '70s funk records. The guitars and amps used are classics, and therefore the extra vintage quality must come from the man himself (playing) and the engineering. Licks tend to be short, simple and pretty adaptable. So many of these 'player' sample CDs tend to be full of either overblown virtuoso mini‑performances or clichés repeated over every imaginable key and/or tempo. In sharp contrast, Funk Guitar is eminently and immediately useable. And just when you thought it was safe to get out the Johnny Guitar Watson albums, Vlad throws in more than a few futuristic funk surprises. Wilf Smarties
This is a wonderfully useable release from Germany, featuring the human voice in a huge number of styles and forms — everything from full classical choirs to Ragga‑rap vocals, Gregorian chanting to solo female operatic oohs and ahhs. Gathered from around the world and presented in a sensible, and user‑friendly format, this disc is a real gem amongst any sample CD collection. The recording quality is superb and the eclectic mix of voice samples will bring a smile to even the most conservative samplist's face, all the way through to the ensemble of Eastern European nuns singing in four‑part harmony! Simply splendid. Paul Farrer
Try to imagine a year‑long, all‑expenses‑paid trip around India and the Far East, recording as many exotic instruments and unusual vocals as you can find. To accompany you on this dream trip is a team of highly skilled sound recordists armed with all the latest hi‑tech recording gear. Then imagine someone meticulously editing and presenting this titanic amount of material across two awe‑inspiring CDs. The flutes, voices, drums, sitars, kotos, and sound effects almost drip from the speakers, and if you've watched any nature or travel programmes in the last year or two, the chances are you've heard many of these sounds already! Paul Farrer
Cut from the same cloth as Heart of Asia, this disc takes the same idea (find an entire continent and sample it!) and presents the results in one of the most awe‑inspiring and creatively successful ethnic sample CD releases of the decade. From the immense choir multisamples to single vocalists, from simple finger pianos all the way up to entire tribal drumming ensembles, this release delivers, and then some. The sound quality is generally fabulous (apart from a few choirs with an unfortunate amount of reverb), the layout sensible and the results almost frighteningly authentic. The kind of sounds that inspired Paul Simon's Graceland album can now be yours for less than the train fare to Aberdeen! A serious product and serious value for money. Paul Farrer
Heart Of Africa Volume 1: "The sounds that inspired Paul Simon's Graceland can now be yours for less than the train fare to Aberdeen."
Presented as a two‑disc CD‑ROM set, Heart of Africa Volume 1 is a very nicely recorded collection of African instrument, vocal, ensemble and ambience sounds, arranged both as single‑shot segments and multisampled instruments. Particularly interesting is the breadth of percussion sounds, including excellent examples of the usual thumb pianos, though there are also evocative flutes, tribal chants and lots of other 'way cool' stuff. Whether you need to create an authentic African atmosphere or simply want to add a few ethnic sounds to your music, Heart of Africa Volume 1 provides a buffet of tasty sonic morsels that will have you nibbling away until you're stuffed. Paul White
This was the first, and is the best jungle CD I've had to review to date. It took some time for a full‑price jungle CD to emerge — the market had been there for over a year before it began to be satisfied. Fortunately Jungle Warfare was not playing catch‑up when released — in fact the beats were on a par with some of the most technically adept and artistically interesting stuff going down at the time. Even now this CD has not entirely lost the power to excite. The first nine tracks each have four or five very long drum patterns with variations and fills. This makes for a good listen, but you'll need plenty of RAM and good editing tools, or a load of patience to map out keygroups of 1‑bar snippets. Fortunately the next 20‑odd tracks have oven‑ready 4‑bar loops, around 200 in all. 'Programmed' loops include reversed samples, gates, hard flange effects, vinyl soundbites, and drum and percussion hits of all calibres, both analogue and digital. Where loops are vastly speeded‑up versions of old faves, new kick drums have been seamlessly added to keep the bottom end intact. All the other elements you'd expect from a workstation are there — basses, tones, chords, effects, percussion loops, and drum hits. Wilf Smarties
Best Service, the people behind this release, are a German outfit with attitude who've produced a whole library of mostly creditable sample CDs. Their metier is really synthesizers, but for some reason this brass section CD is a real standout. The 1300 hits, tones and runs, both ensemble and unison, presented by ZZ Top refugee Albie Donnelly's outfit, are really top class, in tone, recording quality and playing. (The latter is particularly exuberant.) Judging by his red beard and name, Albie is a fellow Scot. Now we Scots have been reknowned for blowing our own trumpet for years (Witness the Dundee Horns and Average White Band, for example) and Albie is no exception, except that he blows a sax. Recorded in a tight but live acoustic, this brass section will add life to your compositions — if you can make room for them! Wilf Smarties
I was first made aware of Keith Le Blanc in the mid '80s by certain deeply hip clients of Planet, my old 24‑track studio in Edinburgh. Tackhead's music was based on screeching, stuttering techno beats, inorganic and alien. Sequencer and sample based, surely? Not the sort of music to take on the road? Wrong. Live the band were killer, playing music beyond just about every imaginable limit. Tackhead returned to Edinburgh several times, where they found an aware and appreciative following. Just before a concert, in Calton Studios, I remember watching Keith perform a particularly good drum and technology solo. He was knocking out hip‑hop beats to die for, interlaced with pad‑triggered mad and bad samples, with precision and taste. An hour‑long performance combined masterly artistic judgement with inhuman speed and precision. The cognoscenti cheered. Forget boring drum solos — this was the future talking. Planet had been a sampling hotbed since the early '80s, yet what Keith was doing really opened our minds. Ten years after, with the release of KLB2, has the master moved on? The answer is — no, but we've just about caught up. And yes, KLB2 IS better than KLB1. Wilf Smarties
"Too long have we suffered the mediocrity of the bog‑standard drum loop!" seemed to have been the battle cry of the good people at Spectrasonics when they first hit upon the idea of producing a drumming sample CD with a difference (and this time they actually meant it!). This most soulful, laid‑back and downright funky collection of new and exciting percussion rhythms ever to be committed to disc focuses its attention almost entirely on flowing, ethno‑ambient percussion loops and grooves, with majestic use of the Korg Wavedrum, amongst other instruments, and extremely intelligent and inspiring effects processing. It all adds up to a release that stands head and shoulders above the competition. Eric Persing has (as so often in the past) created a sound collection of astonishing and unique beauty which seems to make so many other CDs seem flat and one‑dimensional. In a word: sublime. Paul Farrer
Give Eric Persing the task of coming up with an album of drum loops, and the last thing he'll give you is a 'me too' disk of tired old beats and rhythms. In this two‑disc set, he's put together a huge collection of drum loops which combine a laid‑back feel with processing that's outrageous and subtle at the same time. Loops with and without pitched content are included, and both conventional and ethnic percussion is combined with Korg's Wavedrum and other esoteric contributions in one of the most extraordinary, yet musically appealing, groove collections available. In addition to the loops, you also get sets of kit sounds so that you can build your own rhythms. This collection does for rhythm what Distorted Reality did for pad and synth sounds. Put the two together and watch the sparks fly! Paul White
You could pick one out of several stunningly good classical sample CDs by this man, who gets tremendous value for money by employing some of the best choirs and orchestras the Eastern Bloc has to offer, and booking them into world‑class auditoria. Teaching ensembles to perform samples rather than familiar pieces of music must have been amusing, but the results are invariably breathtakingly good, being wonderfully recorded and executed. The naivety of the performers is absolutely charming. They perform tone clusters, unison tones, phonetic stabs, and lots more, with humour and exuberance, and without the slightest hint of irony. You probably couldn't get Western session players and singers to perform with such freshness, even if you could afford to book them.
The material is aimed more at the soundtrack than the pop market, though I would have thought that here is a great opportunity for startling ambient chill‑out music. Frankly, there's nothing on the market to even remotely compare with Peter's work. Orchestral Colours, with its cadences, swoops and runs, and Classical Choir, with hordes of men and women singing in unison, are my personal favourites, though I haven't seen or heard the former for over a year, since lending it to Paul Farrer for a film score he was working on. Will somebody ask him to send it back? Wilf Smarties
For less than £200 you can get your hands on one of the finest collections of string samples ever released on a single CD‑ROM in the sub‑£1000 market. A full symphony orchestra is presented as a series of rich and complex multisamples, and Spiccato and sustained string playing styles are featured, as well as a huge number of full orchestral stabs, atmospheres, hits, runs and glissandos. The mixture of gritty realism and sonic smoothness has never been bettered in this price range, and although often memory‑hungry, the CD‑ROM also contains lower‑bandwidth and mono alternatives. Sampling heaven on toast! Paul Farrer
This set of five CD‑ROMs (Solo Strings, String Ensembles, Brass, Woodwind and Percussion) was, without doubt, one of the sample CD events of recent years, comprising an in‑depth and meticulous study of every individual instrument and instrumental section in the orchestra. Startling multisamples are crossfaded and edited to perfection, with a vast number of trills, glissandos, mordents and swells. Tons of instrumental variations in vibrato and dynamics are featured, all with gloriously detailed and full‑bodied sound quality. In a release of this size and complexity there will always be places where some users might feel too much attention has been paid to certain areas and not enough to others, but any criticism pales next to the sheer musicality and usefulness of this set, which offers absolute realism mixed with clever programming and intelligent arrangement. Advanced Orchestra is, quite simply, breathtaking. Paul Farrer
This is yet another winner from the man they call Peter Unpronounceable (actually it's Sid‑ala‑check — Ed). With a heavy emphasis on short orchestral phrases in four key signatures — namely: C, D#, F#, and A — this CD‑ROM is both a joy to listen to and a doddle to use. Although there are a good number of more 'threatening' phrases, the overall feel here is one of confident and optimistic orchestral arrangement. The sparkling quality of the full orchestra shines through in all the samples and can make even the humblest sequenced track sound good enough to accompany the next Jane Austen TV mini‑series. Stunning. Paul Farrer
Despite its limited UK release, and the rather disappointing quality of some other discs in the
Q‑Up Arts series, this CD‑ROM collection of brass multisamples, hits and runs is still a jaw‑dropping addition to any samplist's sonic armoury. A full brass section is arranged and performed by some of LA's hottest session players, resulting in sounds that positively burn from the speakers! Although the riffs are a little limited in their tight focus on contemporary pop‑jazz, the swells, hits, stabs and falls will be turning up in your tracks for years to come. Paul Farrer
The artist formerly known as Squiggle kindly allowed his rhythm section out of the studio for a couple of months to work on a sample CD, and look what they came up with! A collection of loops and groove tracks, deconstructed into their constituent parts, featuring drum, bass, keyboards, brass, guitar and effects. This is high‑octane funk of the highest order, marvellously understated, expertly performed and deliriously cool. If you can't make a toe‑tapping funk classic out of the material provided here, you're not only in the wrong business but probably on the wrong planet too. Paul Farrer
Danny Cumming and Miles Bould have produced a quality percussion CD here. Relatively few patterns have been extensively exploited, through lots of live bars of playing with all the natural variation that entails. Recorded to digital multitrack with excellent engineering, crosstalk between instruments is negligible, which means that a 'solo' track can be sampled clean. Playing is excellent throughout, recording quality is pristine, and a good selection of single hits at various dynamics is presented at the end for the serious samplist who is into velocity‑switching and other such activities. As I said at the time — a connoisseur's product. Wilf Smarties
Sly Dunbar is, of course, a legend, and the dancehall and reggae styles on offer here are simply not available anywhere else. I am reminded from the sleeve that the CD features 843 loops, 274 sounds, 525 MIDI files and 10,000 DNA grooves. I have of course checked them all out, 10,000 grooves having taken only about the best part of 1995 to get through — NOT. Just sample and enjoy. Wilf Smarties
Four of the world's greatest pianos (two Steinways, a Bosendorfer and a Fazioli) are presented as infinitely complex and yet convincing multisamples on this CD‑ROM, with recordings made of every single key at a number of different played velocities. Seriously memory‑hungry (samplers with less than around 20Mb need not apply) and seriously realistic; I defy anyone to tell the difference between the soft 'Steinway C' preset and the real thing. For piano sounds I've yet to hear better. This disc is an absolute classic. Paul Farrer
The title says it all, and the product lives up to its promise. Several of the world's best pianos have been rigorously multisampled at a number of velocities to produce what must be the most thorough piano CD‑ROM yet made. Because of the amount of multisampling and velocity switching used, some of these sample programs are huge, and those without full RAM slots may have to settle for using just half a keyboard's worth of notes. The most compact complete piano runs to around 16Mb, with the biggest and best requiring two fully stuffed 32Mb samplers, one for the high‑velocity notes and one for the low‑velocity notes. If you can handle the huge memory requirement, this disk really is the ultimate in piano sounds. Paul White
Various formats with an X in their titles have been released by the ever‑expanding Swedish e‑lab corporation (formerly known as Polestar Magnetics — a more enigmatic and enduring name in my opinion). The original X‑Static Goldmine was the first out‑and‑out rave CD to hit the mat. Not only were the samples bang in tune with the dancefloor, but you got about three times as many of them as were offered by other products on the market. This double CD had 3023 samples in all, an incredible number to audition. Nonetheless, listening through seldom got boring. Rough, tough, and ready to roast some eardrums, what the set lacked in fidelity it more than made up for in attitude. Tons of loops were roughly cut from vinyl and presented 16 to a track; loads of harsh rave synth tones came as a bonus. After the success of XSG came XL1, XL1+, XSG2, and so on. These were (and are) all very good products, but top marks must still go to the original for breaking the mould. Wilf Smarties
Not many sample CDs had 909s and drum loops when these three were first released. Now largely superseded, the Datafiles were essential sources in the early days. With no real outstanding character of their own, Ed Stratton's collection of samples (about 1000, all in glorious mono, per CD) nonetheless proved an excellent workhorse dance station (or should that be a dancehorse workstation?). I believe the Datafiles are now available in various condensed and compilation formats, including PC, at low cost, and they're still worth picking up. Wilf Smarties
- AMBIENT VOLUME 1
Time & Space: Audio CD £59.95; CD‑ROM £99.
- COLDCUT'S KLEPTOMANIA
Time & Space: Audio CD £59.95.
- CUCKOOLAND VOLUME 1: UNHINGED
Time & Space: Audio CD £59.95.
- DISTORTED REALITY
Time & Space: Audio CD £59.95; CD‑ROM £119.
- ECSTATIC ACID BYTES
Pure Technology: Audio CD £19.95. Pure are clearing stock, so hurry if you want this CD!
- FUNK GUITAR
Time & Space: Audio CD £59.95; Akai S1000 CD‑ROM £99; S3000 CD‑ROM £29.95.
Time & Space: Audio CD £59.95; Akai CD‑ROM £99.
- HEART OF AFRICA VOLUME 1
Time & Space: 2 Audio CD set £79.95; CD‑ROM £179.
- HEART OF ASIA
Time & Space: 2 Audio CD set £79.95; 2 CD‑ROM set £249.
- JUNGLE WARFARE
Time & Space: Audio CD £59.95.
- KILLER HORNS
Time & Space: Audio CD £59.95; CD‑ROM £149.
- KLB2: KICKING LUNATIC BEATS 2
Time & Space: Audio CD £59.95; CD‑ROM £149.
- LIQUID GROOVES
Time & Space: Mixed‑mode CD £39.95.
- PETER SIEDLACZEK'S ORCHESTRA
Time & Space: Audio CD £59.95.
- PETER SIEDLACZEK'S ADVANCED ORCHESTRA
Time & Space: 5 CD‑ROM set £599.
- PETER SIEDLACZEK'S ORCHESTRAL COLOURS
Time & Space: Audio CD £59.95; CD‑ROM £99.
- PSYCHIC HORNS
No longer available.
- RHYTHM OF LIFE
Time & Space: Audio CD £29.95; Roland‑format CD‑ROM £149.
- SLY DUNBAR'S REGGAE DRUMSPLASH
East West: Audio CD plus floppy disk £59.95.
- SMOOV GROOVES
East West: Audio CD £59.95.
- THE ULTIMATE PIANO COLLECTION
East West: Full version on Akai or Roland format CD‑ROM £249.95; 2 cut‑down versions on Akai‑format CD‑ROM £129.95 each.
- X‑STATIC GOLDMINE
Time & Space: Volumes 1‑4 available on audio CD at £59.95 each; volumes 1‑3 available on Akai‑format CD‑ROM at £99 each.
- ZERO‑G DATAFILES 1, 2 & 3
Time & Space: Audio CDs of volumes 2&3 still available at £9.95 each (clearance); all three volumes together on CD‑ROM for £39.95.