(MIXED MODE CD/AKAI CD‑ROM) Rating: ** 2/5 Stars
Fleetwood Mac's Rumours album cost nearly seven million dollars to make and they still manage to sell copies of that for 12 quid, so why, you may ask, are sample CDs so expensive? Good question, and one that East West and Sounds Good are hoping to answer with their new budget range of mixed‑mode sample CDs.
The Sampling Sound System (see other reviews in June and July's Sample Shop) has been put together with the idea of providing less sample material on a single disc, but for roughly a third of the price of conventional audio sampling CDs. All of the discs in the series come as either mixed‑mode CDs (featuring Audio, WAV and AIFF files) or as dedicated Akai CD‑ROMS.
Volume three, Brushed, is very much along the same sort of lines as volume 1, Popped (reviewed back in July), and is part of the 'Drum Tools' section of the library. As the name suggests, the brushed drum kit is the primary instrument throughout the performance of all the drum loops; there's also a small collection of single drum samples at the end of the disc. The 24 audio tracks are split into two main categories: 'Beat Components' are the familiar full drum kit loops, usually lasting between one and four bars; 'Snare Grooves' is an interesting idea where each loop contains only a bass drum or the snare playing the groove, or both, with each instrument panned hard left and right respectively. This enables you to add your own levels of effect, EQ or compression. Of course, you'll also have to add any other percussive elements you need, such as hi‑hats, but it does allow you a little more freedom with regard to the overall sound of the bass and snare.
This is actually a good thing, because you may find you need to work quite hard with some of the samples — unfortunately, the overall quality of the sounds is not as high as you might have heard on other drumming CDs. Admittedly, there is a really gritty feel to many of the samples, and Portishead fans will no doubt revel in the sometimes wonderfully grungy drum sounds, but during some of the jazzy shuffle loops and pop‑funk drumming (which are all very accurately performed), I found myself wishing the sound quality was cleaner and better defined.
There are a good number of rhythmic variations including fills and rolls, and the general layout of the loops within the disc is logical enough; the tempo sets start at 70bpm and move up in 10bpm chunks to 120.
Okay, at this price (a snip at only £19.95) maybe we shouldn't expect too much variety or too many samples. I'll award an extra star for the low cost and logical layout, but in such a crowded area of the marketplace, any drumming CD really should try to stick its neck out creatively to stand up to the massive competition. While Brushed offers good playing, a fair range of sounds and a very attractive price tag, the occasionally 'boxy' sound quality and low number of loops might, unfortunately, consign this otherwise worthwhile release to the 'Cheap' pile. Paul Farrer
Sampling Sound System audio CDs £19.95 each; Akai CD‑ROMs £39.95 each. Prices include VAT; add £3 for delivery.
5 Stars FEAST
4 Stars FAB
3 Stars ZOOM
2 Stars SPARKLE
1 Stars MINI MILK