Tonehammer's Composer Bundle 1 comprises eight tuned percussion instruments. The largest, Circle Bells (3.64GB), consists of six conical metal bells, which look like Afro‑Latin agogos and have a refined, pure and sustaining tone lying somewhere between a gender gamelan metallophone and a Tibetan singing bowl. Played with mallets and chromatically mapped, the bells make an exquisite chiming keyboard patch, and the eerie, icy, ambient drones created from the samples are a fabulous extra.
Alien Drum (2.05GB) is a pseudonym for Hang drum, the European instrument bearing a superficial resemblance to a Caribbean steel drum, but with a less strident, more lyrical timbre. Rich in mysterious overtones, percussive yet melodic, this is a lovely, subtle, dangerously addictive sound; start playing it prior to an important commitment (say a job interview, or appearance at your local magistrates' court) and you run the risk of getting carried away and missing your appointment. ("And where is the defendant?” "At home jamming on Alien Drum, Your Honour.”)
Like the Hang, Propanium (1.7GB) is an eight‑note instrument of circular construction, described by its maker, Larry Miller, as a metal slit drum or steel tongue drum. Its lowish pitch, long sustains and somewhat industrial overtones place it in the same ballpark as Javanese jenglong gong‑chimes, though its well‑tempered harmonics are easier on the ear.
Tonehammer's self‑constructed Cylindrum (909MB) is a plumber's dream: a set of corrugated PVC water pipes (as used by percussion groups Urban Strawberry Lunch and Blue Man Group), played by tapping fingers and smacking paddles across the open end. I felt the tubes' astonishingly powerful attack worked best for bass lines, but the surprisingly clear pitches and four‑octave range make this a versatile rhythm instrument.
These rare items are complemented by a trio of world music instruments: Kalimba (624MB), the African 'thumb piano' found in every workstation, features the usual repertoire of twangs and buzzes and sounds friendly, funky and tuneful. In a similar vein, Bamblong (1.5GB) and Whale Drum (1.13GB) are great resources for light, bubbling rhythm patterns. The former, a small ethnic bamboo xylophone played with rubber mallets, has an attractive, earthy, mellow sound. Named after the whale‑head shape of its tongues, Whale Drum is a pleasant‑sounding wooden logdrum (aka slit drum), a modern refinement of the hollow logs our ancestors used in lieu of cellphones. All three are recorded in a choice of studio and concert hall acoustics.
Although it's not a percussion instrument, Zitherette (650MB) adds a nice plucked‑string timbre to the bundle. This small, psaltery‑like box zither has an intimate, early‑music feel and sounds very effective played solo. All in all, this is a fine, creative, intensively‑sampled collection containing some unique and exotic sounds and desirable sound‑design extras. Dave Stewart
Downloads: Tonehammer Composer Bundle 1 $294; Alien Drum $59; Bamblong $35; Circle Bells $59; Cylindrum $49; Kalimba $29; Propanium $59; Whale Drum $59; Zitherette $39.