Big Fish Audio | Virtual Instruments Magazine Jason Scott Alexander | LA Drum Sessions 2 Product Review
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LA Drum Sessions 2 | Virtual Instruments Magazine

Reviewer: Jason Scott Alexander Back to LA Drum Sessions 2 product details

Los Angeles is home not only to some of the best drum rooms in the world, but to one of the hightest concentrations of top-flight session drummers. Who played where on LA Drum Sessions Volume 2 isn't advertised, but Big Fish has struck the right combination of talent and venue in assembling this substantive library.

At just over 3 GB, LADS2 features 2,239 WAV loops recorded at 16-bit, 44.1 kHz, with duplicates in AIFF/Apple Loops and REX formats also provided. Categorized into 15 tempos (50-170 BPM), each BPM folder contains sub-folders of different performance sets - representing 73 different song "sessions" in total. Playing styles span nearly every perceivable genre from rock, pop, disco, funk, and punk to jazz, blues, modern country, rasta, zydeco, smoovegroove,and swaggering hip-hop bounce.

There are often a dozen or more variations of the loops in each performance set, and they work together to make it easy to create custom drum arrangements. However, not all performance sets have complete intros, fills, and outros, which can sometimes making full arrangements a challenge. So you could cook up your own using a program like Ableton Live or Sony ACID to edit the loops. Or you might dip into one of several folders dedicated to fills and tom flourishes that are dispersed (somewhat randomly) throughout the collection.

This brings us to one of very few complaints I have about this library: while it isn't difficult to time stretch/compress these loops, there isn't a consistent set of elements (such as fills) in each tempo folder. Also, the incrementally numbered file names within each performance set are somewhat nondescript. Simple names like Intro, Chorus, Verse, Break, or Fill would save you from having to audition maybe a dozen loops each time you work with LA Drum Sessions.

Contrary to what the disc's title might suggest, the loops are not raw session multi-tracks, but rather composite stereo drum mixes. It's great that Big Fish offers them in three flavors: dry, room mics only, and a wet mix of both. Not only does this allow you to determine your own balance between close-miking and natural room ambience by blending the two tracks, it also lets you add your own brand of reverb or funky effect to each version.

Several different drum kits, microphones, and recording paths were used, providing many distinctive sonic characters not found in the original volume to this series. I especially liked the down-tempo 4-On-Floor rock kits for their large, lively sound with lots of ballsy low-end; when blending their mix mainly to that of the room-mic tracks, I conjured up the raw and ambient vibe of early U2 sessions with Daniel Lanois at the helm. Other times, solid rock beats have been infused with tricky hi-hats that remind me of jazz-influenced Sting or Police material.

Several performance sets feature crash-, ride- and snare-heavy variations for mixing into climactic parts of your arrangement, while others are solely geared to show off tricky snare/stick work or flashy Prog-Rock style tom action. In a library of predominantly mainstream musical styles, I was surprised that two of my favorite sets happened to be the hip-shaking, latin-influenced 115 BPM "Bongo Fun" and the breezy 145 BPM "Rosta 1" and "Rosta 2" reggae folders. Blending either of these "top end" (little or no kick) families in with straight rock or funk beats created some wonderful hybrids of distinctly more urban flava. And, if an arrangement demands beat augmentation surgery, the folder of 360 single-shot drum hits should do the trick.

The deft timing and originality of the drummers is impressive. But more than that, I really enjoyed this disc. It provided countless moments of inspiration, and I had a great time hacking loop variations into granular oblivion using Spectrasonics Stylus RMX and Apple Logic Pro as chopping boards.

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