Big Fish Audio | Keyboard Jim Aikin | Groove Dimensions Product Review
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Groove Dimensions | Keyboard

Reviewer: Jim Aikin | Rating: SOUND QUALITY: 8 SELECTION: 8 BANG FOR THE BUCK: 8 Back to Groove Dimensions product details

Here’s my plan: With so much great soundware to choose from, the biggest problem musicians face is that most of the beats are at incompatible tempos. So what developers have to do — from now on, all loops should be at the same tempo. I know, the hip-hop crowd would like that to be 89 bpm, while the dance crowd would prefer 135 bpm. So I figured we could compromise on 120, which has the advantage that it’s easy to figure out how long your song is. . . . Hey, how come you’re all walking out on me? No, wait!

Just kidding. But that thought surfaced when I started listening to Groove Dimensions, because so many of the beats are so good, and I’m so greedy (or just plain weird) that I want to be able to use a whole bunch of them in one song. Guess I’ll have to find some software that will stretch stereo beats reliably. (Wish me luck.) Tempos on the disc range from 72 to 155, and there’s not a whole lot of consistency, though 100 and 120 are well represented.

But that’s academic if the sounds aren’t happening. And these beats are great. Most center around a funky drum rhythm, but generally the drums are processed in some rude way to give them an exotic edge. Heavy flanging, distortion, filtering, panning, and tempo-based delays all get a good workout — sometimes several of them within the same 4-bar sample. "Check out the crazed ‘Beatwacker’ loops in track 14," Greg Rule advises. "I love those pitched delay tricks. It sounds like ping-pong balls bouncing around inside a wet cave." Some beats are dual layers in which a straight-ahead sound, such as a hi-hat pattern, is mixed with a compatible noise sound that might as well be entirely synthetic. In other beats, the drums themselves are subjected to various forms of audio torture.

I wouldn’t call Groove Dimensions the most over-the-top example of sound design I’ve ever heard. It seems to me producer Thomas Schobel struck a good balance between in-the-pocket usability and fresh textures. Greg took a different view, though: "Many sample CDs have offered processed beats, and many have failed because they stayed too close to the middle of the road. This disc succeeds because it makes no bones about what it is. It’s creative processing to the max: wild, wild wet!"

Only a handful of the samples suggest any particular tonality; most are pure percussion. And there are no construction kits per se on the disc, only full-kit beats. Well, that’s not 100% true; a few tracks are devoted to hi-hats, not full kits. Each track gives you between four and a dozen (or more) related beats at the same tempo, so you’ll probably find it easy to mix and match samples for the various sections of a tune. Sometimes the related beats use the same rhythm but different source sounds for the drums. Other times you’ll hear what seems to be a performance on actual drums, but the first time it’s pretty straight-ahead, the second time it’s wildly filtered, and so on.

The beats tend to be four or eight bars in length, and they’re not simply repetitions of a 2-bar sample in most cases, though the phrases are generally two bars in length. Sometimes the differences between bars 1-2 and bars 3-4 are underhanded — a little change in the resonant frequency of a flanger, a little more accent on a hi-hat — and other times they hit you over the head. Fills at the end of bar 4 show up a fair amount, and sometimes a drum hit or two moves around to change up the beat.

Good stick work, solid sound design — what more could you ask for?

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