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Chill: Downtempo Loops and Beats | Recording Magazine

Reviewer: Darwin Grosse Back to Chill: Downtempo Loops and Beats product details

Big Fish Audio has beomce a powerhouse in the audio sample game by producing great titles in prodigious quntities. Two recent additions to its catalog are dedicated to "cool" productions: down-tempo, laid-back beats and instrumental sets that can simultaneously relax and excite. These titles, 101 Below and Chill, are rather gere-specific, but come in jumbo-sized DVDs that try to ensure that you will find something you need among their content.

101 Below

Produced by the suspiciously named "Sigmund Droid" of well-known sample creators Bunker 8 Labs, the 101 Below disc contains 31 different construction kits of a particular pedigree: the "downtempo" sound on display is the result of a love-fest between acoustic guitars and pianos, filtered and boxy drums, synth basses and accent lines, and sweet melodic strings. It's easy to imagine either a tender famale or angst-ridden male vocalist set on top of these tracks. They are also rather filmatic in nature, providing the sort of ebb and flow that can work as great video beds.
The files come as WAV loops, Reason-accessible .RNS files and Kontakt format .NKS files. This works to the user's advantage, since each format offers unique ways of manipulating the sample content. I primarily tested using the WAV files within Ableton Live, but also worked with the Reason files. Working with Reason was especially useful, since I could alter the way that Reason's Dr. Rexx player handled looped material in interesting ways. The disc also incudes a set of sample arrangements, allowing the user to hear the "intent" of Bunker 8's production.
Licensing information for this content is provided on an insert within the disc. It is pretty simple: you must be the original purchaser of the disc, and you cannot provide the unaltered sounds as part of a commercial sound library. Beyond that, you are free to use the content as you deem necessary. If dreamy pop is your style, you will probably find this disc "deemed necessary" in many situations.


The second DVD is Chill (subtitled "Downtempo Loops and Beats"), and it consists of 34 contruction kits with drums, bass and assorted other insruments designed to jump-start a production gig. The loops are all available in Apple Loops, REX, and WAV formats, and can either be copied to the hard drive or accessed directly from the DVD.
The range of these construction ktis is impressive, spanning a divers range of musical influences: there are spacey trances, steamy hip-grinders, hopping avant-funk and Wilco-like beds, each with a useful lmixture of basic tracks and accent lines. The tracks are well produced without sounding too slick, leaving plenty of room for the savvy producer to slip in a few tricks. My only compaint is that some of the tracks use quirky effects that are very out-front; this can be dangerous, since an effect that sounds fresh and cool today can quickly become the overused cliche of tomorrow.
Despite this, the quality of this package is topnotch, and the content is inspirational. In addition to the construction kits, there is a set of "Extras" that include a few drum loops, a few bass loops and a whole lot of guitar and flute licks. While the construction kits lead you down a specific styleistic path, the Extras keep the door wide open for experimentation. I have to admit that a few of the loops from the Extras folder have made it into my "Use These First" loop folder - and will see their way into many future recordings.
The Chill disc didn't come with any insert text, so licensing issues were somewhat unclear. However, a quick visit to Big Fish's website gave us this text, "Your purchase of our product IS the license: if you've bought our product through a legitimate source, you have the unlimited right to use it in your musical compositions." How's that for clarity? Big Fish prides itself on the creation of royalty-free sample content - a refreshing change in the lawsuit-crazy world of sample clearance. (Big Fish points out quite correctly that there is a Readme file with legal and other information on the DVD itself, but you can't access it without buy the disc first.)


Bunker 8's 101 Below is a compelling example of a particular breed of downtempo work often seen on the pop charts today: an interesting an complex mix of electronic and acoustic instrumetns commingled into a deep soundscape.
Chill, on the other hand, offers much greater variety of style among its construction kits and an interesting collection of extras that will be useful in many contexts. These are both compelling sample sets, and are examples of Big Fish Audio's leadership in making adventurous sonic flavors accessible to every producer.

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