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Strange, Big Fish In the Sea of Sounds
SLAMM Magazine 05.02
Whether you're a sampler wielding DJ, an electronica computer Œgeek‚ or simply a guy or gal looking to spice up your recordings, sounds is where it's at. A double-edged sword actually, when you factor in the desire for a unique sonic identity. Aside from rolling our own, we're all drawing from the same well of commercially available loop and sample discs or (gasp!) other artists albums. For an example of how this paradigm can go horribly awry, try to count how many 80's & 90's recordings incorporated James Brown's "Funky Drummer" loop. Hell, I even used it! Granted, much of the responsibility lies with the individual to create their own spin on things, and it is in this spirit that we nip, tuck, wring and otherwise mangle these sounds through various means in our quest for originality. But this is the Taco Bell generation, dammit! We don't always have time for those kinds of shenanigans, and apparently those folks at Big Fish Audio know it. Enter Groove Dimensions, Gas Tank Orchestra and Noize Loops ($99.95 each), three entirely different, thoroughly creative and totally bizarre collections of loops that all share one common trait: a weird, freaky coolness that can set your stuff apart.
Groove Dimensions is a single audio CD set that sets a new standard for quality, originality and value. LA film score artist Thomas Schobel started by laying down an impressive array of beats, from funky to aggressive to arty, and always with an impeccable sense of "pocket". He then took the inventive approach of "playing along" with a variety of signal processors. This yielded not only fresh and trippy, but ultimately very musical results. Sounds fly around the stereo field with wild abandon after being massaged by flange, distortion, ring modulators and any number of rhythmically synced filters, creating little soundscapes of varying hues, textures and well, grooves.
The over 73 minutes (!) of loops are grouped by track, based upon pattern, style and type of effect used. Each of these tracks is broken down in the well laid-out booklet by tempo, and indexes show each variation and its elements. Where applicable, effects and base key notes are also given. Of course with names like "big-lighter 2" and "hi-fi firey 1", you'll still have to listen through to find what you're looking for, but isn't that half the fun? With a variety that spans Drum n' Bass, 2 Step, Trip Hop, soundtracks and more, there is definitely something for everybody here.
Gas Tank Orchestra takes things in an impossibly different direction: Straight to the junkyard, in a very good way. Performed by the New Orleans-based ensemble of the same name, this is a collection of sounds produced from found items (gas tanks, brake drums, hoses, etc.) which were then struck, bowed, brushed or blown into by this wacky group of musicians. The results are a creepy, creaky and clangy netherworld that lies somewhere between eastern ethnicity and a Tom Waits record. If you've been looking to "global" music collections for new harmonic textures, but feel hemmed in by the stylistically identifiable elements, this may be just what you've been looking for.
This two-disc set (one 66 minute audio CD, the other with the 813 samples in Acid .wav format) is divided by the instruments they (loosely) evoke: Drum, Kalimba, Bass, Harp, Zither, Didgeridoo, Flute, Trombone, Trumpet, Clarinet, Oboe and Sax. While keys are given, tempos are not. This is slightly irritating, given that many of the sounds are loop-based, but those of you with Acid probably won't care much, due to the thoughtful and (value-adding) .wav disc. The vibey ambience of these sounds can round out any project in need of some rustic, artistic credibility.
For those who like it dirty (and you know who you are), Noize Loops is as filthy as they come. Not that friendly, fuzzy kind of analog distortion either. We're talking digitally clipped sh*t that would scare the bejeezus out of Trent Reznor or Marilyn Manson in the right context. The surprisingly wide range of agro beats offered are folded, spindled and mutilated into nearly unrecognizable form, creating a mayhem Atilla the Hun might produce, were he to be crushing a computer keyboard in the 21st century, rather than human skulls in the 5th. Perhaps that's not surprising, given that these guys did the music for video games Quake II & III.
Also a two disc audio/.wav format collection, Noize Loops‚ teeth clenching sounds are divided amongst nearly a hundred categories, grouped by the type of effect applied. The tempos range between 76 and 172 bpm, and are listed next to each loop's entry in the booklet. Again, names like "Speaker Bleed" and "Shrapnel Blasts" may not be the most explanatory, so listening through you must do. Just take a couple of Advil prior, you'll thank me later.
Go forth and revel in your newfound rareness!