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Fear - Pod Volume 2 | Keyboard Magazine

Rating: Sound Quality: 8 Variety: 10 Bank for the Buck: 8 Back to Fear - Pod Volume 2 product details

Lately I've been doing a lot of reviews of sampling CDs at the strange end of the spectrum. But nothing I've heard yet has been as far out as Fear: Pod 2. These sounds are not just bizarre but truly disturbing- "in an 'aliens feeding on my spinal fluid' sort of way," second listener John Krogh suggested.

While the samples have evocative and imaginative names ("Piano Cancer," "tweetiemoan5," "Morph to Immensity,"), the names don't usually tell you much about what you'll be hearing. Nor does the organization of the CD-ROM provide any clues. The folders are called "Creepy," "Organism," "Tape," and so on, but you could take any sample and move it from one folder to another, and nobody would be the wiser.

A generous 331 samples are included, averaging perhaps eight seconds in length. Some are more than 20 seconds. Most of the samples are one-shots, with no distinct rhythm or pitch. Even the "Rhythmic" folder is only about 50% tempo-based loops, and it would be a big stretch to call them beat loops. Any resemblance to a beat is purely accidental.

I tried importing some of the Fear sounds info an Acid tune I'm working on, and found that I was somewhat limited by the fact that many are one-shot files rather than loops. The ones I tried proved too interesting to work well as beds behind a beat, so I decided to make a rhythmic collage out of them. This meant loading them into Steinberg Wavelab first and chopping them up.

Characterizing the sound is almost impossible. They're not all raucous or distorted by any means; "Cyborg Digestion," for instance, is tense but understated, with some metallic gurgles that do indeed sound visceral. The shuddering, muttering "Cry Blood 1" is the sound a sci-fi movie creature makes as it emerges from the swamp. "Portal Open" is a quiet collage of reverberated metallic ringing and beeping.

If there's a trend, it's toward electronic tones; I heard very little in the way of identifiable acoustic sources. "I dig the overall sonic landscape of this library," John said. "Lots of LFOs are used to good effect. Random and repeating waveforms are tied to filter cutoff, pitch, panning, you name it."

Ring modulation and pitch envelopes are used a lot to keep the tone unstable. The left and right channels are frequently quite different- but in complementary ways, as if two distinct sound sources are modulating one another. Most of the time the samples stop abruptly rather than ending in a natural way: I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the material was improvised into a recorder and the chopped up afterward. If you don't want your listener to get too comfortable, you won't want to miss this one.

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