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Roots of the Pacific | Keyboard Magazine

Rating: SOUNDS: 9 EASE OF USE: 8 DOCUMENTATION: 8 BANG FOR BUCK: 8 Back to Roots of the Pacific product details

Maui-based producer David Morgan Russell does everything right on this stellar Polynesian percussion package. He's recruited an excellent ensemble to perform dozens of traditional grooves harvested from throughout the South Pacific, captured the results in warm, spacious stereo, and added precise annotation and knowledgeable liner notes. "I'm glad the CD is so ethnomusicologically correct," I hear you say, "but how will it affect my aggro-house remix of 'Meat Thermometer'?" Probably for the better.

This disc doesn't boast the widest timbral palette. You get basic flavors such as single-headed drums in various sizes; log/slit drum; bamboo tubes and gourd rattles; shakers and clackers of wood, stone, shell, coconut, and so on; and a few auxiliary colors such as drummed tin can and blown conch shell.

But while the sheer number of sounds may not blow you away, their quality might. The instruments have been captured with lots of toothy attack; you really feel the impact of stick on skin, shell on shell, stone on stone. The quality sonics guarantee these files will withstand radical signal processing without losing their presence and clarity. While the tracks in their raw state have a strong island flavor, I found that running them through plug-ins such as Waves'Enigma evoked locales even more exotic than the South Seas. The outer rings of Saturn, for example. "I'd agree that the best way to use these samples my be to mess with them," says Jim Aikin, "on the other hand, the insane urgency of the 170 bpm rhythm on track 6 would set off a movie chase sequence nicely."

Even more impressive than the sounds are the grooves. Most of their rhythms are speedy many over 200 bpm - yet the performances are flawless. The musicians manage to push the beat while retaining a deep, syrupy swing. You're constantly reminded that this is dance music.

The opening half of the disc contains 33 traditional grooves, played first by the drum ensemble, and then broken down part by part. The second half offers almost 200 additional patterns and hits, organized instrument by instrument. Several Hawaiian-language chants and ambient bird and water sounds round out the 74-minute CD. "Too bad there are no translation," Jim remarked. "I'd like to know what God or goddess I'm invoking."

Roots of the Pacific may not be your best tool for dashing off construction-kit quickies, but adventurous souls will love this expertly executed collection.

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