Big Fish Audio | Sound On Sound Paul Sellars | Chill: Downtempo Loops and Beats Product Review
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Chill: Downtempo Loops and Beats | Sound On Sound

Reviewer: Paul Sellars | Rating: 4 Stars Back to Chill: Downtempo Loops and Beats product details

'Like a deep massage,' the blurb begins, 'these laid-back grooves penetrate your eardrums and inspire your soul'. I know from my own experience writing for this column how difficult it is to write descriptively about samples, and how easily you can end up with mangled metaphors. Even so, a deep massage that penetrates your eardrums really does sound rather painful. Fortunately, this new sample library from Big Fish Audio is a much gentler and more enjoyable experience.

Citing the music of Portishead and Massive Attack as stylistic points of reference, Chill promises to draw from jazz, hip-hop, dub, funk, soul, ambient, and pop to 'create a whole new downtempo experience'. Although the words 'trip hop' don't appear anywhere on the cover or in the Readme file, but they do appear in this review...

Delivered on a single DVD-ROM, Chill duplicates the same basic content in three different formats: WAV, Apple Loops, and REX 2 files. In each case you get 34 different construction kits, and an Extras folder containing a good selection of other bits and pieces (drums, some nice jazzy flutes, guitars, and so on). The samples are recorded at 24-bit, 44.1kHz resolution.

The construction-kit tempos cover 60-110bpm, and are mostly in minor keys. Each kit includes a complete mix of a short composition, together with its various component parts presented in isolation. Some also provide a Hits folder containing one or more one-shot samples (generally drum or percussion hits) suitable for programming extra fills or ornamentation.

The material on offer here is impressive. The construction kits are all quite usable, and the better ones are very convincing indeed. The various producers (five different names are credited) demonstrate not only technical ability, but also creditable musical judgement. The kits have been assembled with taste and restraint, steering well clear of needless pyrotechnics and pointless twiddly bits. The different components sit well together, and the arrangements work.

There's a distinct jazz flavour to many of these samples. Some excellent Rhodes and Wurlitzer keyboard parts are in evidence, often complemented by accomplished, but understated guitar licks. The effect is appropriately 'smooth', but without being over-polished or sterile. There are a few darker kits thrown in as well, but the overall feel is actually quite upbeat and cheerful.

The breaks and beats are all-important for this style of music, and the drum programming and production are handled here with flair. Good use is made of compression and EQ, and the sounds range from solid, assertive, and upfront, to muffled, degraded, and lo-fi. A couple of the kits feature glitchy fills and flourishes, but for the most part it's kept simple and effective.

Chill would be a valuable sample library for anyone with an interest in down-tempo, beat-driven music, and it could also make itself useful outside of its appointed genre, potentially offering something to pop productions of every kind.

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