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Brain: One Stroke Done | Virtual Instruments Magazine

Reviewer: Chris Meyer Back to Brain: One Stroke Done product details

Even a multi-ethnic, hyper-processed freakazoid like me can appreciate a very good drummer playing a very well recorded acoustic kit-especially when it is presented as well as this collection is. Bryan "Brain" Mantia has been playing for 20 years with projects as varied as Primus, Tom Waits, Guns & Roses, Bill Laswell, and Bootsy Collins. Although he lists an even wider range of influences for this collection, his style is recognizable throughout-clean, muscular, and tight, with sharp ornamentation where appropriate.

The kit and the recording complement his style: the kick is a solid thud with a good beater strike; the snare is tight with an excellent crack. For my tastes hats sound just a touch blurred, but this is more than made up for the excellent ride cymbal (especially the clear bell sound).

The kit is close-miked, but an excellent medium-size ambient room tone is present. Even more importantly, Brain’s not a one-groove wonder: each of the 36 drum songs provided (ranging in tempo from 51 through 160 bpm) features considerable evolution and variation, making it easier to construct interesting songs from the results.

There are two variations of this library available: one more suited for loopists, and one more suited for ProTools-style editors. The loop version DVD provides Apple Loops (AIFF), WAV, and REX versions of the samples. Each drum song started as a linear performance that was then edited into anywhere from 19 to 68 2-bar segments with the exception of the occasional 1-bar intro or outro. Each segment is numbered and named (including sectional notes such as "prechorus" or "verse 2"), making it easy to re-assemble the original performance. Many segments also feature stops, rolls, and cymbal accents that keep things moving.

The songs do indeed evolve, so don't judge a song by just the first loop or two; they are inevitably more complex by the end. That said, a surprising number of segments loop fine in their own right if you want to re-arrange the song or keep a particular groove going.

The Pro Tools version comes on 2 DVDs. Each song is provided in its linear full-length glory, and is split into WAV files for each of the mics used: kick, snare, hats, occasionally a second snare, and stereo pairs for the toms, overhead, and room. These are accompanied by corresponding OMF and ProTools projects. The Pro Tools projects are nicely annotated, with bar markers already entered that follow the tempo, which make it easier to cut the performances apart into smaller segments.

There is also a set of 66 single hits on the first DVD, with each of the hits provided in dry, medium, and wet room versions; the second DVD includes stereo mixes of each drum song as well. Entertaining notes explaining the influences behind each drum song rounds out the premium version.

I liked the sound and feel of this library from the very first loop I played. Being the scatter-headed freakazoid I am, if I had to dredge up one complaint, it would be that I would have liked hearing a different kit or radically different recording every now and then. But the only reason I even noticed the similarities was because of the pure wealth of material provided: three dozen songs, with dozens of loops per song, sets a very high bar for other rhythm libraries to match. Kudos to Brain and Big Fish for this collection: I know I'll be using it.

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