Thursday, March 19, 2009

Review: Drumdrops in Dub Sample Library

Library: Drumdrops in Dub Featuring Style Scott
Format: Available as download or DVD.
Genre: Dub, Chillout, Downtempo
Distributed by: Loopmasters
Price: Double DVD (with instant download too, so you don't have to wait) £79.95, download £74.95
Demo: Audio demos on the product page.

Today I'm going to be looking at the first in a series of dub-oriented loop libraries from Drumdrops featuring the drumming skills of Style Scott whose work you may have heard with artists such as Gregory Isaacs and producers such as King Tubby and Scientist. As you might expect, the library focuses mainly on the 70's style of dub rather than more current offshoots like dubstep, but most of the loops could be used in a much wider variety of styles with proper post-production.

This 2 DVD set consists of just under 3GB of live drum tracks ranging in tempo from a chilled 69 BPM all the way up to a more peppy 143 BPM. As with most of the libraries distributed by Loopmasters, the loops are available in a wide variety of formats including REX2, Apple Loops, and Acidized WAVs with the individual hits available in EXS24, Halion, Reason NNXT, Kontakt, and SFZ. The second disc in the set is what makes it stand out from other sample libraries. It contains 24 full-length drum tracks with each instrument on its own dedicated track allowing you to produce and mix them any way you see fit. These all come tempo-mapped with session files for ProTools, Cubase, and Logic (MIDI files are also included if you use a different host).

So let's have a look at what's on offer! We start off with a number of dry loops. These run the gamut of tempos and feels, but are consistently excellent. The playing is tight, but with a human feel, and the recording quality is pristine without being sterile. It's very cool to have the option to effect these anyway you see fit and it goes a long way towards making this a library that could appeal to musicians in a wider variety of styles for whom the traditional dub effects might not be appropriate. Most of the loops include several variations and fills which makes them a lot more musically useful in the context of a song. The loops in the same tempo range mix and match very well, but because there is such a wide variety of tempos available, you won't, for example, find that the loops in the 130 BPM range translate well down to 60 BPM. But that would be true of pretty much any drum loop.

Next up is a huge selection of dub loops complete with the appropriate effects such as spring reverb and tape delay. Once again, the playing is spot on and the production couldn't possibly be any more authentic sounding. Everything has a fantastically retro vibe to it and the feel of the beats have the perfect combination of syncopation and head-bobbing lope. As before, variations and fills for most of the beats are included so you aren't locked into just a single beat.

These are followed by a small selection of live hi-hat loops. These again add value for those not wanting to use the library strictly for making dub. All the loops have great dynamics and are recorded with a pleasing room ambience. Most are in the 70-80 BPM range, but a handul of more up-tempo options are available as well.

Next, we have a nice selection of percussion loops. These are multi-instrument loops played on bongos, guiro, tambourines, triangles, woodblocks, and pretty much any traditional percussion sound you care to name. These mix with the drum loops very well and can help you get even further mileage out of the loops by adding more variety to your track.

The loop library is rounded out with a decent selection of shaker and tambourine loops. Like the hihat loops, they could be useful in just about any genre and the playing and production is superb.

If loops aren't your thing, there is a nice selection of one-shots for creating your own dub magic. Not only do you get a selection of authentic sounding kicks, hats, rims, snares, snare rolls, and percussion, but a whole bunch of FX type sounds including dub sirens and all manner of bleeps and bloops to fill out your arrangement. These sounds are all recorded dry, allowing you to produce them as you see fit. The only thing that really seems to be missing here are crash cymbals, but arguably there is nothing really special about crashes in dub that makes them any different from the hundreds of crash samples you probably already have.

The full drum arrangements on the second DVD will be a huge time-saver for anyone looking to get started on a track quickly. The 24 different full-length songs are divided up in folders according to tempo and each drum, percussion instrument, and effect is isolated on its own channel allowing you to mix and produce them however you like. Overheads are also featured as you would expect. As with the rest of the library, the playing and recording quality is bang on and the ability to play with the multi-tracks is incredibly useful and potentially educational for musicians who are just learning to mix. People working on TV and film music, where deadlines can often be ridiculously tight, will especially appreciate having full, ready-to-go drum tracks available so they can hit the ground running.

If you make your own traditional style dub and find that your drum programming just isn't cutting it as far as authenticity goes, you'd have a hard time finding a more useful library than this. But it needn't be limited just to that style. These beats would work well in many different contexts including chillout and lounge, world music, and any other style requiring a downtempo, live feel. The inclusion of dry loops really extends the usefulness and flexibility of the library and, as I said before, the full-length drum tracks are a fantastic, time-saving addition. 10/10

Here is a quick and dirty demo put together using a handful of REX loops and some of the effects sounds. The loops have no additional effects on them (aside from the percussion loop towards the end which has some spring reverb added), while the effects sounds are treated with Logic's Tape Delay plug-in. The bass sound is Logic's built-in ES-M synth, while the organ skanks are Logic's EVB3 sent through a spring reverb in Space Designer.

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