ZION TRAIN DUB SELECTIONS REVIEWED IN WORD AND SOUND
WWW, September 2010 -Attention all serious DUB producers: dive into the vaults of Neil Perch (Zion Train, Abassi All-Stars, etc etc) and get some massive material which will not just spice up your own productions but will lead you into the deeper realms of Dub for true.
A review in word and sound!
It's almost like DUB was created for the technologies that would arise in the decades after the music was born in the late 1960's, early 70's: Zion Train's DUB Selection is another very fine example of that. For just over 50 Euros, you're being provided with powerful drums, real bass, real keys, real vocals and: real horns!
The package, about five gigabytes large, basically comes in two parts: REX and WAV. Even though the wave files contain some most interesting material, a look at the Rex section provides you with a quick-start, especially for owners of Reason and such programs.
Which is exactly what we'll do at the start of this review.
Some browsing through the Rex files within Reason comes up with some -more or less- matching loops incredibly quick. After about 25 minutes, yours truly collected a couple of drum loops, a bass line from a bass guitar, some keys and a matching trombone section.
A little bit of Dub mixing followed, with a truly simple set-up containing just two echo's, one reverb (in initial mode) and the filters on the Dr. Rex loop player. A very interesting experience as the sound of Neil Perch's studio blended with the effects, definitely creating vibes already.
The result? A four-minute Dub that sounds pretty fair.
ZION TRAIN DUB SELECTION 1: ENTERING THE VAULT DOWNLOAD
Admitted: there was a little bit of cheating involved. At the start of the Dub, you can hear an introduction which did not come with the Rex files, but rather was the result of a sneak preview at the wave files, which can also be opened in Reason and triggered with the drum computer.
These wave files contain, next to the same material which can be found in the Rex section, some very interesting stuff. Included in this is an impressive selection of vocal recordings, some of which have a rather melodic approach.
In the second tune created for this review, two of these vocal samples are included. That is, on top of a piano and organ from the Dubroom library and a couple of matching loops which were grabbed rather quickly. Again, just to see what can be done just a short while after you have the discs or downloads available for use.
ZION TRAIN DUB SELECTION 2: WATCH HOW YOU'RE DUBBING DOWNLOAD
An advantage of the fact that most loops come in the Rex format, lies within the possibility of these files to play in another tempo than the loops were originally recorded. This enables the owner of the Zion Train Dub Selections to dive deeper and combine loops from various tempo's in order to create something completely new.
Add some horns, some keys, a clavinet, a bassline and drums. Restructure some of these loops, like the bass, and make a riddim that has a vibe. On top of that, take 8 bars of toasting from the vocal samples, then cut and paste them in the right place of the rhythm.
Such a thing opens up deeper possibilities of the package, especially for those producers among us who are willing to spend a little bit more time before the dubbing can start.
Here's how such a riddim sounds like, again with the use of only two echo's, a basic reverb and the filters on the various devices themselves. The vocals fit in just fine, et voila:
ZION TRAIN DUB SELECTION 3: IN TUNE WITH THE ZION TRAIN DOWNLOAD
Finally, a fourth tune, done with some quick grabbing of chords, a horn lick, a bassline, drums and some vocals:
ZION TRAIN DUB SELECTION 4: PICK IT UP IN DUB DOWNLOAD
Admitted, there was some final mastering done outside of Reason, but that wasn't much more than a limiter and subsequent normalizing. It should be said, though.
More important: the setups used in Reason for these three dubs were kept to the most simple level, in order to show the basic power of the loops. Basic power, which can and should be seen as self-evident for everyone remotely involved in the production of computer and loop based DUB music.
Where the Rex format is designed for the software which can deal with it (Propellerhead Reason for example, a crucial tool for the computer based Dub producer), Wave Files are much more open in nature.
They require editing, subsequent sequencing and possibly more editing. They will keep you busy for many hours before you're able to produce something within your sequencer or multi-track recorder. But then, you're really able to deal with the depth provided by Neil Perch in this excellent sample pack.
So, let's leave the Rex files for a while and focus on that biggest part of the sample and loop collection: the wave files. They're all formatted in high quality 24 bit, and can be divided into two different sections: loops and samples.
A look at the samples, first.
What stands out is the enormous amount of vocal hooks and licks, jingles if you will, some of which we already heard in the first three audio examples that come with this review. Some of these jingles can also be found on two podcasts from Radio Dubroom 2010 (see further in this review).
Zion Train works a lot with vocalists Brother Culture and Dubdadda, both of which contributed to the vocal files, 50 in total. They vary from "short shouts" ("now man", "ease up", etc) to more melodic and long parts, which you might have to cut and paste a little bit, just like was done in the third DUB tune.
On top of that, a lot of vocal parts can be used for radio shows as much as your own Dub productions. Just like the multitude of sound effects you can find as well, by the way.
The effects are divided into three categories: "Lush FX", "Atmospheres" and "analogue Noises". The three of them each come with their own puropse and idea, alltogether the possibilities of use are rather endless.
The Lush FX are definitely the most versatile. They come from an analogue synthesizer and contain many beeps, sweeps and siren-style sounds. When properly put into echo, they will definitely spice up just about any Dub tune.
In two different podcasts of Radio Dubroom 2010, you can listen to some jingles and Lush FX, so that you can listen for yourself.
RADIO DUBROOM 2010 CHAPTER 17: THE WARRIORS ARE COMING
RADIO DUBROOM 2010 CHAPTER 20: RUFF AND TUFF
The Atmospheres are more designed for Dub productions, even though there's a lot you can put in podcasts as well. Predominantly, they can be described as short audio-movie clips: a lot of nature sounds, for example. Indeed: field recordings.
Synthesizer atmospheres are there too: they will serve just fine as intro, outro or intermezzo in your own Dub creations, with or without the provided loops.
The Analogue Noises form yet a third and different category. These are not just samples, a lot of them can be used as background (or foreground) loops. Loads of techno/house vibes, which -when combined with crucial Roots drum and bass lines- serve very well in contemporary DUB.
On top of the vocal and effects samples, the bulk of the wave files are loops. Drums, Bass, Keys, and Horns (defined as Lo-Fi brass).
There are 40 different drum rhythms, all with a couple of variations. You don't just get the drum loops, each specific drum is also separately recorded and put along with the full drum loops. This doesn't just enable you to make a different balance of the drum mix, for example you might want to increase the bass drum, it's also perfect for those that want to convert their wave files into dr rex loops in order to create their own drum rhythms.
72 live bass lines and 50 synth lines: that's more than enough to create several albums full of new riddims. They range from very militant lines obviously designed for steppers drums to more relaxed lines, deeper if you will, for the perfect One Drop dub. Many lines, when you hear them, will produce a drum rhythm in your head and there's a huge change you'll find a matching drum rhythm too.
Every line tells you the start chords to play along with as well as the BPM tempo (of course). On top of the lines, you get all the relevant notes as well to load in your sampler in order to make your own bassline.
The same thing -and more- can be said about the Keys files. There's piano, Rhodes piano, organ, and even clavinet: the "whole" original keyboard section that we know from the old days.
The loops are versatile, like the bass lines. From piano chords cutting like a sword (especially with some strategically placed reverb) to organ shuffles, from unmistakable clavinet licks to the Rhodes piano which gives that ancient vibe.
On top of the loops, the keys are provided as single tones too so you can load them in your sampler. Just like the bass lines. However, all the instruments also come with single chord hits! When you're really lazy you can just pick a few chords, load them in the drum computer, put them on the 2 and the 4, and off you go.
Arguably the most important part of the whole package can be found in the "Lo-Fi Brass" map. Lo-Fi? Maybe because the recordings are analogue, definitely not recorded in high definition. Crucial, because a horn section which is too clean just doesn't seem to fit in Reggae, it makes the music a bit too clean. After all, you want effects on top of all instruments... At least, in the opinion of yours truly.
Horns are well-sought after, both within the circles of musicians trying to form collectives or bands as well as the contemporary Dub/Reggae producer who makes use of digital technology. For many people, the horns are just as much part of Reggae as the bass, at least, almost.
If only for this reason alone one and ones should get this pack, the price won't do much harm and for that you get no less than 208 different loops. Structured after opening chord and BPM tempo, that is. Some are part of one riddim, others seem to be more or less standing on their own. All of them can and should be used in many Dub productions to come.
Unfortunately, there are no single hits for the horn section but a little bit of editing in the wave files would even provide you with that, this in spite of the fact that the themes and rhythm loops themselves provide more than enough already.
Even though most of the loops are also available in Rex format, not all are. Especially the horns need to be transformed into the increasingly popular format which does require some work but this same goes for those who want to use the wave files alone.
You might need to browse a bit before you'll find matching chords, bassline and horns. Otherwise,. enough room for editing and sampling to make your own. For this review, we only scratched the surface as the time to dig deeper was simply not there. Numbers used in the end of the file names at first suggested some kind of reference to matching files but after asking Neil Perch of the Zion Train about it, he said that these numbers could be ignored.
That said: you will not want to miss out on this treasure of DUB niceness, first of all. At the moment this is written (September 2010) the price is just about 50 Euros which might require some to wait a month or so but then, you're already interested in the production of Dubwise and probably invested something already.
All kinds of styles are represented and can be created out of the enormous wealth of material, all kind of production techniques can be applied which makes the collection interesting for people with a complete studio to producers limited to computer-based technology.
The four quick Dub tracks which come with this review proof it, as far as we here in the Dubroom are concerned: just a quick grabbing of (closely) matching loops and samples makes it possible to create very decent-sounding productions.
What to expect when deeper digging and more time is used to open up the box even more?
Just niceness, that's clear!