Review: Loop Pool Percussion by Sound Dust
Brilliant live loop performances
Innovative use of mod wheel to crossfade between loop variations
Unusual real drums
Inventive found sounds
The myriad of loops all blend superbly
Chock full of happy accidents!
No snapshots, only nki files
Only one time signature (common time)
The fixed tempo has limitations, especially going slower
Sound Dust team up with percussionist Marcio Doctor to produce a wonderfully refreshing organic percussion instrument. Loop Pool Percussion pulses with groove and unique sounds, all wrapped in a Kontakt engine that is inspiring, exciting and easy to use.
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Review: Loop Pool Percussion by Sound Dust
Sound Dust have been giving composers really interesting toys to play with recently with their Loop Pool line. Basically, the concept is to collate a variety of samples across the keyboard and to build in a great deal of playability via the modwheel, which cycles through various sounds. Having already tackled violin, choir, synths and found sounds, the latest Loop Pool incarnation is percussion. And this time Pendle (the man behind Sound Dust) has teamed up with the excellent Argentinian percussionist and composer, Marcio Doctor. What we get from this combination is the maverick programming prowess of Sound Dust and the wonderful organic grooves from Marcio.
Loop Pool Percussion sells for £50 from Sound Dust
With over 1,000 loops on offer it helps to view this library as 3 sample sets: BAM and TSCAK is for your low thuds and a variety of noisy, shaky stuff in the higher frequencies; GROOVEPOOL for tighter sounds with more unusual percussion sources; and MOONDOG generator for the most eccentric and inventive rhythms. The interface is a succinct, uncluttered one page affair and is
intuitively laid out. I especially liked the large waveform view showing the last loop triggered.
Each key has four different BPM synced loop stems selectable via the modwheel. Apart from MOONDOG generator (more on that later) all four stems are a variation on a basic pattern, generally starting quite simple with the modwheel down, then building to busier and more complex patterns as you ride it up. Each of these variations can also have a different time multiplier, from x0.5 to x4 and finally to fast. The latter can lead to surprisingly interesting ‘mulchy’ loops that sound like rhythmical machines. Simply by combining notes and riding the modwheel wonderfully organic performances can be created that ebb and flow due to the sheer amount of combinations possible; you have the specific loop depending on the note, the variations of them depending on the modwheel, and the timing of them according to what you have set within the interface. I tend to not use loops that much in my own work as I find them too constricting and not customisable enough, but Loop Pool Percussion is SO different in approach I almost feel like Sound Dust have stumbled upon some kind of looptastic secret. The only downside is I found it so much fun to build loop layers that I ran out of fingers to use the modwheel for the variations!
For further manipulation you can change the global volume via midi cc, velocity and aftertouch. For use in the DAW a handy snap function will also quantise the start of the loop to a desired time division. All of this information is at the top above the waveform display and it is in this section that you can also see the file name of the last sample played – this is handy should you want to drag in a single file to your DAW, as all samples are supplied here as raw WAVs.
There are three rather humble looking options below the waveform display that are far from humble in how important they are. Note Lock maps the last selected sample across the keyboard so you can pitch the sample easily to get different timbres, to tune the more tonal loops, and also for sound design possibilities. Legato is very useful as it enables you to start loops from the current playback position and not just the start of that sample. So, for example, say you are halfway through a loop on C3 and then press D3 it will then start that new sample from the same halfway position. Offset works per note and allows you to specify the precise starting point for that set of four loops up to 50%. Simpler divisions of 25% and 50% work for keeping things in time, but adding a different feel to the loop, whilst more random offsets lead to off-kilter rhythms. It is worth noting that looping then continues from the original start, which led me to wonder if an update might include an option to loop the loop!
The ADSR is put to best creative use by pulling the sustain to zero, which is highlighted in the nine (three for each sample set) one shot drum machine patches. It is mostly the first sound in each loop that plays back, though you can of course define the offset to choose your preferred hit in any loop. For more experimental sounds I got great results by offsetting to the quieter sounds of the hit tails and playing with the envelope and reverse button. This drum machine aspect adds a whole new layer to the library and combined with the modwheel control of loop variants allows user defined round robins to be introduced too.
In terms of effects we’ve got only what we really need. A large XY pad is dedicated to filter, transient shaper, convolution and a single-band peak EQ. Arrows on the side make it easy to cc control the X and Y which is not always so well implemented from other developers, so – nice touch Pendle! The convolutions are worthy of a call out as they include 80 really usable custom IRs, especially in the Spatial and Spring categories. Below the XY is a slider for tape saturation.
The brilliant Replika Delay is here also, which includes 20 custom presets to get you where you want to be quickly. Delays on loops can often sound really impressive, both for chorus type effects with low values and complex extra rhythms and syncopation with longer BPM synced values. Note that the Kontakt 5 patches, which are also included, do not feature the Replika Delay as that is a Kontakt 6 addition.
All of these effects in combination with the reverse button, playback speed and note lock opens up ample options for sound design and a few presets are included that feature things like scrapes, mini risers, and manic backwards rhythmic textures.
In terms of the sound and usability Loop Pool Percussion is supremely well curated. By that I mean the sounds in each sample set work so well together you can pretty much mash any number of keys and it always sounds cohesive. Some of this comes from the fact that some loops are very minimal, with maybe just a couple of accents which stops everything getting too thick and busy. The live groove is just beautifully nuanced, which is what you get when you employ someone with the skills of Marcio Doctor. It is always tight enough so multiple loops blend perfectly, but with plenty of feel and emotion. What I really like is how the loop stems are not wildly variant, which means you can modwheel through them and it feels very seamless and like a really performance where a percussionist would naturally add some subtle changes to a basic pattern. Each loop is four bars of 4/4 at 120 BPM. They work ok sped up to around 180 BPM and down to around 90 BPM. Some add-on packs that offer more varied time signatures (especially triple time) and slower tempos would be a very welcome move.
The sounds are firmly in the organic camp here, so don’t expect anything in the way of drum machines or synths. Also, it is proudly ‘anti-epic’ so forget about ensemble taikos and massive cavernous toms. Instead, like everything Sound Dust do, the choice of percussion is far from traditional! We’ve got a good amount of actual drums, but they are unusual such as the tan-tan (think baby surdo), the kanjira (an Indian hand drum played with pitch changes) and a reco-reco (a guiro type instrument used in Brazilian music). Respect is due to the engineer who recorded them too, as they have plenty of detail yet never over polished with just enough natural ambience to keep them lively, and very little in the way of resonant peaks or low rumbles, which can often occur with less conventional percussion.
The BAM and TSCAK set is the most focussed on percussion instruments with plenty of low resonant thunks where the awesome Argentinian bombo and floor toms lead the bass charge, then riqs and tambourines for mid range snare-esque sounds and seed pods, woodblock and crashes for the higher frequencies. Although plenty of ethnic percussion are used throughout it never sounds distinctively ethnic, perhaps down to the rhythms played and the blend of instruments from across the world.
GROOVEPOOL uses some traditional drums like frame drums, but is more focussed on found sounds. So, we get bike seat clangs, ceramic tiles and pie dishes, non of which ever sound gimmicky; they just produce very novel timbres. This uniqueness is accentuated (throughout all the loops across the library) by a wide variety of ‘things-you-use-to-hit-other-things-with’, such as drumsticks, mallets, brushes, chopsticks, metal beaters, and the good old human hand!
The MOONDOG generator uses a handful of the same loops as the two other sets, but also introduces such things like metal tubes, cowbell, singing bowls, congas and even marbles. The big difference here though is that the modwheel cycles through totally different loops, as opposed to variations of the same percussive instrument. On the same key you might encounter a kick flight case or wooden drum depending on where the modwheel is. Another critical difference is that mod wheel movement fades between them instead of instantly changing; critical when blending often very disparate loops and works beautifully. It all lends this sample set more to experimentation and kind of works as a randomiser in many respects, as you stumble across more happy accidents than the previous two patches might give rise to.
I would advise starting with the A DEFAULT nki patches for each set. There are then a bunch of other presets which are either the loops with a particular set of effects, one shots, single samples mapped across all keys, or sound designed FX. Personally I prefer snapshots, as I just find it quicker and neater, but I imagine Kontakt’s own limitations precluded this approach for Loop Pool Percussion. Check out the full list of patches below for an idea of what you get.
Should anything get confusing the trademark RTFM tab is here, which essentially constitutes a built-in manual. The Pendle led walkthrough and a few mini videos from Marcio are also worth checking out for bonus tips of how to use (and misuse) the library.
Finally, we have a bonus pack of 100 four bar WAV loops from Marcio and Sound Dust which demonstrate what they can do with the library themselves, and besides being great examples of the kind of results you can get, might be handy if you need something ready made on a deadline.
In short, Loop Pool Percussion is a triumph! It puts a whole new spin on using rhythmic loops which gives a wealth of control to the user and lends itself incredibly well to experimentation and play. The particular quality of the sounds is very appealing – not over produced,
excellently recorded, characterful, unique and with a subtle, neutral ambience. The playing and the blend of the loops is top notch and the Kontakt engine is a pleasure to use.
Like all things Sound Dust it will be most popular with composers and artists on the more alternative end of the spectrum. Those on the lookout for a comprehensive workhorse percussion library will be better served elsewhere. Similarly, it won’t be ideal for the more brutal timbres needed for intense hybrid compositions. Instead, Loop Pool Percussion is all about deft organic grooves that can be manipulated to create evolving percussive performances. For the price it is incredibly good value too!
In a creative industry where modern music makers often share the same tools, it is becoming increasingly valued for developers to offer products that give users the ability to still create very personal sounds. On that point Sound Dust are really nailing it. The best thing is with all the variables going on it is still really hard to make a bad sounding loop here. This makes Loop Pool Percussion simply the most serendipitous library I have ever used!
Loop Pool Percussion is a 1.5GB percussion library for the full version of Kontakt 5 & 6. There are 3 sample sets divided into 30 Kontakt instruments (for both K5 and K6 versions). It comes with over 1000 synced stem loops and 100 full curated loops. Each loop is four bars long at 120 BPM and available as a single 24bit, 44.1kHz WAV file.
Loop Pool Percussion sells for £50 from Sound Dust
Contributor Sam Burt reviews Loop Pool Percussion by Sound Dust
“Sound Dust team up with percussionist Marcio Doctor to produce a wonderfully refreshing organic percussion instrument. Loop Pool Percussion pulses with groove and unique sounds, all wrapped in a Kontakt engine that is inspiring, exciting and easy to use.”