Awarded 5 STARS
Awarded 5 STARS
"I'll start with the bad news. Though its makers claim that Total House is triple-CD set, it's actually only a double audio CD - but the good people at Zero-G have generously included a WAV-format CD-ROM with all the sounds chopped up and ready to go on a separate disk bundled with the package. The only other thing to be wary of is the shameful 'Sex' noise sample on track 46 of Disc 2, but other than that there really is very little about this beautifully polished and compiled release that warrants anything other than high praise.
Having gathered together some of the big names in house music sound design and programming, and after trawling through some of their immense back catalogue for a few ideas (the James Brown-type sample? Pur-leeeease!) Zero-G have come up with as close to the definitive resource for the house producer as could be imagined. Spread across both audio CDs (with the drum loops taking up an entire disc) each track typically contains 10 samples or loops all sensibly edited, listed with their appropriate bpm and key signature and all perfectly suited to the samplist looking for some cutting-edge dance-floor fodder.
The meticulous attention to detail shines through not only in the sound quality which is excellent overall (except when it's supposed not to be), but in the way that the whole library is forced into easy-to-manage tempo sets of 120, 125, 130, 135, and 140bpm. Gloriously, this covers all the samples including the wonderful collection of guitar riffs and licks, synth phrases and electric bass loops. With a name like Zero-G you can expect quality, but the sheer ease of use and clever layout of this library will make Total House both a pleasure to use and source of inspiration for a long while to come.
Sound-wise there are many highlights, not least the rich pad textures and the vast array of retro analogue wizzes and bleeps. I've already mentioned the guitar and bass licks, nearly all of which are highly usable, and they cover a wide range of house sub-genres from '70s funk to heavily processed semi-rock sounds. For dedicated programmers with time to spare, there are a good number of multisamples of many of the instruments, and (which is more important), they are usable multisamples (not just bottom C and middle C, like some other sample CDs I could mention). In keeping with the Datafile sample CDs of a few years ago that led the way for sampling in the UK and helped to establish Zero-G, there are a good number of weird vocal samples (both sung and spoken) which, if dropped in over a house track with care and attention, shouldn't end up sounding too much like a Pop Will Eat Itself track circa 1990.
The drum loops are universally excellent as well, and although there aren't any real loop breakdowns or mixouts to speak of, there seem to be so many finely tuned 'kickin' house breakbeats stuffed onto the disk that finding something that wouldn't work in your house track would, I imagine, be almost impossible. Zero-G's Total House is a dedicated product in a specialist field that succeeds on a number of levels. Even if all of the samples on Disc 2 were rubbish (which they aren't) it would still be worth the asking price for the drum loops alone, but as it stands Total House gives you over 144 track-minutes of raw sample material and throws in all the sounds on a WAV CD-ROM. All they ask in return is less than 60 of your English pounds and at that price, it's a seriously tempting offer."
"As its name...
"As its name suggests, Total House is aimed squarely at the house music producer. The first audio CD is entirely filled with loops, most of which are standard 4/4 beat. There are also a few kick-less percussion loops and more complicated loops featuring cut up vocals and stabs. Those expecting breakbeats on their own will be disappointed, as there are none. More puzzlingly, there aren't any two-step loops to be found at all. The first CD is chock-full of loops, with tempos up to 140bpm; this is probably the largest collection of 4/4 house loops you'll ever see.
A collection of extremely clean synth riffs starts off the second CD and they're all in the same key. The bass loops that follow are also of the same high quality, but they feature quite a bit of delay. It's not enough to mess them up, but you wonder why it's there since it makes sampling individual notes a bit tricky. After the synth bass it's time for real bass. It's all a bit 1996, but quite funky all the same. Some great pads and sound effects follow, along with some Doobie Brothers-tastic wah guitar loops. After a selection of vocal samples there's space for a few more chords, multisamples, and a huge bunch of percussion."
Awarded 8 out of 10
Awarded 8 out of 10
"If your chief goal in life is to see your fans dance the night away, Total House is the soundware for you. You get two audio CDs packed with great material - plenty of variety, and no filler. The third disc is a CD-ROM that contains everything on the first two in WAV file format. The first CD is a feast of dean, punchy, multi-layered beats. Each sample is four bars long, and just about every one has a heavy four-on-the-floor kick. There are no construction kit breakouts with individual instrument tracks, but you'll generally find three or more closely related beats, making it easy to build an arrangement.
The variations run mostly to added spice tracks - shakers, hats flanged stuff, extra snare energy, Latin percussion, whatever. "The hi-hat programming is awesome," Mark Vail commented. "And I loved the little elements - processed handclaps, fuzzed-out bass tones, fast snare rolls, and super-feedback delay-processed hits that swirl across the stereo field." A few of the beats are exclusively hand percussion, but most are full kits, with chugging hats, laid-back snares, and miscellaneous noise bursts marching along (or more likely jumping) above the kick. The tracks, 50 in all, have ten beats per track, all at the same tempo. Tempos range from 120 to 140 in 5 bpm increments, with the biggest chunks of material at 125 and 130. With only two or three exceptions, the beats are strictly percussion: It's up to you to add the bass line, stabs, chord arpeggios, and so on.
My favorites? Too many to list, but the light touch of "Trafford Park," with its contrast between a high-pitched background noise and the lower-pitched gated clap, got my attention right away. Too bad there are no variations on this beat. The "Heavens Above" beats give you a choice of no-kick and kick versions with crash cymbal on the downbeat, meaty claps on the backbeat, and some very subtle panned claps filling in, or the same kick and backbeat with a percolating sample-and-hold noise track. "The Velvet Room" and "Strict Rulin" are really two-beat samples repeated eight times, but they're awesome grooves. In far too many of the samples, the differences between bars, or between two-bar phrases, are subliminal or nonexistent. I always think this is a waste of disc space: If I want to grab one bar and loop it, I know how to do that. Give me the variety!
To be fair, the CD does include numerous four-bar samples with changes and hooks that will be quite catchy when looped - a handclap fill at the very end, an extra kick, a snare run, a swirling sound effect, or even a sound that drops out for one note in bar 4. Disc 2 contains everything else you'll need to sample up a storm: funky synth chord patterns, bass riffs on both synth and bass guitar, swirling pads, choppy little chord stabs, wah-wah guitar rhythms, vocal licks and shouts, outer space swoops and other weirdness, single bass synth notes, a few multi-sampled single notes on other synths (including the M1 piano, which apparently has achieved vintage status), and a good assortment of kicks, snares, hats, claps, and other percussion.
"The filter-swept and fuzzed-out synth bass kicks serious butt," Mark noted. He was less enthusiastic about the vocal phrases. "It's too bad so many of these samples were overly processed with reverb, delay, and the like. I'd rather add my own effects." Both tempo and key signature information is given for the tonal riffs, but the keys are sometimes misleading or incorrect, so let your ear be your guide. You may find two chord patterns back to back, for instance, that are both shown as being in C, when the first has a Cm7 chord and the second has an Am7 (which contains the same notes as a C6). I'm a little suspicious of the tempo indications on disc 2 as well: I spotted guitar riffs that were obviously at different tempos grouped together on a track where the samples are all listed at 140 bpm.
On the plus side, every sample is sub-indexed, so if your CD player supports sub-indexing, finding stuff will be dead easy. There's nothing groundbreaking or cutting edge about Total House, it's more classic or timeless in style. But it's a great value for the money, and having all of the samples in both audio and WAV file format makes the package even more attractive. Grab it and work up a sweat."