Having already scored five stars with...
Having already scored five stars with Funk Guitar, Vlad Naslas is back, this time with Funk Bass, a 2-disc set from Zero-G. The subject, as the title suggests, is the bass guitar (there are no synths), and the player is Vlad himself, using '70s vintage Fender Precision and Jazz basses through PAST and Neve processing (i.e valve/vintage pre-amplification, EQ, and compression). In most cases, a different bass sound appears on the left and right channel, and where FX are used,a dry signal is also provided. Where an amp is used (sadly, which one is not specified) a DI signal is provided. Where a mic in a room has captured the sound of a vintage ampeg stack, or whatever (I'm guessing I'm afraid), a DI from the the amp head is also available.
The sleeve notes include bpms, the key used, whether the sample is presented in Mono or Dual Mono, how long the loop is, where in the bar it starts, and so on. In short, all the information present in highly useful, and an object lesson in how to annotate samples. The first disc contains nothing but loops. For each track (or group of tracks), a long session in a particular style and tempo has been reduced to digestible, sample-able, sequence-able chunks. There's one disadvantage - with three hours and 3000 samples crammed onto two discs, there is almost no space between samples. Forget that pause button: sample an entire track, then cut it into pieces.
The first section is an amp/room split called "Mellow bass". What I can only describe as "Lead Bass" meanders busily in a low-key jazz-funk style in the key of D, at 100bpm over 15 one-or two-bar patterns. There aren't an awful lot of changes over the next three tracks, except in key and tempo. Then the slightly brighter "Head Bass" sound takes over. Riffs are often repeated with only subtle playing differences. From track 13, slapping is employed. On these samples, there is none of the artificial brightness normally associated with slap bass - all recording was flat.
Fortunately, the noise floor is way down, and you can boost the treble without huge hiss coming up. Track 18 introduces the "Happy Bass" - a dry signal in one ear, phased in the other. The net result of listening to this in stereo is a phasing effect which sweeps around your head. The "Meatball", a triggered wah-wah (envelope follower) is used a lot, and the bass is both fingered and slapped. "Rubber Bass" (track 24-26) is mega deep, and played in a reggae style as well as in two funky varieties - definitely my fave so far. "Easy Bass" covers five tracks, and features walking bass in blues/funk style - usable stuff. "Hard Bass" is a slapped split, dry in one ear and treated with "Meatball" in the other.
"Talk Bass" (tracks 40 to 43) is filtered, squeezed, envelope-followed and generally growled up - a good emulation of a voice box, in fact (maybe it is a voice box!). "Tight Bass" is another DI/Meatball split, and features some very nifty fingerwork. The rest of disk 1 continues in similar vein, though acoustic bass makes a welcome appearance on Track 67. Disk 2 features all kinds of playing styles. Short, long, pulled, damped, hard, soft, medium, and slide variations are copiously represented for all the sounds and instruments used on the loop disk. Signals are again split left/right and a multitude of multisample sets have been taken per string, at no more than one tone intervals.
Conclusion: This marathon technical achievement pays homage to the likes of Stanley Clarke, Bootsy Collins, Larry Graham and many others. The samples are immaculately recorded, and the sound and playing are convincingly '70s in style, but without the hiss. There's plenty of jazz-funk and blues-funk in evidence. 3000 samples with no stopping time between them makes for very heavy sampling work. And my guess is you won't be able to evaluate their worth until they are mapped ready-to-play. Therefore , as a CD, this is not a very user friendly product. As a CD-ROM, however, it could be audio dynamite. I'll let you know if I get the chance to try one out.
(Note: Since this review was written, Zero-G have indeed released an Akai CD-ROM version of Funk Bass. It was awarded FIVE STARS in review in Sound On Sound magazine).
This 2 disc set comes in the wake of the...
This 2 disc set comes in the wake of the excellent Funk Guitar collection and, like its stablemate, serves up a comprehensive library of riffs and sounds for all those producing funky music out there (whether it's hip hop, garage or R&B). Lovingly recorded using classic basses, amps, fx and mics, the sound of these bass samples is nothing if not authentic, and will have you reaching for your calendar to remind yourself that it's 1995, and not 1975.
Bypassing a mixing desk entirely, producer Vlad Naslas used EQ and pre-amps by PAST (a company based here in sunny Ely, funnily enough), which use 70s components and are based on vintage Neve designs (look out for a review in an upcoming issue). The samples are split into loops on the first disc and multi-samples on the second. This is a good way of working, since the loops offer a quick and easy way of getting a bassline happening, without too much fuss. Equally, if you want to put a bit of effort into getting a dynamic, expressive bass sound, you've got the multi-samples to fall back on.
As far as actual sounds go, you're provided with everything from soft fat, picked bass to up-front slapped bass. There's also a few unusual treatments thrown in, such as a Herbie Hancock-type vocoded bass. These are a lot of fun, and on a package with so much on, it's certainly justifiable to include some slightly off-the-wall samples, as well as the more standard ones. All in all, an almost essential collection of bass samples which lives up to the high standards set by the Funk Guitar CD. May the funk be with you..