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Plughugger Review

House. No matter what kind of music I listen to, I always come back to house. It's like coming home. Tech House. Minimal House. Uplifting House. Old-old-school hiphop (which I consider to be house in its most original form). Whatever. House is Home.


Without dragging sexual preferences into this blog, I'd like to say there are only three types of clubs I honor with my royal presence: 1) dark, atonal techno clubs 2) where ever Plump DJs are performing and 3) gay clubs. No matter how straight or bent you are, there are few places that play better, more danceable music than gay clubs. And in gay clubs, they play House. Real House. Not the minimal technoish-kind nor the silk-like tones of smokey Rhodes of laid-back house. No, Real House is upbeat in a feel-good manner. The Only One (tm) you actually want to start clapping your hands to the beat without feeling like a moron.


his is the arena where Sample Magics latest offering, Organic House, is playing, and considering Sample Magics amazing track record, I was quick answering yes when I got asked to write about it.


Instead of going entirely back to the roots of house, such as with Marshall Jeffersons sample libraries, Organic House blends the sound with influences from disco but also more modern styles such as minimal, tribal and techno. But the key word here is: influences. It's like coffee with a few drops of milk, rather than a few drops of coffee in a cup of milk.


The whole download pack includes the following formats: Wav, Rex2, Stylus RMX Rex, Apple Loops, EXS24, Kontakt 3 and NN-XT.


Let's start with a personal favorite of mine: Bass. There are 104 bass loops within Organic House and they are all quite easy to classify. Dark, deep and simple. The phrases are usually quite short and simple. In other words, these basses works more like a deep, sub-conscious force. You don't hear them, since their repetitive character renders them invisible after awhile. They rely more on the rhythm than on clever melodies or cool phrases. The style is heavily influenced by funk and disco. Speaking broadly, the type of sounds you'll find here are (filtered) electric basses, deep (filtered) organs or deep (guess) synths basses. There are the occasional bright snappy synth bass - but those are rarerare.


Alphabetically we come to the Combi loops. These loops are half-baked foundations for songs. Each loop contains a number of elements, such as drums, bass, effect and maybe a synth and each variation contains different combinations of instruments. I won't go into detail that these are the first that I delete from my hard drive - as they are too pre-made for my taste. Just add vocals and you have yourself a solid tune - but where is the fun in that? But the real value for these is for advertisement agencies and producers for TV and radio - who in practically no time can mash together a working musical background.


Continuing with the loops, we move on to the musical loops. Here we have two flavors: Music loops and Synth loops. The Music loops are like the Combi loops, but stripped down to two-three different sounds at a time. Some of them contains drums, some not. They all come in a number of variations - and I suspect they are intended as firestarters to get you going in some direction. I found these much more inspiring than the Combi loops - and can actually be a starting point of the very interesting creative exercise Filling in the Blanks. By using a part of music, equalizing away parts such as drums or bass and then programming them yourself, in your own style, can be quite inspiring.


But exercises apart, the real meat for me comes with the clean Synth loops. In this collection, there are 81 of them and they contains Rhodes, organs, mellow synths and brighter synth stabs. A few interesting points to keep in mind is that these loops do not give you any melodies, but rather the backing tracks for them. The underlying harmonies so to speak. The second thing I noticed in my analysis in the Plughugger Laboratories of Sound (which occupies the whole third floor of the Plughugger HQ) is that the sounds quite often lack immediate attack, but are a bit rounded. Later I discovered that this trick was also included in the booklet, but more of that later. Lastly, these loops usually lack any serious amounts of sustain. Sometimes the decay is longer, but generally speaking, these loops are more of the plucked sort (if that makes any sense). A nice touch here is that the Synth loops all come with about zero processing, so you can easily add your own goodness to them.


Moving on to the drums and percussion loops there are three categories here: drum loops, top loops and percussion loops.


The drum loops contains elements such as kicks, claps/snares, hihats and sometimes simple percussion. These loops always come in four variations with different elements playing. The style is four-oh-the-floor and is quite traditional. They aren't filled to the brim with activities or have any attention-grabbing sounds. Kicks are where you expect them, snares can be a little more experimental and the rest brings the groove. The style is entirely synthetic - but this goes without saying - without that über-synthetic feeling. These loops are not attention grabbers that simulate the sound from huge PA systems. It's traditional house beats that brings a steady pulse and some groove.


Top loops contains everything except kick, and sometimes even without snare or claps. These are very nice in face, and opens up for more interesting possibilities from your creative side. Since the loops lack kick - and also sometimes snares/claps - it's easy to transform these loops into something totally new. Or just slap a steady kick on it and let some glitchy plug (yes Automaton, I am looking at you) bend the top loop into something else.


The percussion loops are different animals and are based on acoustic-like percussion sounds such as congas, shakers, toms etc. These loops have obviously not been played by hand, and while they do have that kind of acoustic-sequencer feeling to them, it's nothing I am considering bad. They are quite sparse which makes them easy to add into any kind of material, or even add wild effects on (yes Crystallizer, I am looking at you).


There are 355 percussive one-shots in Organic House and here are all the usual sounds covered: kicks, claps, snares, hats - percussion. You name it. I always get happy when I listen to libraries with not too many drum sounds in them. As I've said countless of times before, there are a gazillion possible variations of the 909 and you are already bored to death after fifty similarish Phat Kicks (tm). In Organic House you get 63 kicks - and I think that's enough for covering the field: woody, layered with hats, punchy, low, deep, short, snappy. The kinds of kicks you won't find here are the overcompressed and overdistorted kind. These sounds are processed, but not that hard, which gives it possibility to work with them further, if one would want that.


I won't be getting into each and every category here, but just to round off, I can say that the claps/snares/hats follow the same pattern as the kicks. Good usable material - without any deviation from the set style. There are no minimal klick-kicks or burn-me-gabber-blasts. It's classic sounds processed medium-rare.


One of the things I like most about any releases from Sample Magic is that the enclosed pdf-booklet actually is usable. Apart from all the thank-yous and equipment list they also dedicate a couple of pages with hands-on production tips, and they are always relevant and make interesting read. But this time also the equipment list reveals something odd. Among royalties such as Sherman Filterbanks, Virus TIs, Culture Vulture there is an E-mu E4XT Ultra hardware sampler (and I though I was crazy going back starting to use old samplers again). I couldn't resist asking Sample Magic to give me The Big Why - the answer from the main producer Sami Luiski was "Yep, I used it for some nice colouring, ran some parts of the loops through it. The infamous zplane filters are especially nice. It also has synthesis onboard that I used for some synth / bass / music loops. We love the classics here!".


Can you guys please shut up? Fifteen minutes later I read that statement, I was already at Ebay searching for one of those nifty E-mus. I'll stop for now, but did you know that you can install memory cards into them? Must. Try. To. Resist.


Conclusion


What I like about Sample Magic is not just the quality, but that they always remain on target of the chosen style. While I personally don't really mind messy libraries mixed styles, but with Sample Magic, you know what you will get all the way to the end.


Organic House is not a hard house library - nor laid-back - in any way. It's Clap-Your-Hands and Feel-Good. The sounds are generally a bit softened which gives the whole collection a rounded feel. Before I hand out the award - I'd like to add that although this library is damn fine - I must say that I miss strings. A lot actually. There are a few house pianos in there, and although I wouldn't have been upset if there were more of them - I'm really missing a bunch of those dramatic, divatastic classic disco strings.