First off, I should mention my hesitation about drum loops. Over the years, I've developed quite a library of drum loops, and although they're fun to play with, they rarely make it into my finished tracks. I just have a hard time basing a track on a canned beat that is available to anyone. It feels uncreative and unoriginal. Maybe this is just a matter of perspective, but I like to feel that the beats on my tracks are mine.
Submersible Music has created a library of some highly usable loops. DrumCore is not another library full of breakbeats that sound good on their own but have a hard time fitting into a track. And while I'm not sure that there is enough variety here to find the perfect beat for any pre- existing track, there certainly are a lot of different styles available, and a lot of "song starter" beats from which to build a track. And for composing, remixing, or just jamming, this library can't be beat.
DrumCore is a stand-alone application for MacOS X that comes on two DVD's with over 8 GB of 48 kHz, 24-bit audio and MIDI loops by some big name drummers: Jeff Anthony (Sheryl Crow); John Bishop (Mark Murphy, Ernie Watts); Tony Braunagel (Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal); Ned Douglas (Dave Stewart, Simply Red); Sly Dunbar (Bob Marley, Black Uhuru); Michael Shrieve (Santana); Ben Smith (Heart); Matt Sorum (Guns N' Roses, Velvet Revolver); DJ Syze-up (UltraNaté); Alan White (John Lennon, Yes); Zoro (Lenny Kravitz, Bobby Brown). And Submersible is releasing specialized "DrummerPacks" (at additional cost) that will delve deeper into several of the drummers' styles.
There a lot of these multi-DVD drum libraries coming out these days and DrumCore takes a different tact than FXpansion's BFD drums or Propellerheads' Drums for Reason. Those products offer many different configurable kits of MIDI-playable, individual drum hits recorded in multitrack format sampled at many different dynamics. Neither feature actual audio loops. DrumCore is primarily a stereo drum loop library, and there is no facility for time-stretching the loops.
One of DrumCore's hidden strengths is that most of the loops are also provided as MIDI loops, and DrumCore has a built-in sample player with crossfaded dynamic samples of the same drum kits used in the loops. So you want to hear Matt Sorem playing Sly Dunbar's kit? Easy. Or Zoro playing Tony Brunagel's vintage kit? Just a few clicks. And although these are triggered samples, the dynamics and responsiveness are quite convincing-eliminating the fakeyness often heard retriggering sampled cymbals or drum rolls. Technically, you could create your own kits using your own samples in DrumCore's sample player, but it would probably be quite tedious. But being able to switch out a loop's kit goes a long way to making the beat feel like it is mine.
DrumCore also features Submersible's GabrielizerTM intelligent beat scrambler tool-a quick quasi-random way to rearrange DrumCore's loops with one click. I don't know if it quite deserves a trademark, but if you like that fucked- up-beat sound, this is just the thing!
Although DrumCore will not sync to a host application, your DAW (Pro Tools, Digital Performer, Logic) can trigger DrumCore's sounds using ReWire. The resulting audio can be routed back to your DAW through ReWire as well. So it becomes pretty easy to export a MIDI loop from DrumCore into your DAW, duplicate it throughout your track and then either use DrumCore's provided fills, or create your own. Now I really feel like this track is mine.
If you want all of the fidelity and realism of the original audio loop, exporting and importing into your DAW is just as easy. DrumCore offers an export menu item that automates the whole thing. Also, you can import your own audio and MIDI files.
I have just a few complaints. One is that while the loops are well mixed, I don't have control over the level of individual microphones as I do with multitrack libraries. And while I understand that DrumCore is maintaining fidelity and efficiency by not time-stretching samples, it can be frustrating that most loops only come in 5 BPM increments; so auditioning a loop "in context" can be difficult, and you are left to make tempo adjustments in your DAW. And since each loop is actually recorded at many different tempos, most of the library is filled with tempo variations of each loop. So at any given tempo, there aren't really all that many different beats by each drummer (about 8 or 9 styles which each contain several variations and fills).
Submersible Music has created a nice interface that makes finding, auditioning, and exporting beats quick and easy. It is obvious that a lot of work went into this product, and the recordings and performances are top notch. Its MIDI capabilities and Gabrielizer beat slicer-dicer are unexpected features for a loop library, but they actually make DrumCore into something more, allowing users to make the beats their own. ($249 MSRP; www.drumcore.com)