Saturday, April 26th, 2003 | 7:53 pm and filed in peff.
This is a commercially solicited Review, and I received a free copy of the library with the understanding that I may provide honest feedback about the product. Flatpack is the debut release from the Lapjockeys. The moment you see the tasteful packaging with line art of TB-303 knobs and the catchy Flatpack logo, you can sense that this is a special product. Preview demos of the flatpack are available for download from the Lapjockey website as well as the Propellerhead Software website.
The sample library is packed as a ReFill delivered on a CD-Rom. The Refill boasts a hefty 444 megabytes of data for use with Propellerheads Reason 2.x. There are hundreds REX Files for use in the Dr. Rex, a wide variety of patches for both the NN-19 and NN-XT samplers, several ReDrum sets, and synthesizer patches for Subtractor and Malström.
The high quality audio production really distinguishes the Flatpack. If you really want Casio VL-Tone sounds processed through a D.I. into a vintage Telefunken V-72 Mic Preamp into Pro Tools via Apogee converters, then Flatpack is right up your alley. If recording quality (Tele-what-en?) is not an issue, then there are alternative sources for many of these sounds. The atmospheric and textural effects really benefit from high quality recording because they are lush, very clean, open, and dynamically even. These samples are ideal sounds for film scores and adding ambient effects to a song.
The overall sound design of Flatpack has a uniquely British aesthetic. Until I had the chance to meet the creators, the concept behind this project was a little confusing. After becoming acquainted with the Lapjockey crew, I see how various influences shaped the overall production. There are three sides of the Flatpack library. One side has a heavy “Electro” influence with some emphasis on Sci-Fi Film sounds and classic video game noises. The other side is inspired by a love of vintage analog synths like the Moogs, MS-20, TB-303 and Arps. The third side is the “that sounds really cool, let’s drop that in there, too” aspect. While browsing through the Flatpack, the first two aspects are pretty obvious. Then, you will find the washboard rex loops and think “wtf are these sounds doing in an electro library?” These are basically sounds which just sound cool and could be useful.
There is the primary set of vintage electronics that includes samples from the catalog of Roland TR and CR Drum Machines, the Yamaha RX5, and the OB-DX. The Classic drum samples are certainly handy to have, but the original Flatpack ReDrum sets are truly impressive. The sample selection and patch settings are really well done which makes drum pattern programming musically friendly. The only shame is that there are so few original FP ReDrum sets. One other issue is that some of the patches do not make use of the “Channel 8&9 Exclusive” feature for Hi-Hats.
With over 200 REX loops, one can consider Flatpack pretty useful, however in reality it is a lot more than 200 loops. The main directory of REX loops has three frequency range categories: Hi, Mid, and Low. Each category has a variety of loops, and when three Dr. REX players are used with each playing a loop from each range, one can build unique loop combinations. This ingenious technique provides more flexibility than loops that contain all elements in one REX file. This means the actual number of loops you can create is far exceeds the advertised 200.
The Subtractor and Malström patchs are really impressive! Obviously someone with a great deal of programming experience developed these patches. They are far better than some found on the Reason Factory Soundbank. The patches are the type that inspire you when you hear them. These are the types of patches that practically lead you to creating a new song idea.
The Casio VL-Tone is well archived in the Flatpack. Not only are the Rhythm patches looped and processed with ReCycle!, several sampler patches contain multisamples of the instruments. The sound of the VL-Tone instruments pitched down a couple of octaves is wickedly menacing! The other quirky set that I love is the set of Yamaha TX81Z 4OP FM bass samples. Fellow TX81Z owners, hold on to this relic for the “Lately Bass” patch. The Lapjockeys have included this sample set as well.
Rather than be a pandering bastard, I have some open criticisms about Flatpack. The NNXT multisample organs leave something to be desired. The organs are usable, but the key ranges are a little too broad and the Leslie sound becomes obvious when played too far from the root key. The performance of the Rhodes Chords and Runners are really useful, however the number is rather limited. The multisamples are still useful if you’re looking for the sound of a well recorded Rhodes or Wurlitzer, but they don’t have the depth of expression that the original instruments have. These could benefit from another velocity group.
The other criticism is that navigation can be tedious. The file naming protocols are not always consistent, and the organization is not always consistent. For Example, there is a directory for “Extra Samples” in the top level, however there are NNXT patches for these samples nestled down a few levels under the NNXT patch directory. Other patches usually have the samples in a subdirectory of the patches. Another example is in the FP-Music REX loops directory. Some files have the same base name, but are sorted into different subdirectories. These are not major problems, but it just makes file browsing a little more tedious and sometimes confusing.
This Refill is not for everyone because the library is rather eclectic, and only those who desire the unique will truly benefit from this library. If you need a strong arsenal of electro sounds, tweaky analog loops, and really lush pads and atmospheres, then you must have flatpack. Anyone critical of sound quality will appreciate this library, the production uses the finest current and vintage equipment to sample the sources. One can probably download similar sounds recorded through a cheap sound card, but they will sound nothing like the professional quality samples in Flatpack.