Computer Music magazine's very own Dr Beat reviews Toontrack's UK Pop EZX especially for Time+Space....
Encapsulating the drum sounds and grooves of contemporary British pop music, but taking clear influence from the last 50 years of the genre as a whole, UK Pop EZX is one of Toontrack’s grooviest EZdrummer 2 add-ons to date, setting a new benchmark with its depth and scale.
"Recorded using more mics than have ever been used before in an EZX"
Recorded by Grammy award-winner Mark Taylor (Lady Gaga, Daniel Beddingfield, Lionel Richie) at London’s RAK Studios, UK Pop EZX’s sample bank demands almost 5GB of hard drive space, making it the biggest EZX yet. The reason for the big footprint is that the pack crams in four complete multisampled four-piece kits, plus four additional snare drums and a sizeable collection of cymbals, all recorded using more mics than have ever been used before in an EZX.
Manning the kits for sampling purposes and performance of the integrated library of MIDI grooves is UK session drumming legend Ash Soan, whose all-star client list includes Adele, The Wanted, Nelly Furtado, James Morrisson, Will Young, Ronan Keating and Squeeze, not to mention his weekend job powering the house band for The Voice UK. He’s also the only Brit to win Modern Drummer’s coveted ’Studio Drummer of the Year’ award, cementing his credentials as a ‘drummer’s drummer’.
The kits are almost entirely vintage, comprising Gretsch Round Badge, USA Custom and Broadkaster setups, and a Ludwig Hollywood, with kick drums ranging from 20-24” in diameter, rack toms in 12x8” and 13x9”, and floor toms in 14x14”, 16x16” and 18x16”. The snares take in a variety of 14x5” shells by Gretsch (Broadkaster, 4157, hammered chrome on brass), Ludwig (60s Supraphonic) and Yamaha (Maple Custom), plus a 13”x6” Yamaha Maple Custom and the awesome 12x7” Gretsch Purpleheart.
Sticking and damping options for certain specific drums include felt and fleece beaters, sticks and mallets, and tea towels, and there’s a set of claps and foot stomps also onboard for layering. The cymbals, meanwhile, are Zildjians from start to finish: 14” A, K and Avedis hi-hats (the K played with sticks and mallets); three 22” and 23” K rides (one played with mallets); and six K/Kerope crashes from 16-22”, including Soan’s wonderfully filthy 22” Constantinople Overhammered ride/18” Kerope crash stack.
"Load UK Pop into Superior Drummer 3 and every channel becomes yours to command"
As well as the essential close mics at its core, all accessible in the EZdrummer 2 Mixer page, UK Pop EZX also incorporates three sets of overheads, two sets of ambient mics and three mono ‘character’ mics. In EZdrummer 2, most of these are mixed for you in the background to keep things simple, but load UK Pop into Superior Drummer 3 and every channel becomes yours to command.
Back in EZdrummer 2, Mixer page effects include Delay, Slapback Delay, Spring and Plate Reverbs, and EQ, and in another EZX first, UK Pop EZX features optional (and preset kit-specific) mix buss processing in the shape of depth-adjustable tape saturation, overdrive, harmonic excitement and widening. Drawing on algorithms from Toontrack’s EZmix 2, all of these sound great, with palpable analogue mojo.
"Soan’s playing is driving, hard-hitting and supremely soulful"
All told, UK Pop EZX brings together an impressive diversity of tubs, metalwork and mixing tools, and the best way to get to know it is to take a tour of the seven factory preset kits. Each of these captures a particular theme from within the broader UK pop sphere, and comes with a full library of MIDI grooves and fills at tempos from 79-200bpm to show them off and serve as source material for your own drum tracks in EZdrummer 2’s Song Track or your DAW. From the bouncy glam rock stylings of ‘Carnaby Street’ and the big, booming Bowie-ism of ‘Art School’, to the tight breakbeat science of ‘Bristol Eyes’, the dry-as-a-bone, Ringo-esque desiccation of ‘Tea Towels’ and the snares-off mallet-ery of ‘Deeper Beater’, it’s a comprehensive genre sweep, and Soan’s playing is driving, hard-hitting and supremely soulful.
UK Pop EZX stands alone among its stablemates, embodying the earthy, organic, full-frequency sound of contemporary British pop drumming, and marking a welcome departure for Toontrack from the usual US-focused idioms. A powerful percussive resource for singer-songwriters, electric/acoustic pop producers and e-drummers alike, built on a wealth of beautifully sampled drums and cymbals, it comes highly recommended.
About the Reviewer
Having previously served as Editor of drummer's bible Rhythm as well as Computer Music magazine, Ronan Macdonald has been playing drums for over 30 years and making music with computers since the 90s.
Click here to check out Ronan's tutorial for Getting Started with the UK Pop EZX over on the Time+Space blog.