Introducing Sydney Sounds, an ongoing collection of free sample packs for Ableton Live users. Curated by local artists and producers including Lupa J, Mookhi, Matt ‘xiro’ Fioravanti and more to come, Sydney Sounds aims to be the largest collection of audio representing the city and all its colourful noises.
The packs are created alongside artists chosen by Happy Mag. Each creator chooses a location, spends a day armed with field recording gear, then drops back to their studio to catalogue the sounds.
Each Sydney Sounds pack contains at least one 16-sample drum rack, longer ambient samples, plus more.
Matt “xiro” Fioravanti is a producer known for his work with Kwame, Phil Fresh, and Tasman Keith. He regularly accompanies Kwame as a live sound engineer, a gig that’s flown him all over Australia, from Splendour in the Grass to BIGSOUND.
But when he was tasked with putting together a Sydney Sounds sample pack, he looked far closer to home. Timezone is Sydney’s iconic arcade chain, originally established in 1978, and a key part of many of our childhoods.
“When I think of Timezone I think of a cacophony of sounds, like lots of things happening at once. A sensory overload – it’s like acid for children.”
“[Timezone] just means a lot to me. Growing up as a kid in western Sydney you can’t go to a beach or anything like that, so you go to a shopping centre and spend all your coins at a Timezone. I can just remember the sounds and good times had there.”
There’s no way to sugar coat it, arcades are an absolute gold mine for samples. 8-bit trills, inviting little melodies, and mechanical thunks assault the ears as soon as you step inside.
Matt’s Sydney Sounds pack takes these noises – nostalgic as they are – and isolates them, building them into several drum racks based on their individual character.
“People don’t even notice the hitting of buttons, or the pressing of pedals, or changing gears on a Daytona machine… that all makes noise and those noises can be really cool, I’m really looking forward to explore all the sounds that happen that you don’t even notice when you play.”
It wasn’t quite all fun and games, though. Recording in an environment as full-on a Timezone comes with its own challenges.
“I think mic choice becomes super important. I want to try and use mostly a shotgun mic which has a super narrow polar pattern so I can really focus in on sounds.”
Once the day’s recording had been completed, Matt booted Ableton to package the lot. The samples are mostly percussive, with a few longer one-shots for flavour. No matter what genre of music you’re making, you’re likely to find a use for these, but anyone creating retro or 8-bit tunes will find Matt’s Sydney Sounds sample pack especially useful.
As with every Sydney Sounds pack, both Matt and Happy Mag are excited to see where you take it.
“I want to try and provide some clean sounds just for other people to do their own thing.”
Download Matt’s Sydney Sounds sample pack below – included are nearly 100 samples separated into kicks, snares, hats, miscellaneous percussion, and one-shots, a two-and-a-half minute ambient stereo recording, and a demo beat.
Olympia Henshaw goes by the producer name Mookhi, “or Olympia, depending on how I’m feeling.” She’s been making tunes in Sydney for years now, an intricate, cerebral kind of electronic music that heavily employs sampling.
When she took the reins on another Sydney Sounds sample pack, she knew exactly where to go.
“To be able to marry Reverse Garbage where it’s all about reusing, repurposing, recycling, with sampling… I think it was the perfect relationship.”
“When Happy Mag approached me and asked for me to be a part of this I was so stoked, because this is essentially what I love doing. I love collecting sounds and samples, and I love using them in my production.”
Reverse Garbage is a Sydney institution. Since 1974 they’ve been saving materials destined for landfill, finding new homes for all the wacky, interesting bits and bobs most people throw away without thinking twice about.
It’s a beautiful mess of plastics, discarded educational models, crafting materials, and about a billion other random objects. Some of them, you won’t even be able to place.
“My aim today is to get a variety of the most absurd or bizarre samples that people will definitely not be able to pinpoint the origin.”
In other words, Reverse Garbage is the perfect place to collect a bunch of samples. Every piece of metal, every ceramic bowl, every item of glassware has a timbre that’s waiting to be teased out. With a whole range of sticks and poles to bonk things with, there’s a practically endless supply of sounds to be found.
“I would say the items are quotidian, so they’re everyday items but they’re en masse. You could spend hours there, it’s like a black hole. Bottle caps, some weird models or manikins, door knobs, buttons, test tubes… definitely weird bits of plastic.”
Sampling at its core is about giving sounds a second life. You’re transforming them, processing them, warping them until they fit a track you’ve already conceived – or in some cases, a sample can be so utterly unique that it’s a point of inspiration in itself.
That’s exactly what Reverse Garbage does, but for objects. These things, like the sounds they make, are there to be rediscovered and reimagined by a new owner. What can a sheet of bendable metal be in the hands of the right person? How will those buttons look when sewn into a new garment?
“As a kid I really loved the whole concept of it. Being resourceful, recycling, and finding new meaning and purpose to items that would otherwise be completely discarded or put into landfill.”
Complete with multiple drum racks, a demo beat, and a ton of sounds, Mookhi’s Sydney Sounds sample pack is yours to experiment with. Download it below, and give these sounds a new home.
Lupa J, real name Imogen Jones, has been producing music since the age of 15. Now 21 years old with their third album on the way, Lupa J has carved out a reputation for making dark and intricate pop, consistently being name-dropped as an artist to watch by a score of Australia’s leading tastemakers.
They’re also totally independent; managing, producing, and releasing their music themselves – often creating their own album artwork too.
“I am a solo artist, and I produce all of my music and currently perform totally solo. I really need to be involved in every element of creating the music because I think the production element is what’s most special to me, it’s really where I can express myself completely.”
When approached to create a Sydney Sounds sample pack, Imogen’s mind went straight to their childhood home in Asquith. Surrounded by nature and industry in equal parts, it captures the dichotomy many love Sydney for. One moment you’re walking through a serene national park, the next you’re witnessing the passing-by of a Centrelink train or watching a commercial airliner fly overhead.
“The sounds I’m really hoping to record today would be an industrial freight train,” Imogen shared.
“They’re super long and have heaps of carriages that are all kinds of sizes and materials, and sound different as they go by. They go forever so you could probably get a whole drum rack out of one – if you’re lucky.”
“There’ll be a bunch of metal-y, clunk sounds that I can use for snares or hi-hats, and then some thudding noises you could make into a kick drum, especially by adding some distortion and compression.”
Once the day’s field recordings had been completed, Imogen sat down to package the sounds for Ableton Live. “I’ll probably cut them up heaps and run them through a lot of different effects,” they explained.
The resulting Sydney Sounds sample pack is a boon for any producer who wants to add a touch of iron to their projects. Thundering 100-tonne trains, the metallic trills of telephone boxes and vending machines, and the beep of Opal card readers are all ripe for the picking.
The Sydney Sounds pack is totally free, coming with full recordings of all samples, a 16-instrument drum rack, and a demo beat crafted by Lupa J. Download the pack for yourself below.