Reason version 4 Workflow Roundtable

Workflow Roundtable 1

Seasoned professionals tell you how the new workflow helps them make better sounding music faster.

In the latest Reason release, version 4, users are introduced not only to a number of powerful new Reason units, but also to completely new production concepts and ways of making music. We caught up with a selection of hardworking artists and veteran Reason users to find out how Reason version 4 works for them.

Was the new stuff blowing them away, was it helping them in their creative flow? Did the new Reason sound fatter and better than ever? The artists all jumped at the chance to try out Reason version 4 and provide us with valuable feedback. We promise we didn't pay them to say these things. ;-) The artists involved were:

The Artists

Shad T. Scott aka Gosub - For the past 15+ years Shad has been producing music in multiple arenas, both as an electronic artist (Clone / Frustrated Funk, Citinite UK, Point One, Side Effects, Isophlux) and as a programmer and engineer (Alanis Morissette, Aerosmith, No Doubt)

Floyd Wilcox aka Flip Matrix - An accomplished hip hop producer, the Memphis born but Boston raised Flip Matrix has done it all from record production to film scoring, working with the likes of Scarface, Ice Cube, MC Ren, Capone and many more in the process.

Michael Diasio of Evol Intent - Birthed out of hardcore-punk culture, Atlanta based artists Evol Intent have produced some of the most ephemeral and progressive drum n' bass to date. With a substantial discography on their own label as well as on numerous prestigious imprints such as Renegade Hardware, Outbreak, and Human.

Danny McMillan - Danny McMillan has been producing and DJ-ing in the progressive dance scene for over ten years and is now considered a pioneer of the UK breaks scene.

Filip Nikolic aka TurboTito - Not many DJs can say they've run a weekly reggae night, are half of a popular techno duo, and played bass, guitar and keys in two successful rock groups, but Filip Nikolic, aka Turbotito, lays claim to this and more.

Arabian Prince - Being one of the founding members of legendary N.W.A and one of the poster names of the 80s west coast electro scene, Arabian Prince does know a thing or two about production.

Gerald Simpson aka A Guy Called Gerald - DJ, producer and Juicebox records founder, A Guy Called Gerald has something like a cult status around him. His influence is international, and through his early experimentation with techno and acid house to his groundbreaking contributions to drum & bass, Simpson's art and craft has perpetually evolved.

Jeremy Ellis - While being a seasoned recording artist and much-used session keyboard player, Ellis' true specialty is his freestyle live sets. A truly amazing live performer, Ellis has found that Reason rids him of many of hardware's shortcomings.

Adam Dorn aka Mocean Worker - Hailing from a music-laden background, Mocean Worker has become a sought-after remixer, refining the works of Tenacious D, Herb Alpert and Elvis (yes, that Elvis) and has also released a slew of albums under his own moniker.

DJ Pierre - Founding father of acid house, DJ Pierre - armed with a 303 - pioneered a sound that had the whole world dancing and imitating for over fifteen years.

Tommy Hamilton & Keith Tucker aka Aux 88 - With a release catalog that stretches back to the early 90s, Detroit's Aux 88 have seen technologies come and go. Their old school Electro sound was originally created using LED-laden silver boxes and miles of cables. Today, Reason is an integral part of their music making and the main hub of all of their live performances.

And Here is What We Wanted to Know

Propellerhead: How do you use Reason? For what kind of music and in what part of your production?

TOMMY HAMILTON & KEITH TUCKER AKA AUX 88 - We use Reason in the Studio and for our live performances. We even made a few tracks while we were at the airport during a three-hour flight delay. We use Reason to produce different styles of music like Electro and Techno, which we are mostly known for. But, we also use Reason to produce R&B, Gospel, some Hip Hop and Jazz. Reason can do it all. We really like to use it for drum sequencing. It gives us a lot of flexibility.

SHAD T. SCOTT AKA GOSUB - I use Reason in two ways. One, I use it as a stand-alone production center to create full on songs using nothing but Reason. I find that Reason makes me write different than using my traditional hardware I grew up on. The second way I use Reason is as a rack of synths locked up with my digital audio sequencer and my outboard gear. I use Reason mainly for two of my electro techno projects. As I said before it makes me write music in a different way so I use Reason for two projects exclusively and hardware for others. I use all of Reason from synths to mastering to complete a finished song.

FLOYD WILCOX AKA FLIP MATRIX - I use Reason to produce my tracks. I am primarily a Hip Hop producer but I will, from time to time, produce an R'n'B act. I also had a no 1 contemporary Jazz Record with "Wayman Tisdale" on Atlantic.

Workflow Roundtable EvolintentMICHAEL DIASIO OF EVOL INTENT - We use Reason for pretty much everything up until the mixdown (and these days sometimes for the mixdown as well).

Reason has been a staple in our production for years, it's great for sending files back and forth because it opens up between Mac and PC platforms with relative ease. There's no need to make sure everyone has the same plugins or virtual instruments and so on.

As far as our sound goes, we make all kinds of music, but we're best known for dancefloor drum and bass with a glitchy bent.

DANNY MCMILLAN - I work in the breakbeat scene and I use reason for most of my programming

FILIP NIKOLIC AKA TURBOTITO - I use Reason both when I'm making more traditional rock stuff for Ima Robot or when I do electronic tracks for Guns'N'Bombs and Djosos Krost. In all three bands we actually have songs where the music is entirely made in Reason.

ARABIAN PRINCE - Well, now I use Reason for almost all my music projects, Electro Funk, Hip Hop, Dance, Breaks, it really covers them all for me, I travel so much, I need something that I can take with me and keep the workflow going and Reason does that for me, all I need is my laptop and USB Keyboard and I am set anywhere. I have seen a lot of comments on the web with some people saying that either they don't believe that I have gone mostly software or I am stupid for doing my music that way now, I am selling out by going digital, well all I have to say is this: if that's true, then they must only be using hand made drums and sticks made out of tree branches to bang on them with, right?

A GUY CALLED GERALD - I use Reason to simulate a physical studio. I would say I use it for 75% of my production. I make ambient, techno, jungle, house music...  I also use Reason for live performances. During a live performance I like to be completely freestyle so I can change my mind in a split second. Reason gives me that opportunity. My live set up in 1988 consisted of 2 x Roland SH101 synths (I can mimic these sounds with Subtractor and now Thor's opened that child to even newer possibilities), 1 x Roland 808 drum machine, 1 x Roland 909 drum machine, 1 x Roland 727 percussion machine (these machines now can be replaced by the ReDrum), 1 x Roland Juno 106 (this machine is also replaced by Subtractor and Malstrom), 1 x line mixer (replaced by Reason's mixer) - this was a lot to carry around! Now I can just bring my two 12" laptops and a Urei DJ battle mixer and every track is completely unique to the moment. I feel like this program has been built around me!

Workflow Roundtable JeremyellisJEREMY ELLIS - At first, I was drawn to Reason for the string samples, but got pulled further in when discovering some of the nice vintage keys that I could use at the funk gig instead of carrying my 88-key Rhodes up a long, tall flight of stairs. I mostly use Reason in a live setting, both as a solo, electronic performance artist and as jazz/funk keyboardist in Detroit 's best funk band. For solo performances, I previously used the all-familiar MPC as a sequencer and as a home to my ever-expanding library of classic drum samples. I beat that machine up pretty badly - hands, elbows, chin, whatever! Reason has allowed me the option to back-up all my samples to my Mac and use them all in NN-XT (Reason Sampler). Now I pummel my MPD-24 controller on a daily basis, controlling my samples in Reason, and playing them in ways never before possible on my MPC- all live!

I use far more than my samples in Reason, though. I'm a massive vintage keys lover and programmer. I'm quite happy with the quality of the Rhodes / Piano sounds, especially those from the Electro-Mechanical, reason Pianos, and the Abbey Roads refills. I spent a whole day tweaking the FX on the Reason Rhodes, comparing to my actual Rhodes . Back and forth, back and forth until the FX were perfect. Sounding exactly the same.

Also, as a vintage keys lover, I've spent hours and hours programming synth sounds, both on my Moog and copying sounds from my moog knob by knob into patches on other keyboards. For years, I was really pessimistic about software instruments coming close to the fuzzy warmth I'm used to. The Subtractor changed my mind. At the heart of each Reason synth, the elements are the same as one would find on any classic synth. After twiddling all the knobs, one finds that you can create any classic sound you want, from Stevie Wonder bass patches, to a Parliament lead sound.

And then came Thor. I love it! I've spent hundreds of hours designing sounds on my Waldorf Micro-Q, and the set up is very similar to Thor's . Being able to assign all the different control parameters, from LFO to panning to Cut-off to Whatever! It's all there. In less than half an hour I recreated some of my favorite bass sounds of all time. 2 hours later, I'd created some really sick organ sounds, complete with the LFO controlling the Panning for the classic Leslie effect.

Propellerhead: So you can see that one can happily work with Reason's own sound-bank, or load as many samples and original synth patches as you want.

Workflow Roundtable MoceanworkerMOCEAN WORKER - Reason is the first piece of software I launch when I start a project or a composition. It's the number one tool in my toolbox. I'm now mixing in reason a vast majority of the time. My current album "cinco de mowo!" was 100% written in Reason.

Propellerhead: Has the new sequencer design sparked any new ideas?

DJ PIERRE - This new design 1st of all works better, it lands the notes on beat better, and I like how you can change the colors on all the different parts. Also it's much easer to edit the parts and move them around as well.

AUX 88 - Yes. The multiple lanes in the sequencer tracks are awesome. Now we do not have to create another track just to program a drum or bass line change. We can do multiple takes with the same instrument on the same track. This allows us to try out different bass lines with the same groove.

GOSUB - Yes, the new sequencer feels like the real thing now. I feel like I have more control, better organization, and I don't have to waste a lot of time messing around trying to find something I need to tweak, which make me stay focus on the main objective to just making music. Making tasks easy makes me want write, which is the main spark!! Keep things flowing fast...Ahhhh!

FLIP MATRIX – It was a tad bit of a learning curve but as I used it I began to see why the new features were put in place. I've always had this saying when I tell people about the program and it is "If you can think it you can do it". Even with the new design the saying holds true. If I were forced to single out one area in which the sequencer most benefits me, I would have to say with overdubbing. I can now neatly perform overdubs on a single track via "lanes".

MICHAEL DIASIO – Actually yes. I foresee some crazy automation in our near future.

DANNY MCMILLAN – The sequencer is more streamlined and the option to have extra lanes per device is very handy

TURBOTITO – The new sequencer makes it even easier to edit automation, so now I tend to add more little details to the tracks ‘cause it's so fast and easy.

ARABIAN PRINCE – The new sequencer allows me to work faster and gives me more freedom to explore new song possibilities. Reason is at a point with version 4 that allows for total creativity without thinking about the programming aspect, I like it because it is an extension of my brain.

Workflow Roundtable AgcgA GUY CALLED GERALD – Yes, it has actually. It's been helpful in drawing in automation. There are some things I'm missing from the last version but I'm getting used to the new one.

JEREMY ELLIS – The new sequencer has done one very important thing for me. Organize! I use Reason most often for live performance, overdubbing and creating new sequencer tracks every minute of the show. Often times in the heat of the moment, I'll have created sequencer tracks for the same instrument that are hiding in between other tracks for other instruments. Reason 4 automatically takes all of my tracks and lines them up next to the icon for the corresponding instrument. This saves me MINUTES of gig time searching through 32 tracks of insanity. OOooohhh, and I really like that all I have to do to play each instrument is to move the up/down arrow until the instrument is highlighted. Convenient.

MOCEAN WORKER – whereas the new sequencer hasn't sparked any new ideas per se, it has made my workflow (after a bit of an adjustment) more efficient. It's a very clever re-design. I was a little annoyed at first, I hate change, but I have to admit. Things are even easier now.

Propellerhead: Are you composing in the same way or have you altered your style?

DJ PIERRE - I'm arranging much better now because of the easer way in which it is to edit.

Workflow Roundtable Aux88AUX 88 - We had to alter our sequencing style a little, but in a good way. Before Reason came into our lives, we used to sequence everything in Cubase or ProTools and sync all of our analog gear to it. Now we can sequence most of the parts in Reason.

GOSUB - I have altered my style a lot since using the new Reason –things like the RPG-8 makes it a breeze to create cool riffs on the fly, which before I would have avoided due to time and just my own laziness. Ha!

FLIP MATRIX – For the most part I am still doing it the same way I've been. The ReGroove mixer helps with getting the pocket I want easier.

TURBOTITO – I guess I never compose in the same way, the only thing that is kind of consistent is that I almost always start with a drum beat. After that usually the ideas start coming and the more tools I have to realize them the more fun it is to make music.

ARABIAN PRINCE – I am still composing the same way but now I have more options and more tools to work with. The new tools let me put more ice cream on my cake so my song can get fat.

A GUY CALLED GERALD – The style of composing I use, somehow, I feel as being as the basis of your software. I started off making acid house music in the 80's when there was no software around and was using cheap analog equipment to make new sounds.  I see the software as mimicking that machinery but Reason 4 has allowed me to take it a step beyond. For example the ReGroove allows me to use Rex files in a way I could never have imagined in the early days - being able to just use a groove from a tune - this is something that can help humanize the character of my music which has always been a goal of mine.

MOCEAN WORKER – I have not altered the style in which I compose music. I'm far too stuck in my ways. THOR however is insanely cool and will be incorporated into future MOWO! tunes for sure. It is such an incredible software instrument.

Propellerhead: Have you tried RPG-8 or the ReGroove mixer? Tell us about it.

AUX 88 - We had a chance to mess around with the RPG-8 but not the ReGroove mixer because we were too busy playing with the RPG-8. The RPG-8 is the arpeggiator of all arpeggiators. We were able to recreate some of rhythm patterns we did on a SH-101 about 10 years ago. The RPG-8 gave us a lot more flexibility because we were able to stack multiple sounds at once by creating another RPG with the same settings and routing another instrument to it and then record it to a single track to our DAW software.

Workflow Roundtable GosubGOSUB - Yep! I've been using both. I've been using the new RPG-8 like it's always been in my arsenal. I found new ways to write bass lines with it and with options like the gate, pitch, and pattern matrix it can make it do things I would have not of ever come up without it. I have to say RPG-8 kicks some booty. I've been playing with the new ReGroove as well mainly on bass lines and hi-hats to get the feel just right. I really like the out of the box quantizing selections that just work. Another thing I like is how you can adjust multiple sequences at the same time with ReGroove's groove mixer, you can always see how elements are working together that are assigned to the same groove, giving you instant feedback and satisfaction.

MICHAEL DIASIO – I love the RPG-8, it's a lot of fun! The ReGroove mixer is cool as well. Honestly it took me a second to figure out the ReGroove, but once I figured it I dug the potential that it lends to making some crazy shuffles here or there. The ReGroove does what an MPC never could.

DANNY MCMILLAN – The ReGroove mixer is a nice touch and very useful on the slower tracks as there is more room to play with the groove at slower tempos. the RPG-8 is cool but arpeggios are not widely used in breaks but I do use it for subtle sequences and bed effects

TURBOTITO – To me, the ReGroove mixer is the most amazing new addition to Reason. Whoever came up with the idea should get some kind of big award. Everybody who makes any kind of electronic music knows how hard it can be to make a track "feel" right. You can have the coolest sounds in the world, but if it doesn't have the right groove it will often still sound dead and stale. But now, with the ReGroove mixer, you can easily mix different feels on the fly and when your head automatically starts nodding then you know that you have found it!

Workflow Roundtable ArabianprinceARABIAN PRINCE – I am an RPG-8 groupie, I think I use it in everything I do now, I like the fact that it is very user friendly and delivers all the function of the old school gear. The ReGroove mixer is sick, this thing can change your mind when you work on a song, I used it just to see what it would do on a song and I had to go back and rethink my song with the ReGroove in mind.

A GUY CALLED GERALD – The RPG-8 is really great. I use it maybe a little bit differently to how a lot of people may use it. I used to use an MPC60 to do the same thing I use RPG-8 for. 

MOCEAN WORKER – ReGroove for me is the secret new weapon in R4, the one I know I'm going to explore the most and use constantly. It's such a clever idea. Actually without a doubt it's going to be used CONSTANTLY by me. To be able to have an interface for adjusting the groove of loops and recorded phrases and be able to have actual control I can see over how everything feels, the ability to unify the feel and groove of a piece of music by looking at one device is such a brilliant idea. Most of the time you would have to sort of do this as a trial by error sort of process. To see everything, to be able to use a slider and twist some knobs and see and hear everything right away that's so clever, clever, clever. I am very excited about this device.

Propellerhead: Are there other new features that you use or have something to say about?

DJ PIERRE - I love that Thor module! It's crazy! Totally innovative! A rack mount synth that you can program like a drum machine!

AUX 88 - Yes, the all mighty Thor. It's amazing. We could not believe how warm and PHAT the sounds were. Every time we play it we discover a new sound from the same instrument by freaking a couple of knobs. This is truly an emulation of the older analog gear we still love to use. Wait until you hear some of the PHAT bass sounds that this thing can make. What more can you say?

Another one is the Combinator, which allows multiple instruments and effects to be combined into one rack unit. This is truly phenomenal.

GOSUB - Yeah, the new Thor synth is a real analog synth contender. It makes me happy because now I can get that mid woody frequency I like so much out of Reason like I do with my analog synths. Another thing I like is the new track "lanes" and the new pattern automation layout. Oh, and the track parts labels.

MICHAEL DIASIO OF EVOL INTENT – Thank you for the tempo/signature map! Thor is a beast as well!

DANNY MCMILLAN – The Thor is the jewel in the crown, it's worth the price alone.

TURBOTITO – Well, I can't talk about Reason 4 without mentioning Thor. It's very complex yet easy to use and I just love the amount of very different types of oscillators and filters. The only limit for the kinds of sounds you can generate with this synth is your own imagination...

ARABIAN PRINCE – All I have to say is one word, THOR!!! Get it, use it, love it, spend about 3 days pressing buttons and making sounds, you will be amazed at what it can do.

A GUY CALLED GERALD – The new device (Thor) gives me a lot more scope when it comes to sound design.

JEREMY ELLIS – The updated combinator isn't the biggest new feature, but it is one that I use on almost every single patch. For example, I create a combi with a subtractor in it. I assign the knobs of the subtractor to be controlled by the knobs of the Combinator it lives in. On my midi controller, I set a few knobs to control the knobs of the Combinator. Now when I switch sounds in the subtractor, to another subtractor patch, the controller will still work the same parameters (cut-off, release) as before.

When I perform live, I generally use one Reason song the entire set, switching sounds many, many times through out the set. Using the combi allows me to assign my controller knobs once and count on them the whole set.

MOCEAN WORKER – THOR = APTLY NAMED.... damn this is a strong, strong, strong software synth, I think there is a new sheriff in town and his name is THOR.

Propellerhead: If you've used Reason before, what was the transition like? If you are new as of 4.0, how was your learning curve?

Workflow Roundtable DjpierreDJ PIERRE - The transition is basically non-existent. After one session you totally forget about Reason 3.0 and feel like you always worked on 4.0. If you are new to Reason then 4.0 will be a quick learn for most of the functions. You'll be creating tracks in no time.

AUX 88 - The transition was smooth. We just have a little more toys to play with. One thing that we love about Reason is that it's easy to learn. Everything is pretty much laid out. If you know studio gear then you know Reason.

GOSUB - The transition to 4.0 was pretty easy since Reason has based the new features using that same easy logic they started with since version 1. So it took me about 10 minutes of messing about till I started making a song. I learned 90% of the new feature on the fly during the first season. Painless!!

FLIP MATRIX – It takes a little getting used to. As you play with it you can kind of see why a feature was put into place. It wasn't as easy to learn as version 3 but I didn't see it being difficult to learn to use. I am much more efficient on version 3 so I would have to say that transitioning from the previous version to this was a bit like culture shock. I say this only because I was mildly thrown off by new sequencer design.

MICHAEL DIASIO – We're all very experienced with the previous versions of Reason, and because of this we were a little thrown by the new sequencer changes in 4. After getting used to it, I really like the new additions. Now that I feel more comfortable with the sequencer and I like the ability to easily copy automation and so on.

DANNY MCMILLAN – Pretty straight forward as 4.0 has avoided the 'lets move everything around swindle' to justify calling it a full update.

Workflow Roundtable TurbotitoTURBOTITO – When upgrading from Reason 3 to 4 you can't avoid noticing that the sequencer looks quite different (nicer). But that doesn't mean that you have to start learning it all over again. I often use Reason in rewire mode with Cubase and I noticed that Reason and Cubase now share even more hot-keys. Especially the zoom keys are something that I'm very pleased about.

ARABIAN PRINCE – What transition? This version is even easier to use than Reason 3, it's like having a Ferrari; fast, precise, it turns heads when anyone sees or hears it.

A GUY CALLED GERALD – It was a pretty smooth transition. It was a bit weird getting used to the transport device but I'll get the hang of it.

JEREMY ELLIS – Um, it takes me a long time to learn anything software, but this was a relatively simple transition. Most of the time was spent playing Thor, so it was my fault it took so long!

MOCEAN WORKER – I've been onboard since 1.0 and there is always an adjustment from version to version no software would be worth its weight unless that was the case. Reason 4 represents the biggest set of challenges to date for experienced Reason users but truth be told nothing daunting or confusing is going on here. R4 is still the same intuitive, efficient and wildly musical, weapon of choice for music creation as far as I'm concerned.

Propellerhead: Now then, what's your verdict on Reason?

DJ PIERRE - I'M LOVIN IT!!!!!!!!!!! To say "I'M HOOKED ON REASON" would be an under statement!

AUX 88 - Reason is like having a mobile production studio. It's a complete rack full of synths, a drum machine, effects, a mixer and a sequencer. All packed into your laptop. Try carrying all of that on a plane or over to your friends house. The other thing we love about Reason is that it loads fast and it takes up very little CPU power. For example, during our live performance, we can have eight songs loaded on the screen and ready to go with no audio glitches what so ever. If you are looking for software that is affordable and will give you professional results, then you need to check this one out. We'll take 2 copies. Thank You.

GOSUB - I give it the old ancient emperor's thumbs up. :)

FLIP MATRIX – I like it. I may not adopt it immediately into my creative tool box just yet, but it won't be long before I do. I will have it on a satellite setup for a while first and slowly make the transition from Version 3 to 4.

Workflow Roundtable DannymcmillanDANNY MCMILLAN – Great! Especially the Thor synth!

TURBOTITO – My favorite thing about reason is that it's as easy or as complex as you make it. Sometimes I just need to write down an idea and there is no better and faster tool than Reason. Other times I want to geek out with routing all sorts of devices together in weird ways to generate new sounds and for that, Reason is also my favorite program. Another thing that amazes me is how Reason still manages to be so easy on the computers processor, oh, and did I mention that I still haven't witnessed a Reason crash?!

A GUY CALLED GERALD – Since using Reason I've saved the planet from excessive electric consumption!  My drum machines are all in New York gathering dust. I can do the same thing and more than what I could with my hardware studio. When I was using hardware even the simplest thing like storing a finished track began to get hard. I have more time now to focus on actually making the music rather than all the peripheral hardware problems.

JEREMY ELLIS – I tell everyone about it all the time. Keyboard players come up to me every week and ask what sounds I'm playing. Producers can't believe that software is sounding as good as it does. But then, we all know it's the future and that we should jump on the boat while it's still within site of the dock.

MOCEAN WORKER – The single best piece of software for writing music creation ever made, end of story.

Propellerhead: Thank you guys, we really do appreciate you taking the time and effort to going deep into the new Reason. And we are thrilled indeed about your feedback. Now we're looking forward to the response from the entire Reason user base once version 4 is out worldwide.

Published: September 2007

The Sounds

In case reading about these artists' work with Reason have given you an unresistable urge to check out their work, look no further. Feast your ears on the following tracks by this roundtable's artists.

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Gosub - Sordon's Theme

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Flip Matrix - Flip'd Out

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Evol Intent - Internet Hate Machine

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Danny McMillan

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Turbotito - Sydney Heat

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Arabian Prince - Xplore Your Mind

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A Guy Called Gerald - T Raw

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Jeremy Ellis - ThorFunk

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DJ Pierre - Afro Acid

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Aux88 - ReBeats