Universal Sampling are a small virtual instrument and sample library company who have created four products so far. Guitar FX, WindChimes, and Down & Dirty and Clean Guitar are all low-cost instruments — designed to use up very little RAM, but add lots of creative potential. Euphoria is by far the company's largest and most expensive product, costing $249 compared to the $49 of the other three, and taking up over 4GB of space. In essence, it's more of a virtual synth than a sample library, and has a distinctly grungy sound that lends itself to dance music production and the creation of action and sci-fi-based film and trailer music.
Almost straight away, I discovered a pulsing sample loop that sounded uncannily like the basis of Brad Fiedel's score for the original Terminator film, and other samples made me think of Ennio Morricone's music for The Thing, and John Carpenter's own compositions for The Fog and Halloween.
The custom Kontakt interface divides its controls across two pages. The main page has a master section with volume and pan controls, a flexible three-band EQ and a convolution reverb with nine control knobs. A second page called, simply, 'FX' has filters, a delay, distortion, stereo panner and overdrive effect. It's fair to say that the effects are all reasonably simple to operate but, at the same time, make a significant and pleasing change to the basic samples.
The instruments are split between five folders entitled Atonals, Drums, Melodic Tonals, Odds and Ends, and Percussive Loops. It's obvious that synths were used to make many of the sounds, but so too were an upright bass, drum kit and guitar. A large number of the samples, particularly those in the Atonal Loops folders, are what creator Jeffrey Hayat calls, 'pulsating arps', which are low, pulsing, rhythmic loops, probably created using a step-sequencer, delay and filter combination. The rhythms have no specific tempo and sync to the bpm speed set by the host sequencer.
Hayat has gone to considerable lengths to ensure that it is possible to play the samples as part of a performance, assigning colour-coded keys in the lower octaves to switch between related loops, and the Mod wheel's movement to change between major and minor keys. Some of the loops that are spread across the white keys have optional endings assigned to neighbouring black notes, and where there is no corresponding black note, two similar loops are placed side by side and share a compatible ending.
Making music should be fun, but trawling through endless samples often feels like more of a chore than a part of the creative process. Euphoria provides a certain degree of instant gratification, but also plenty of material for shaping into something original, and lots of keyswitchable variations that allow the samples to be played as part of a performance. Composers with a fondness for analogue synths who work with Kontakt should definitely take a look. Tom Flint