Rating: ***** 5/5 Stars
Frozen Plain Terracotta was originally available as a Kontakt instrument but has been reworked to run on the included Mirage engine, which allows the mixing and shaping of three sound sources. Described by Frozen Plain as organic, alive and earthy, Terracotta is based around samples taken from recordings of 25 different Terracotta pots, divided into four round‑robin and four velocity layers. These pots are of various types and size ranging from old handmade Victorian pots to modern products. The actual sample library is relatively small at under 90MB as pots usually produce short, percussive sounds, but looping, filtering, effects and convolution have been used to turn these raw recordings into a wide range of pads and melodic patches.
Compatible with Mac OS/Windows VST and AU hosts, the Mirage sampled‑based‑synthesis engine has intuitive controls that allow the playback modes and envelopes of the three layered samples to be adjusted independently while the filters and effects help shape the sounds in a more synth‑like way. Terracotta comes with a few of what Frozen Plain call ‘mixer’ instruments designed to be blended with the main sound and these include a large, resonating ceramic bowl, a music box and a plucked steel string. In all there are 40 presets divided into pad and melodic categories. More presets would have been welcome but it is very easy to switch sound sources and also to change the convolution treatment to create your own variations. There are also randomise options.
The melodic sounds on offer range from clean, chiming pots to earthy bell‑like tones that can be smeared in useful ways using the filter and Convolution parameters. Ethnic marimba‑like tones from the tinkly to the sonorous are easy to conjure up. By contrast, the pads sound very smooth and organic, often revealing no clues as to their real source. By combining a bright percussive sound with some of the pad tones plus a touch of reverb, you get instant relaxation music — not that New Age ramblings are the only things Terracotta is good for.
Given the small library of source material, the range of textures on offer is impressive and because of the ‘real object’ origins of the source material, even when treated to produce synth‑like tones there’s still an underlying organic feel to the end result. The Mirage Engine makes it very easy to adjust sounds without getting bogged down and that random button occasionally comes up with some real gems. Given the very low cost of this instrument, I can’t find anything not to like, though it would be nice if the ability to mix and match sounds from other libraries is added to Mirage in the future.