Heavyocity’s Avant Modern Keys completes a trilogy which started in 2019 with Ascend Modern Grand (based on a nine‑foot Concert D grand piano recorded with 18 different dynamic layers) and continued with Aspire Modern Mallets (deep‑sampled, heavily effected marimba and vibraphone, reviewed in SOS in December 2022). Avant applies the same treatment to a classic Mark II electric piano, which I believe dates from the late ’70s or early ’80s — either way, it’s a good half‑century old.
If you can find one of these beasts in good working order, it makes sense to sample every aspect of it before it falls to bits. Heavyocity have done just that, exhaustively sampling the instrument’s unadulterated sound before plunging into its interior and attacking it with hammers, E-bows, twine and picks (as far as we know, they didn’t break anything). As with Aspire, the results are fascinating and go well beyond the confines of a conventional sampling job.
Avant Modern Keys is 4.73GB installed and runs exclusively on Kontakt or Kontakt Player, version 6.7.1 or later. Its 4026 samples are derived from 16 sound sources, which are presented in four themed categories, each of which holds four sources. Avant’s triangular mixer allows three sources to be layered, crossfaded, modulated and processed at the same time, or you can load just one sound source and tweak it to your heart’s content. I found it helpful to start with a simple unprocessed preset (or ‘snapshot’ as Kontakt calls them), add some high‑end EQ, auto‑panning and modulated ambience, after which I had my perfect electric piano sound — bright, sparkling and dynamic with built‑in stereo effects and a beautiful ethereal reverb. From that point on, I was sold.
Heavyocity have a penchant for exploratory treatments, and they haven’t held back here.
Heavyocity have a penchant for exploratory treatments, and they haven’t held back here. ‘Gently Into The Night’ transforms a humble chord into a heavenly wash of celestial twinkling repeats, while ‘LoFi Dreams’ removes the piano’s attack and creates a sumptuous breathy pad sound with slithery echoing undertones. Other personal favourites include the quiet, hypnotic pulsing rhythm of ‘Plotting Course’ (I’ve a feeling Brian Eno would like that one), and in case we’re getting too relaxed, the atonal madness of ‘Road Of Terror’, which lives up to the product’s name.
It’s interesting to listen to the raw sound sources: in addition to pure long notes, there are tone bar and damped hits, plectrum strokes, bowed sustains, electronic‑sounding looped Ebow notes and processed granular treatments. Add to this an arpeggiator, the ‘Echoes’ MIDI delay effect, 12 master effects and transformative convolution effects, and you have a top‑to‑bottom reinvention of a classic vintage instrument — a far cry from what its inventor had in mind, but that’s progress! All in all, a superbly imaginative presentation which brings a historic instrument bang up to date. Five stars, no question.