Formats: SOUNDFONT / MULTI-FORMAT
4/5 stars ****
Homegrown Sounds have eight sample CD-ROMs available, each offered either in Soundfont format or as a combined NNXT, Halion, EXS24, Kontakt and Wave set. Each disc contains 200 different stereo instruments ready to load, although, oddly, the Wave files are numbered 001 to 200 in all cases, rather than being uniquely named for each disc. However, EXS24 had no trouble deciding which file it should be looking at. Furthermore, the instrument files themselves are only numbered, not named, which I thought was a bit of a cop-out; but you can always rename your favourites, leaving the other instruments as numbers.
Alchemy features evolving textures, some of which sound extremely rich and impressive. However, none are multisampled, and they tend to sound best in the lower half of the keyboard -- some contain rhythmic or repeating elements, which obviously change speed at different pitches. I felt the sounds were reminiscent of synths like the Kawai K1, the Korg Wavestation, the Emu Morpheus and some of the more abstract Roland JV patches. In some cases, electronic and acoustic sounds have been combined to good effect, and anyone interested in subversive ambient music would do well to check this out.
Next out of the Jiffy bag came Alien Landscapes, similar in concept to Alchemy, but with a more cosmic feel -- by which I mean there are more atonal metallic overtones and disturbing undercurrents. Imagine an '18 to 30' club on the planet Skaro or a pot-holing trip where you find yourself peering into a strangely pulsating egg and you'll get the idea. Again, there are no multisamples, but most of the sounds are rich enough to use monophonically.
Full Frequency offers mainly pad and more familiar synth sounds, many with modulation or filtering. The designers suggest that these are in the style of musicians such as Vangelis, Robert Fripp and Brian Eno, and I'd say that probably isn't too far off the mark. There's nothing wildy outstanding here, but the patches are reminiscent of what you'd expect to find in a decent workstation synth.
Guitar Textures uses the electric guitar as a sound source, but attempts to coax everything out of it other than conventional guitar notes. The ubiquitous E-bow is used in some examples, which gives the collection a somewhat 'Fripp meets Hackett meets Hillage' feel, and other examples are based around arpeggios or slowly strummed chords. Given that this disc once again has no multisamples, this limits its usefulness, since the tempo is different for every note you play. I also felt some of the sounds were very reverb-heavy, which might make them difficult to use except in a very sparse mix. Some nice sounds and effects are to be found, though.
Home Grown 800 again has 200 single-sample instruments, revisiting Alchemy and Alien Landscapes territory by providing more atmospheric pads, effects, drones, sound effects and grooves. Good for chill-out, but again hampered by components that change tempo when you change note.
Sand In The Sarnies carries the textures, pads and effects into darker territory with hints of industrial noise and obscure rhythmic components. This has a grittier, more dramatic feel than some of the other discs and could work well for soundtrack work. Once again, the reliance on single samples restricts the range over which the sounds are musically usable, but there are some great beds, drones and opening pads here.
Organic Chaos goes deeper and darker still with grungy, strident beds, drones and stabs using distortion, ring modulation and other heavy-handed processing to create a sense of angst and unreality. There are distorted waterphones and many heavily filtered, harsh sounds, so this might be good for more aggressive dance mixes.
My personal favourites out of the whole collection were Alchemy and Alien Textures, although all the discs included something of interest. The fact everything is made from single samples rather than multisamples is partially mitigated by the very low price: the CD-ROMs cost just $39.99. Deals are occasionally available for anyone wanting to buy multiple discs.
$39.99 per CD-ROM.