Two new libraries see Orchestral Tools extend their Metropolis series and take a bold leap into the world of big band jazz.
While Britain beats its breast over Brexit, our fellow Europeans get on with their lives. Beavering away in Berlin we find the Orchestral Tools symphonic sampling team, who in typical industrious fashion announced two major new libraries at a time when most of us were stockpiling booze and preparing to put our feet up for Christmas. The first of these titles extends the company's successful Metropolis series with an array of fresh orchestral colours, while the second, Glory Days Big Band Horns, represents the company's first venture into the world of big band jazz. In this review we'll take a listen to both collections.
Continuing Orchestral Tools' sampled tribute to the visionary 1927 silent film, Metropolis Ark 4 (MA4 for short) builds on the legacy of its predecessors. These were reviewed in SOS in September 2016, October 2017 and May 2018 respectively. To give you a brief overview, MA1 focused on epic, oversize sections, MA2 on darker, quieter (but still monumental) timbres, while MA3 (subtitled The Beating Orchestra) provided a large contingent of taikos, low drums and timpani along with some seriously powerful strings, brass and woodwind sections.
Prior to the unveiling of MA4, Orchestral Tools users speculated on its contents. Some hoped for a full-blown choral collection; others dreamed about ethnic, action, aleatoric and phrase-based themes. In the end, it was none of the above — subtitled Elite Orchestral Forces, MA4 consists of chamber-sized string sections, blended wind ensembles, small male and female choirs and a selection of tuned and unpitched percussion and drums.
The accent in this collection is on extreme dynamic range and forceful, aggressive articulations which will supercharge an arrangement. At the same time, an imaginative set of wind blendings (some of which combine woodwinds and brass within the same section) add unique new timbres to the orchestral palette. Recorded at the Teldex Scoring Stage from identical mic positions as the rest of the series, MA4 (48.1GB installed) runs on Kontakt 5.8.1 and above, and also works with the free Kontakt Player.
The small string ensembles recorded for MA4 are a potent weapon optimised for cutting-edge attack. New articulations such as 'power sustain' and 'power legato' add an extra aggressive layer to the front of long notes; the confrontational attitude reaches its zenith in the 'overpressure' deliveries, some of which sound like the players are sawing their violins in half. An enjoyably violent musical experience, best reserved for moments of high drama.
More standard articulations include hard, abrupt martelé (literally 'hammered') sustains and terrific, quick, powerful and precise staccatissimos, both of which will impart zip and definition to rhythmic ostinatos. An alternative short-note style, originally introduced in Orchestral Tools' Berlin Strings, is 'blurred staccato' — to add realism, this deliberately introduces the kind of variations of intonation which occur naturally in very fast runs.
MA4's strings dispense with standard, polite-sounding pizzicatos and substitute col legno bow hits which switch to the percussive Bartok 'snap pizzicato' at higher velocities. Other iconoclastic deliveries include ricochets, octave rips (a fast, flam‑like 12-semitone leap which sounds huge when played chordally), intensely dramatic sul ponticello semitone trills, and short trills of up to a major fifth interval which,...
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