A new library sees the Berlin orchestral sample maestros enter the Fourth Dimension.
"A composer's job involves the decoration of fragments of time. Without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production deadlines or dates by which bills must be paid." Frank Zappa, The Real Frank Zappa Book.
Orchestral Tools' Time Macro turns Zappa's assertion on its head: rather than demonstrating how music decorates time, it explores the effects of time on music, ranging from evolving performances and textures to rhythmic patterns reminiscent of clockwork, pendulum-like dynamic swells and altered-speed and backwards articulations.
The sound palette for this temporal journey features the kind of blended orchestral sections and choirs found in Orchestral Tools' Metropolis series, but with some interesting twists (including one combination which absolutely floored me). Recorded at Berlin's Teldex Scoring Stage using the same multi-microphone set up as the company's previous collections, the recordings are presented without effects and are thus suitable for both traditional scoring and sound design work.
For this project, Orchestral Tools recorded eight instrumental ensembles (listed in the 'Instrumentation' box), a female choir and a male choir. You can play each ensemble and choir separately, or in various pre-programmed combinations. Inevitably, Kontakt's Time Machine feature also gets a look-in, enabling you to perform time stretching and time compression on all the individual sections. For quick auditioning purposes, each patch has its own 'preview' audio file consisting of a single sustained note.
Time Macro (henceforth referred to as TMA) contains 85GB of samples which losslessly compress to 42GB on your hard drive. The library works with the free Kontakt Player and Kontakt full version 5.8.1 or higher, which runs on Mac and PC systems. No system requirements are listed, but orchestral sample users know the drill: for optimum performance, you ideally need plenty of RAM and an SSD drive. So, is this a triumphal time trip or a disastrous plunge into a black hole? Armed only with a copy of The Beginner's Guide To Traversable Wormholes and an Argos Mini-Voyager time machine (batteries not included), your intrepid SOS reviewer attempts to find out.
Taking a leaf out of Orchestral Tools Metropolis Ark 2's book, TMA's 20 violins are divided into two groups positioned left and right on the sound stage, creating a wide stereo image. Another nod to MA2 are the 'very slow tremolo' and 'irregular arpeggio' articulations: the first put me in mind of the swirling, three-dimensional effect of a Leslie rotary speaker; a lush, expansive strings sound which is great for chord pads. The arpeggios feature each player performing a rising three-note figure in an ad lib tempo, which generates a collective shimmering effect when played chordally. They come in two flavours: a root/perfect fourth/octave movement, and a variant (which I generally prefer) wherein a perfect fifth replaces the perfect fourth.
A new articulation introduced for this library is the 'pendulum swell', a moderately fast crescendo-diminuendo which emulates a swinging clock pendulum by accelerating the rate of dynamic change as it approaches peak volume, then slowing the diminuendo rate as it grows quieter. Applied to TMA's low strings section, it sounds like a racing car whizzing by — a unique style in sample library...