Rating = ***** 5/5 stars. Format: Giga
Quantum Leap's Voices Of The Apocalypse (VOTA) is a choral library with a difference. It aims to provide the composer with the samples needed to recreate the sound of a Hollywood choir, as heard in many a Danny Elfman film score or ES Posthumus' Unearthed album, known to most people as 'that music from the Spiderman and Planet Of The Apes trailers'. To achieve this, VOTA includes every vowel and consonant sound for both male and female choirs, making it possible to 'build' words and effectively get a choir to sing any lyric that you want.
VOTA requires about 2GB for a full installation, and the library has already received two updates. The first version received some criticism from initial users, and the developer, Nick Phoenix, admitted he could make some improvements. To his credit, a second version followed and replacements for the original CDs were sent to existing users.
For word-building, the manual recommends writing your melody with the vowel patches and trying to mix the consonants in later; and, you can imagine how time consuming this process can be. However, VOTA user Nuno Fonseca has come up with an amazing solution in the form of a utility that sits in between the MIDI output of your keyboard or sequencer and GigaStudio. By configuring GigaStudio as described in the
electronic help file, you can type syllables into the imaginatively-titled VOTAUtility so that when notes are triggered, each beat played (whether a chord or single note) cycles through the syllables you entered.
The utility is available as part of the 2.1 update from www.soundsonline.com, and while the whole package isn't as polished as you might like (the setting up takes a bit of getting used to and the electronic manual could be more helpful), it actually works! Admittedly, it takes a while to learn how to get the best from the phonetic input language and the various parameters of the program, but the results can be stunning, and you can use the modulation wheel to crossfade between non-vibrato and vibrato versions of the material.
The various patches can also be used as regular instruments, and the vowel sounds are useful as general choral fodder, so long as you bear in mind that these samples are intended to be dramatic and intense. The percussive consonants also offer creative potential, and many extra patches are provided with non-pitched shouts, fierce staccato 'ahs', and cluster crescendos that are just crying out to be used in a horror score.
Two additional instruments are also provided, the aptly-named Angels and Demons, which are basically choral pads, great for filling out arrangements. The 'Angels' are the female voices of the choir and there are some really inspirational patches provided, especially the first, which is slightly ethereal and uses the modulation wheel to crossfade between 'oo' and 'oh' vowel sounds (without vibrato). The results are clear, atmospheric and truly beautiful. The 'ahs' patch is intense and thick with vibrato, ideal for emotional climaxes, although some people might find them slightly 'muffled'. All the Angel samples have been looped, which is tremendously useful, and sound fairly natural in context.
The 'Demons' are the male counterparts of the choir, and if I had to sum up their sound in two words, I'd say, simply, Crimson Tide. They capture the rich resonance of this vocal range perfectly. Two patches provide different release ambiences, and while the samples aren't looped in this instrument, they seem plenty long enough to be useful.
The recording quality is generally excellent and features plenty of natural ambience (the Angels were recorded in a church, for example) courtesy of the release triggers. In fact, as the manual suggests, you might not even need to use a separate reverb, although I found an indulgent use of reverb immensely satisfying! The only noticeable problem I heard was that a few of the low male-choir samples (C to F, two octaves below middle C) had what sounded like a high-pitched artefact, perhaps as a side-effect of some noise reduction.
VOTA is obviously a very specialised library, but it's unique and powerful, providing the composer with a vast amount of choral material for recreating that 'Hollywood' sound. Be prepared to spend some time becoming familiar with the material, but you'll find it's time well spent when you're rewarded with such realistic results.
4-CD-ROM Giga set £329 including VAT.
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