This is the first in a new series of libraries for Tonehammer, and although there are already quite a few ambience, drone and pad collections available, my ears pricked up immediately when I realised that this one relied on field and instrument recordings rather than synthesizers. After all, sounds captured from the real world nearly always provide more strangeness and charm. I wasn't disappointed.
This library features 288 Kontakt instruments drawing from 2.5GB of 24‑bit/44.1kHz samples, divided into three folders covering Tuned Instruments, Melodic Ambiences and Horror Ambiences. All instruments are offered in a number of variations with mod‑wheel control of filtering, crossfade layering or swell, and with additional Solo (single layer), Lite (low RAM) and slower‑speaking Soft versions. Some sounds are also available as short pulses or stabs, or are treated with various custom convolution‑reverb impulse responses, including halls, bunkers and an evocative set of 'Watervox' vocal phrases that add human resonances and weirdness.
The Tuned folder contents are derived from real acoustic instruments, and I loved the floating organ and brass hybrid of Pangubus, the darker metallic drones of Protus and the bowed bells of Clusterbells. These relatively clean sounds for use as leads and pads are eminently playable, especially when you tweak the mod wheel in real time to fine‑tune the layer mix or the filtering.
The Melodic folder combines orchestral and vocal elements to produce longer, evolving soundscapes that sound strangely familiar, yet are somehow unsettling. I really enjoyed the long, rich, interwoven textures of the Para‑orchestral pads and the darker and more dissonant Transmusical drones, and lost myself in the slow, yet intricate, internal movements of the Re‑choral offerings.
Once you enter the more mysterious depths of the Horror folder, you're on your own: those of a nervous disposition should not audition under headphones after dark! The sound of the root canal Drill‑o‑phone is not quite as sinister as its origin suggests, but I was particularly taken with the paranormal recordings of the EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) instruments, the dark machines of Industry, the unsettling 'swarming' drones of real bees in Death Valley and the human/machine hybrids of Panorganic.
I found the various short 'pulse' instruments more effective after I'd extended their envelope decay times to around one second, when they became perfect for sequenced percussive loops, but this is my only tiny niggle about an otherwise extremely inspiring collection.
Overall, the aural palette of Ambius 1: Transmissions is most definitely on the dark side, with apocalyptic 2001 choirs, bowed and scraped bells, didge‑like drones, infinitely‑sustaining pianos and strange amalgams of existing sounds. It should have great appeal to anyone involved with TV/film/game soundtracks, electronica, IDM and ambient music. However, for me, its greatest strength is sounding organic rather than synthetic, and managing to provide a genuinely fresh set of sounds. I can't wait for Ambius 2!