There are plenty of libraries that are emblazoned with the label 'Cinematic', and they often concentrate on larger-than-life sounds with huge impact. However, sometimes such sounds can dominate a track. Composer George Gabriel knows the dangers only too well, which is why the first product on his new Zapzorn label takes a very different approach. This Elements collection is not only bundled with loads of expressive instruments, but also employs a very slick front end that lets you easily tweak these instruments to fit existing compositions, or create your own from scratch.
The 400 or so elements in question are velocity-layered hits captured from glasses, bowls, vases, pipes, brackets, saws, buckets, tubes, bottles, boards, dowels and boxes. The Elements user interface then lets you layer up to 24 of these with added effects, to create unique and very organic-sounding instruments. No fewer than 160 are supplied, covering bells and gongs, vibes and marimba, through to drums and scrapyard and industrial machinery. There are even some very original pads, evoking moods that range from delicate and unearthly through to dark and distorted. A further 30 Multis combine up to six instruments for even richer and more intricately varying sounds, including some very effective use of mod-wheel control of one element to let it sing out above its neighbours.
However, this is just the start: you can create your own sounds by starting with one of the 40 menu instruments that are filed under the headings Glass, Metal, Plastic, Wood and Hybrid (the last offering combinations of the others). Simply by clicking on one or more 'notes' on the two-octave Triggers keyboard, you can layer up to 24 elements to create radically new timbres, rather like adding overtones to organ sounds. The MIDI select mode even lets you edit layers in real time using the bottom two octaves of your keyboard as part of a performance! Editing the envelopes and filtering for each or all of your layers adds a huge amount of flexibility, while the group mixer page offers individual access to the level, tuning and pan of each of your layers, complete with solo buttons you can use to isolate each in turn.
The next stage is to add one or more of the nine effects to taste, each with a useful set of controls and on/off latching very cleverly assigned to keyboard trigger notes, so you can play effect changes in real time or automate them. If all this weren't enough, the arpeggiator page adds further layers of inventiveness. It offers all the controls you'd expect for creating two-note to 64-note sequences, but adds options for up to four repeats of each note, individual filter frequency and resonance settings for each step, a latch mode for continuous arpeggiation, dynamic mode to toggle individual playing of notes on demand, and a randomise button. You can use this section to build and perfect riffs and rhythms, or create entire performances.
Within minutes, I was lost in a world of chordal percussion that morphed into grunge-laden tonewheel organs, and icy chimes that emerged as massive foundry rejects. Elements is an extremely clever sound-design tool for creating your own unique tuned percussion sounds, but I wasn't expecting it to be such a powerhouse of creativity as well! Martin Walker