Review of Olafur Arnalds Chamber Evolutions for Kontakt (Full or Player Version) by Spitfire Audio

Review of Olafur Arnalds Chamber Evolutions for Kontakt (Full or Player Version) by Spitfire Audio

Introduction

Spitfire Audio is proud to announce availability of OLAFUR ARNALDS CHAMBER EVOLUTIONS, effectively exploring what was possible with a chamber ensemble when working with BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Award-winning Icelandic composer, multi-instrumentalist, and producer par excellence Ólafur Arnalds — famed for his original score to Broadchurch, the top-rating television series from ITV (operators of the largest commercial family of channels in the UK), as well as several standout studio albums, including Island Songs (seeing him travel to seven very different locations in Iceland over the course of seven weeks to record several new compositions) — as an all-star ensemble performed his latest set of evolutions, executed with time-tested Spitfire sampling savoir faire as its musical must-have, notable namesake library latest.

ÓLAFUR ARNALDS CHAMBER EVOLUTIONS can be purchased and digitally downloaded (as 30.5 GB of uncompressed .WAV files, featuring 15,156 samples) typically priced at £249.00 GBP (inc. VAT) / $299.00 USD / €299 EUR (inc. VAT) — from Spitfire Audio

ÓLAFUR ARNALDS CHAMBER EVOLUTIONS needs Native Instruments’ free KONTAKT PLAYER (5.6.8) — included in the purchase — to run as a fully NKSTM (NATIVE KONTROL STANDARD) supporting plug-in instrument for Mac (OS X 10.10, 10.11, or macOS 10.12 — latest update) or Windows (7, 8, or 10 — latest Service Pack, 32/64-bit), while Spitfire Audio’s free Download Manager application allows anyone to buy now and download anytime.

For more in-depth information, including a superb-sounding audio demo from Ólafur Arnalds himself, please visit the dedicated ÓLAFUR ARNALDS CHAMBER EVOLUTIONS webpage

Watch Spitfire Audio Director Christian Henson and Ólafur Arnalds talk through the thrilling story of ÓLAFUR ARNALDS CHAMBER EVOLUTIONS

Watch Spitfire Audio Director Paul Thomson’s ‘traditional’ video walkthrough of ÓLAFUR ARNALDS CHAMBER EVOLUTIONS

Watch Spitfire Audio ‘composer in residence’ Oliver Patrice Weder’s ÓLAFUR ARNALDS CHAMBER EVOLUTIONS ‘In Action’ video

Watch Spitfire Audio’s tantalising teaser videos for ÓLAFUR ARNALDS CHAMBER EVOLUTIONS

Background

By way of brief background, based in Reykjavik, Iceland, Ólafur Arnalds’ approach to sound and composition has incontestably inspired a new generation to enjoy and create orchestral music. Following in the successful sampling footsteps of his own OLAFUR ARNALDS EVOLUTIONS and OLAFUR ARNALDS COMPOSER TOOLKIT libraries, Ólafur Arnalds became the clear choice with whom to create …CHAMBER EVOLUTIONS. After all, Spitfire Audio was collectively keen to explore what was possible with a chamber ensemble ensuing the well-received release of SPITFIRE SYMPHONIC STRINGS EVOLUTIONS (where pristine symphonic sampling meets Spitfire Audio’s alternatively progressive Producer Portfolio range to create an evolutionary experience by applying the company’s cutting-edge Evo Grid technology to the same no-expense-spared session recordings responsible for its sought- after 60-star-string-player-performing, blockbuster-sounding SPITFIRE SYMPHONIC STRINGS library like no other); obviously this translated to the driving musical motivation factor behind bringing on-board Ólafur Arnalds again as an accomplished creative collaborator.

Clearly capturing the delightful detail of individual players — performing as a 4, 3, 3, 3, 3 (Violin I + II, Viola, Cello, Double Bass) ensemble of best British players led by fellow Icelandic multi-instrumentalist, composer, conductor, and longterm Ólafur Arnalds associate Viktor Orri Árnason, OLAFUR ARNALDS CHAMBER EVOLUTIONS exudes greater intimacy than its above-stated symphonic sibling, but beautifully balances that with enough excitement to still hold its own in scores and compositions alike.

As has been the case with so many precedent-setting Spitfire Audio libraries that preceded it, the top-tier OLAFUR ARNALDS CHAMBER EVOLUTIONS production saw ‘Spitfire & Co.’ returning to the much-lauded Lyndhurst Hall within London’s legendary AIR Studios founded by Beatles-producing genius George Martin. There the ensemble in question was creatively captured with only the best classic high-end microphones and pres — piped through the world’s largest Neve 88R large-format console, no less — to Pro Tools and quarter-inch tape with several user-selectable mic mixes making their way to the finished article as C (Close), St (Stereo), T (Tree), and A (Ambient) to great effect. “You can feel the history; there’s something special, and the players can hear it and feel it,” observes Ólafur Arnalds himself.

However, being best described by Ólafur Arnalds as “…a sample you can play for three minutes that’ll never sound the same,” and readily reflected in the titling of OLAFUR ARNALDS CHAMBER EVOLUTIONS, even, those thrilling evolutions themselves have become widely adopted amongst the composer community as the most effective means of easily writing music that is able to subtly change over time without variation in melodic content. Creativity continues still further in the case of OLAFUR ARNALDS CHAMBER EVOLUTIONS (and also the likes of SPITFIRE SYMPHONIC STRINGS EVOLUTIONS), thanks to an ability to generate randomised evolutions, enabling unexpected results that are truly inspirational in their own right. Recording a number of very long notes that change or mutate over time across the entire range of the keyboard cleverly results in different evolutions. End users can create profound end results in hitherto unheard ways. What’s more, those note lengths are different across each Evo — ‘Spitfire-speak’ for evolution — to increase the randomness of what the user creates.

Assigning an evolution to a note range is straightforward: simply place a (virtual) peg in the relevant hole on the Evo Grid itself — inspired by the breakthrough British EMS VCS3, which made musical history upon its introduction in 1969 by being the first commercially portable synthesiser available anywhere in the world, thanks to its innovative modular matrix-based patchboard dispensing with the telephone exchange-like cabling of other (much larger) modular systems in favour of making space-saving connections with (removable) coloured pegs.

Pushing the concept onwards, OLAFUR ARNALDS CHAMBER EVOLUTIONS includes innovative evolutions, courtesy of Ólafur Arnalds: Feathering, so that only half of the players are performing at any given time — this allows users to play different chords and still hear the detail of the players, while Waves represents one of Ólafur Arnalds’ signature sounds — crescendo-diminuendos, so a range of prerecorded Waves have been included for instant satisfaction, saving the user from having to manually draw in or perform with a fader. “I’ve been using them on every single thing that I’ve done for film since we recorded this with the ‘alpha’ version of the library,” reveals its instigator, before concluding, truthfully: “They’re just magical and so inspiring; it’s a good writing tool.”

There it is… Ólafur Arnalds’ closing comment clearly sums up OLAFUR ARNALDS CHAMBER EVOLUTIONS. This latest library makes it easy to create sophisticated chamber strings music from the most simplistic of arrangements — just a few sustained notes is all that’s needed to write inspiring dynamic textures!

Download and installation

The download file is fairly large at 30Gb and you need to use Spitfire Audio’s download manager which has a small file size and is easy to install and use. It took a few hours to download and install the library. I downloaded to an external hard drive using USB2 which I’m sure slowed the process considerably. Registering the library in Kontakt Player was a quick and easy process.

Getting Started

Chamber Evolutions has chamber grid, chamber waves, basses grid and basses waves. The chamber section is 4 – 3 – 3 – 3 – 3 comprising violin I, violin II, viola, cello and double bass recorded separately. One of Olafur’s innovation is feathering, this means that only half the players play at any one time, they feather in and out of each other and that enables you to hear players coming in and out and the sound is not too dense.

The GUI has a very clean look and feels intuitive to use with extensive in-line help. A very innovative feature is the Evo grid which can be customised in just a couple of clicks. There are 16 evolutions, covering sul tasto (bow kept over fingerboard to produce a soft thin tone) techniques such as long, ord, point, episodic trems as well as sudden trems, episodic effect and many more. These are split into 4 categories – subtle, thrills, episodic and dissonant, colour coded on the grid. You can select these yourself individually, mix them together or randomise one or all of them to create a huge variety of sounds.

You can further define your sound with controls for dynamics and expression, an ADSR envelope as well as effects of reverb, delay and tape saturation.

You can also configure the number and positions of microphones used – Close, Stereo Mix, Tree and Ambient. This really alters the intensity and closeness of the sound.

Chamber Waves is the second innovation. One of Ólafur’s signature sounds are crescendo-diminuendos, and in order to save having to manual draw-in or perform with a fader, a range of pre-recorded “Waves” have been recorded. These are recorded as normal, trem and vibrato waves with multiple articulations.

The Basses grid and basses waves work in an identical way, the grid options are fewer because there are seven bass sounds and no randomisation option.

There is also an advanced folder containing the individual waves and evolutions and also ‘time machine’ patches for waves articulations that allow you to sync to your host DAW tempo.

Using Chamber Evolutions

I’ve been very impressed using Chamber Evolutions. It can produce beautiful sounds from subtle to haunting to upfront orchestration and everything in-between. The basses and chamber sections compliment each other very well and articulations are excellent with superb dynamics and variety to the sound. It would be especially useful for scoring to pictures.

I’m not classically trained and typically don’t compose my songs in the traditional sense. A lot of my work is experimental and although has a framework it is invariably recorded live with the triggering of samples, synths, changing and editing effects and so on.

I’ve used a different approach using Chamber Evolutions, I’ve put music theory into practice and created songs using RapidComposer, exported the midi and created audio with Chamber Evolutions. The first song I created, ‘crisp winter mornings’ is embedded below. This was mixed using Blackhole, Tverb, 2016 Stereo Room, H3000 Factory and Ultrachannel (Eventide) and mastered using EQ45 (Eventide), Type A (AudioThing), Elevate (Newfangled Audio) and Stage (Fiedler Audio).

I’ve also used it on a submission for the upcoming Cities and Memory Sound Photography project which launches later in March 2018, in this entry I’ve used Chamber Evolutions with the Bernard Herrmann composer toolkit and used a variety of effects including Blackhole, Octavox, Ultratap (Eventide) and SpecOps (Newfangled Audio).

I’ve also used it on a submission for the upcoming ‘Exhibition’ compilation album on Submarine Broadcasting Co. I’ve used the Seslatero add-on and U-drone sampler in Sensomusic Usine Hollyhock 3 with Synthmaster Two to compliment Chamber Evolutions. Again I’ve processed sounds with a variety of effects including Blackhole, Octavox, H949 Dual (Eventide).

I’ve also paired it with the Urban and Suburban sample pack from Boom Library. This has resulted in the album ‘modernity’ embedded below.

It’s a soundtrack to modern life. Some of the urban and suburban samples are lightly processed, on others I’ve used delays to create subtle but unusual effects. The Audio for songs 3, 4 & 5 was recorded live in Sensomusic Usine Hollyhock 3 using a variety of samplers processed with Type A (AudioThing) and Litote (Inear Display) and shows more extreme processing of the sample with song 5 being live recorded in this way, I didn’t use Chamber Evolutions for this song.

The Chamber Evolutions parts were again arranged using RapidComposer and all songs produced and mastered in MuLab 7. I’ve used a variety of effects – H3000, Blackhole, Tverb, Octavox, Fission, H949 Dual (Eventide) and mastered the album using Ultrachannel (Eventide); VHL-3C, Magnetite (Black Rooster Audio); Type A (AudioThing); Elevate (Newfangled Audio) & Stage (Fiedler Audio).

Conclusions

The amount of effort and attention to detail in producing this toolkit are staggering and clearly evident in both the sound quality and flexibility of use.

The range of controls and automation / midi control options give a huge range of sounds and it seems very likely that composers will use it in different ways.

It has superb sound quality and it’s very easy to produce this quality sound. You can use it as simply or complex as you like, the examples above are only using Chamber Evolutions to highlight its versatility and superb sound quality but you could easily pair this with other instruments or sounds. I found RapidComposer very helpful to get great sounds out of Chamber Evolutions. It is an all encompassing compositional tool, in addition to chord and bass parts it can also produce a variety of other phrases such as string parts, arpeggios, melodies and piano runs.

The main limitations that I found appear to be related to Kontakt and memory availability rather than CPU usage. My system spec is a dual core 2Ghz with 4Gb ram and it can run about 6 instances of Kontakt before it starts to crash so you need to ensure you have as much memory available as possible to prevent Kontakt from crashing when loading multiple instances or some of the more complex patches.

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