Sounds of Polynesia, Melanesia & Australia - Zero-G
A sample CD, a virtual instrument or a sample player, the line between musical products is blurring somewhat and a recent trend is what's known as Romplers. A collection of samples presented within a sampler engine as a virtual instrument. Such is the Sounds of Polynesia from Zero-G.
This product is described by the producers
Sounds of Polynesia works on Windows and OS X, supporting VST 2.0, DXi, II, ASIO, DirectSound, RTAS, Audio Units, Core Audio or even as a standalone application. I tested the product on Windows XP as a VST instrument within Cubase SX 2.2.
The DVD in fact it comes on takes up 1.32Gb of space once installed, the process of which is about as painless as it can be, takes a little while as you might expect shifting all that data. The product needs to be registered, a bit of a pain, but I guess in the days of high speed internet access and DVD recorders a necessary step.
Once installed you call up the virtual instrument and you're presented with a customised version of Intakt, the Native Instruments sampler. The benefit of this is that for many users it will be familiar, it's stable and leaves the developers free on getting the sounds and programming right and not reinvent the wheel with a start from scratch engine. I encountered no problems at all, no crashes, no hangs, nothing, which is good!
Intakt has three modes Beat Machine, Time Machine, and Sampler.
Beat Machine divides audio into individual hits - for example, kick drum, snare hit, etc. Each hit has individual settings for pitch, playback direction, pitch envelope, distortion, delay send, etc
Time Machine is a time stretching engine. Samples are loaded and analyzed and then tempo can be freely adjusted, in real time, without affecting the pitch of the sample. Any loop or sound for that matter can then be adjusted without changing the pitch.
Sampler Mode is basically a standard sampler. Used mainly for instrument sounds rather than loops.
I would stress that the Intakt engine though offers more than just these sample tools - on top of these you have a whole bunch of things that you can do with the sounds to quote the NI website
While this is a little sales pitch talk what it translates to is you can mess about with the sounds to your hearts content, modulate, filter, add effects this is more than just a sample playback module, it is a complete sampler and instrument in it's own right. Which brings us round to why you're actually reading this, the sounds.
With 1.32Gb of sounds you know there is a lot of material here, having been interested in music for over 20 years I still can't always get my head around that level of data, I recall when 64k was ground breaking and 1Mb of sample ROM was a major investment!
With the instrument at the ready you begin to realise how much work has gone into the project, the good news of course is that all the hard work has been done for you, no fiddling around, just start calling up the patches.
The Sounds of Polynesia conjures up all sorts of images of the South Pacific islands, and although "Australia" is mentioned in the title it's kind of stretching things a little, you won't find reams of digerdoos and aboriginal instruments here, the bulk of the material coming from Papua New Guinea.
The sounds are divided up into four sections, Vocals, Long Blows, Percussion Loops and Construction Kits. Each with programs for the Intakt Instrument all set up and ready to go!
The vocal section consists of 15 patches from calling, sadness to village ambience (which is the only one with multiple samples, four of them) and they're very good, very evocative and probably for my uncultured ear rather stereotypical of what you might imagine they would be. Which is what you would want. Whilst the samples are excellent I wouldn't have minded more, some more speech, singing, chanting, more ambiences too, I can imagine that the target audience of this kind of specialist collection would like those too.
The long blows section consists of 9 Conch Shell patches and 3 Horn patches, which sound suitably breathy and well, just like they're supposed to!
Percussion loops is 8 patches of straightforward multibar patterns of simple percussion instruments, what exactly isn't specified. An oddly out of place section really, perhaps for material that simply didn't fit in with the bulk of the material in the...
Construction Kits. This is the meat of the product and where no doubt most people will get the most use from. There are 44 Intackt Construction Kits and 48 Original Sample Construction Kits, the two section appear to contain the same material, but the Original Samples are in the "Sampler Mode" and the Intakt programs are in the "Beat Machine Mode", each construction kit contains
The loops range in a base BPM of 75 to 166, though as the nature of the Intakt instrument allows you to manipulate this sort of thing with ease these BPMs are really very flexible.
There is a whole range of instrumentation used. Some of which is new to me, garamut, pate, pahu mango, tin can, pan pipes, bamboo stomping tubes, water flutes, bowed harp, conch shells, wooden trumpets, coconut shells, and a few more vocals too for good measure. Mixed in are a few synthetic sounds, the odd synth, rhodes or bass line and far less South Pacific sounding drum sounds. The beauty of the construction kit format being though if you wish these can be easily omitted.
Not only can whole loops be added or omitted from any given construction kit, the individual sounds are all mapped out for you to manipulate, either in position, in their sonic characteristics, either as a loop or even each element within a loop. You really can tweak away to your hearts content, or simply just use what's there straight away.
There are a nice mixture to the loops, from the sedate and spacious, to the frantic and full. Listening to them I could probably conjure up a dozen song ideas using either elements of the loops or using the whole base for one, and the very nature of how their presented invites tweaking and fiddling with, add a delay to the conch rhythm, add some crunch to the shaker loop and so on and so forth. Very good!
Sonic quality is very good, I found no obvious problems with looping or audio glitches. One or two samples had a hint of background noise on them, but overall sonically of very high quality.
Sounds of Polynesia is one of those products that invites you just to dive in and have a go at. My first impressions where one of, mmm.... is that it, when you first load it up, there aren't hundreds of patches. All very nice but where did 1.3Gb of samples go to?
Then you begin to use the instrument, fiddle around with things and you begin to realise that 25 Mb a construction kit equals a gigabyte before you've even thought about it and each construction kit contains loops that can be time stretched in 5 seconds to any BPM you wish... so that's 300+ to mix and match... and that's even before you've begun to sonically manipulate them.
And then you get inspirational ideas for songs, and then you play around some more and suddenly you appreciate what a great job that's been done here. Apart from the actual acquisition and recording of the samples and loop creation it's all been put into Intakt for you ready to go with all the hard work done. For anyone that's taken a standard audio sample CD construction kit into a sampler will know how much of an effort that can be and here... 5 seconds to load up the next set! It's all logically laid out, organised and quite intuitive.
As "World" sound sets go, it's a little different, a little the same as many others, though I suspect for most people if you heard many of the sounds and rhythms out of context here you'd struggle to name where they had come from. The addition of "external" sounds to some of the construction sets was something of a surprise, and also an inspiration too, at least to see instantly how these sounds can blend in with more electronic sounds, which I suspect the bulk of users will be doing.
Overall quietly impressive. Personally I would have liked to have seen more vocal and ambience samples but that's a minor niggle, apart from that it's a very solid product. If you're looking for something just a little bit different, then Sounds of Polynesia is well worth a look. Both from an instant gratification standpoint and also an in depth and involved product.