Zero-G's Morphology ($219.95) offers desktop musicians a trip through the rabbit hole into a colorful world of surreal soundscapes and unusual sonic sensations.
Recorded and developed by independent composer, performer, and analog-synthesis guru Ian Boddy, Morphology's 3 GB library is packed with exotic, continuously evolving pads, ambient textures, and atmospheric backgrounds. The collection also includes an array of simple analog waveforms for re-creating some of the signature sounds of the ‘70s.
Morphology uses Native Instruments' ubiquitous Kompakt Instrument as a dedicated front end, which allows you to play the library as a standalone instrument or as a plug-in for systems that support VST 2.0, DXi, RTAS, and Audio Units. Morphology's hundreds of patches range in size from less than 2 MB to more than 48 MB and make good use of Kompakt's many parameters, with six types of filters, three AHDSR envelopes, four LFOs, and three effects (chorus, reverb, and delay). If you already have Native Instruments' more advanced Kontakt sampler, you can also use it with Morphology to gain additional parameters.
Zero-G''s Morphology virtual instrument offers a huge collection of complex analog-style pads and ambient textures that evolve over time.
Except for the basic waveforms, all of the patches have the Mod wheel assigned to a specific function, providing real-time control over the sound. For example, in “Crunchy Static,” the Mod wheel changes the filter cutoff. In “Eerie Fog World,” it changes the LFO amount, and in “Ambient Feedback,” it adjusts the delay effect.
Most of the patches have been programmed for 32-note polyphony, and if you like your soundscapes really dense, you can load as many as eight patches into a Multi. That's a great way to fatten up a sound, especially with the basic analog synth samples. Another option is to layer two patches and set up the Mod wheel to crossfade between them. (You'll have to reassign the Mod wheel from the original settings.) Most of the pads and textures already evolve over time, and fading between different patches can add an interesting twist to the “morphology” concept.
Morphology's 24-bit, 44.1 kHz patches are organized into eight broad categories: Atmospheres, Drones, FX, Harmonic Loops, Industrial, Pads & Synths, Virtual Synth, and Voices. Each of the main categories is further divided into folders that attempt to group similar types of sounds. (These appear as cascading menus in Kompakt.) For example, the Atmospheres category has folders called Arpeggiations, Bells, Cosmic, Eerie, Scary, Sci-Fi, and Surreal. Each of the folders has from 5 to 30 patches that are more-or-less related, although many of the sounds truly defy categorization.
With names like Aqueous Flutter Bells, Murky Grunge Drone, Fog Bound Free Tonal, Waves of Nastiness, Pitch Splitter, Garbled Radio, and Alien Temple, it is easy to see that this library does not lend itself to simple descriptions. In fact, the hardest thing about using Morphology is trying to predict what a patch will sound like before you load it. To his credit, Boddy has done an admirable job of organizing this disparate collection of sounds, and the nicely designed and helpful PDF patch list is well worth printing out. Still, using Morphology is largely a matter of trial and error, which can be as time-consuming as it is entertaining.
It's difficult to capture in a short review the range of sonic colors that Morphology offers. Some of the patches evoke creepy jungle settings; others evoke resonant urban environments. Some patches pulse with rhythmic energy; others are calm and ethereal. One patch sounds like wind-swept plains from a distant galaxy; another combines noise with echo effects to create ray-gun blasts and mad-science theatrics.
Morphology's Harmonic Loops section is loaded with gentle liquid fantasy sounds contributed by Markus Reuter. These sounds and many others throughout the library have a distinctly musical quality and usually list an original key or harmonic center. Others are more like gourmet blends of exotic noise. The virtual synth section provides simple patches based on six waveforms: triangle, sawtooth, triangular-sawtooth, square, wide-rectangular, and narrow rectangular. These sounds were sampled, looped, and laid out at minor third intervals across the keyboard.
From raspy and raunchy to celestial and serene, this library covers a lot of ground. With its excellent audio quality and its stunning timbral combinations, Morphology is a unique tool that highlights the creative potential waiting to be discovered in the world of analog and digital synthesis.
Overall EM Rating (1 through 5): 5
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