VIR2 Instruments Violence (Mac/Win) Review

VIR2 Instruments'' marketing suggests harsh, grating, mangled sounds, but even a cursory audition of the Violence sampler library reveals much of delicate beauty. It harvests sounds from a single violin that are simultaneously ethereal and otherworldly, yet earthy and folkloric. Sound designer Brendan J. Hogan plucks, taps, scrapes, fingers, and bows different parts of the instrument and often subjects the results to intense processing. To be sure, some sounds are ominous and cinematic, but just as many are intimate and warm, and would sit nicely in ethnic pieces and sparse pop arrangements. Even the most processed sounds retain traces of their acoustic origin.
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VIR2 Violence is a library of musical but unusual sounds derived from a violin.

VIR2 Instruments'' marketing suggests harsh, grating, mangled sounds, but even a cursory audition of the Violence sampler library reveals much of delicate beauty. It harvests sounds from a single violin that are simultaneously ethereal and otherworldly, yet earthy and folkloric. Sound designer Brendan J. Hogan plucks, taps, scrapes, fingers, and bows different parts of the instrument and often subjects the results to intense processing. To be sure, some sounds are ominous and cinematic, but just as many are intimate and warm, and would sit nicely in ethnic pieces and sparse pop arrangements. Even the most processed sounds retain traces of their acoustic origin.

Violence is available as a download from Big Fish Audio ($99.95, bigfishaudio.com). It installs with Native Instruments Kontakt 4 Player. It''s also compatible with the full version of Kontakt 4, which I used to audition the sounds. Authorization uses the Native Instruments Service Center, which takes a few minutes at most.

BOW AND SCRAPE
Violence instruments are divided into four categories: Drum Kits, Melodic, Pads and FX, and Tempo Synched. You''ll also find 15 Kontakt Multis combining several instruments.

The half-dozen patches in the Drum Kits folder span several octaves. Some conform loosely to Roland''s drum map, whereas others bear no resemblance to a traditional drum layout, and that''s okay. Don''t expect anything approaching a realistic drum kit; emulation is clearly not the point of this collection. You''ll find kits played with chopsticks, a bow, and a filament. My favorite is the breathy, sometimes wheezy sound of the Bow kit. The instrument''s patch panel reflects each kit piece''s basic parameters, allowing you to edit as necessary. As always in Kontakt, a click on the Wrench icon opens the patch for lower-level edits.

You would be hard-pressed to identify all of the sources in the Melodic section. You might hear a trace of rosin at the onset of ''80s Glass Pad Synth, but little else sounds like a violin. By contrast, Chopstick Zither sounds like chopsticks bouncing on violin strings. At first, this patch sounds tempo-synched, but it becomes obvious that the rhythmic pattern was performed live and with a loose, human feel. Claymation sounds a bit like an electric grand piano, until a breathy, flute-like tone begins to bloom. Metamorph sounds like a refugee from an early ''60s sci-fi movie: electronic and acoustic at the same time. The patches make tasteful use of effects without slathering them with excess reverb or delay, and that goes a long way toward creating their overall warmth.

THE JOY OF SFX
You''ll find the most outré and impressive sounds in the Pads and SFX folder. Focean is a slowly evolving pad with overtones suggesting muted brass, with a lower-frequency component of woodwinds and bow rosin—overtones come and go in a musical way. Despite the SFX label, these sounds are predominantly tonal, although there are a few atonal, harmonic clouds such as Industrial Labyrinth. Some sounds—After the Rain and the beautiful Desert Garden, for example—are pads with fluttering, rhythmic, and tonal elements. Lunar Gardens develops a chiming, internal melodic motif. Reservoir sounds like a muted-attack organ with some looping drawbar play.

The Tempo Synched folder has some nice pitched rhythms, along with purely percussive loops. There''s an excellent mixture of natural and processed sounds here, although I found a couple of anomalies: Bounce Loop appears to play out of sync from G2 on down, although it changes tempo with MIDI Clock. It does allow for a few interesting polyrhythms if your timing is good. Likewise, I had to shift Tone and Overtone a few ticks early to get it locked in. Harmonic Alloy has no discernible looping rhythm, and is simply a duplicate of a patch in the Pads folder.

One of the great benefits of sampling is to provide acoustic sounds that have no equivalent in the real world. I''m greatly impressed by the wealth of fresh, mostly organic sounds in Violence (see Web Clip 1). The Multis run from eminently useful (Mallets and Strings) to awe-inspiring (Crop Circles and Hypnotic Rhythm). It''s hard to believe that everything I heard came from a single violin. If you''re looking for imaginative and organic sounds to round out your instrumental palette, you need to audition Violence.

Overall EM Rating [1 through 5]: 5
Violence Product Page