Sample Logic Morphestra is a massive collection of imaginative sounds derived primarily from acoustic sources.
As sampling and synthesis evolve and convolve, more composers for film and games rely on a nontraditional palette of sounds in their orchestrations. Sample Logic has been producing imaginative sample libraries for years (see my Sample Logic Synergy review in the April 2009 issue of EM, available at emusician.com/sftinstruments/sample-logic-synergy-quick-pick-review/). The company's latest palette of tones and colors is Morphestra, a 27GB library of instruments, atmospheres, stings and pulsating rhythms.
At $699, the library is not inexpensive, but it ships pre-installed on a 160GB Glyph Technologies SATA II hard drive with FireWire 800 and USB 2 interfaces, and a one-year guarantee of overnight replacement should anything happen to the drive. Consequently, the drudgery of installing 27 GB of data is unnecessary (unless, of course, you want to move the data to another drive).
You must install the included Native Instruments Kontakt Player unless you already have it or have the full version of Kontakt 3.5 or 4. Thanks to the Service Center application, installing the software and authorizing the library are quick and easy. I ran Morphestra with Kontakt 4.0.2.
MORPH FOR YOUR MONEY
At the top level, Morphestra instruments comprise three main categories: Atmospheres, Instrumentals and Percussives. Each harbors two to four subfolders arranged by function, such as melodic instruments or pads. Most often, these also contain nested subfolders such as wind-instrument-based or synth-derived pads. Melodic instruments further subdivide into arpeggiated and gated categories, bells, mixed ensembles, loops and more.
The Atmospheres category holds Ambience and Stinger folders. Ambience is conveniently subgrouped by application; folders titled as Blurred Emotions, Dark N Scary, Disturbed, Electronic, Euphoric and the like should tell you all you need to know. That said, almost any of the patches could easily cross over into other evocative territories. Many of the sounds, although not identified as such, have rhythmic components running in tandem with shifting and evolving timbres and harmonic and melodic motifs (see Web Clip 1).
Programs using the Mod Wheel are identified with an MW prefix, and many go beyond simply sweeping filter-cutoff frequencies. Some add subtle amounts of resonance, add a bit of distortion or change the rhythm of the arpeggiator (see Web Clip 2). Most of the arpeggiator patches create complex and captivating syncopated rhythms with an assist from tempo-synched delay. There's plenty of leeway to create your own arpeggios and gated rhythms; tabs at the bottom of each patch access all the tools you need to create your own rhythmic patterns. Additional tabs open parameters for reverb and delay, EQ and filter, and distortion and modulation-driven effects.
Morphestra instruments cover a broad sonic panorama from sweet and evocative to turbulent and bone-crushingly distorted tones. Samples derive from acoustic sources including instrumental, vocal and even animal sources, and yet, despite their extensive processing, they remain infused with their original organic qualities, allowing them to integrate well with more obviously acoustic sources. In addition, Morphestra includes a sweet and lush set of orchestral ensembles, including string and woodwind variations.
The Percussives folder holds loops, sequences, kits, percussion-kit elements and more. Some of the sounds offer subtle pre-recorded room ambience so you may not need the additional effects used in a patch. Other sounds are bone-dry. Either way, there's punch to spare. Be sure to try the arpeggiator in conjunction with the kits (see Web Clip 3).
MEET THE COMPOSER
As good as the single patches are, Morphestra's multis furnish supremely inspiring sounds, thanks in part to contributions from top-flight film- and game-score composers and sound designers. Folders in the Multi section include patches created by Bill Brown, David Lawrence, Mark Isham, Rupert Gregson-Williams and Tom Salta, in addition to scads of imaginative and expressive sounds from the Sample Logic staff.
Among a uniformly musical and impressive lot, my pick of the litter is Mark Isham's multi Little People, with what sounds like a tremolo Wurlitzer piano melding with a gauzy synth pad as gamelan-like motifs fade in and out, trading places with an arpeggiated synth figure. This one halted my review dead in its tracks for a few hours (see Web Clip 4).
Morphestra places Sample Logic at the topmost standing, along with an intensely creative handful of sound designers of instruments for film and games. It's been said that a picture is worth a thousand words; almost any given patch in Morphestra can paint a thousand pictures. For anyone interested in the cutting edge of imaginative composition, I give Morphestra my highest recommendation.
Overall rating (1 through 5): 5