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Zodiac | Electronic Musician Magazine

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You could be forgiven for thinking that most of Zodiac's sounds derive from synthesizers. In reality, the sources for the library's unearthly collection of pads, evolving soundscapes, melodic instruments, and percussive timbres come from found sounds, heavily processed musical instruments, recycled audio recordings, and other unusual sources. The result is an adventurous, and often breathtaking gathering of sounds ideally suited for cinematic scoring and ambient compositions.

Native Instruments' Kontakt 5 hosts Zodiac, whose weathered, metallic, steampunk-influenced design proffers a modest but useful bunch of sliders for the amp envelope, tuning, reverb amount, delay, and bass and treble controls. A drop-down menu at the center of the user interface lets you select from 15 reverb presets of varying size and character.

Most of the action is in the samples themselves: autoharps, guitars, basses, and pedal-steel guitar are found alongside water phones, soda cans, metal lampshades, gas cylinders, and tank drums. These are all plucked, bowed, tapped, and struck, yielding sounds that develop over time in ways that few synthesized sounds can. The patches divide into six categories: Pads and Atmospheres, Melodic Instruments, Percussive Instruments, Zodiac Kits, and Experimental-Atonal Instruments. There some functional overlap between pads and melodic instruments, but every instrument has its own personality, in some cases, evolving radically, over time.

With the exception of a few Velocity crossfades, the programming is relatively simple - no tempo-synced content or effects. The sound and processing are allowed to speak for themselves, and that's fine (although I suspect there is a bit of subtle scripting behind the scenes, as in the Water Gong melodic instrument, which has a beautiful downward pitch swoop that retains a relatively consistent rate across the keyboard map). In Bowed Acoustic Guitar, the low end sounds like acro bass, but it takes on an undulating, organ-like characteristic when played from the middle to the higher registers. And you will be surprised by the lively orchestral-ensemble qualities of the bowed and processed Dumpster Long Drone. Big Fish Audio has done a stellar job: There is a wealth of fascinating musical and sonic territory to explore in Zodiac.

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