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Alien Artifakts | Keyboard Magazine

Rating: Sound Quality 8 Creativity 9 Documentation (CD) 3 Documentation (CD-ROM) 1 Bang for the Buck 6 Back to Alien Artifakts product details

Spooky, electronic sound effects are the name of the game in Alien Artifakts. You get shimmering timbres layered on top of dark sustained tones with pulsating components that come and go, metallic crashes followed by weird throbs and noises that percolate from opposite sides of the stereo field, slowly evolving synthetic soundscapes, staccato arpeggiated patterns, and insanely processed voices. "Very evocative," enthused Jim Aikin. "I love the shuddering tones in 'Tube Tele' and the chilly ambience of 'Inside Thought.'" While the audio quality is generally impressive, too many samples are clumsily truncated rather than ending sensibly or fading away gracefully.

Alien Artifakts is available in either audio CD or mixed-mode WAV/AcidCD-ROM format, each going for the same price. The CD covers over 67 minutes and the CD-ROM includes 592MB of material.

The audio CD comes with a seven-page sleeve that provides only names for the tracks and each audio snippet within the track; lengths aren't included, nor are individual cuts subindexed, which means you'll have to scan through to find break points between samples. For the most part, tempos and keys are irrelevant because of the non-rhythmic and atonal nature of the material. However, there are a significant number of looped tracks and rhythm patterns for which the tempo info -- and in a few cases the key -- would be mighty helpful. The documentation is even worse when you get to the CD-ROM, which comes with only the outer pages of the sleeve and the statement "audio CD track listing (audio CD sold separately)" stamped across the page.

We tested some of the pitched and rhythmic cuts from Alien Artifakts in Sonic Foundry Acid and found that their pitch remained constant when we changed tempo. However, all of them loaded into Acid with the pitch parameter defaulting to "do not transpose." Once we'd set that parameter to a specific key, we were able to transpose the sample's pitch as we chose. Hey, this is fun!
The Alien Artifakts sounds are stunning and unique. In making Alien Artifakts, the production crew -- Michael Kelsey of Lifesaver Laboratories was the engineer, creator, and producer, and Matt Haines did the editing and mastering -- used an E-mu E-Synth and Morpheus, Korg Wavestation, Prophecy, and EX-8000, Akai EVI, Kawai XD-5, Ensoniq DP/4+, ART DRX-2100SE, and Steinberg's Wavelab, as well as metal, air, water, wood, and human voices. "These samples will give you a leg up on professional-sounding electro-ambient or industrial music," Jim concluded, "even if your gear setup is minimal."

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