SPITFIRE AUDIO OLAFUR ARNALDS STRATUS-REVIEW
Three years in the making, ÓLAFUR ARNALDS, a BAFTA-winning Icelandic composer and producer, has released his fourth library with Spitfire Audio. STRATUS is a re-invented piano sample library. Spitfire Audio spent several weeks at Ólafur Arnalds’ studio in Reykjavik, Iceland, to intimately record two self-playing Yamaha DU1E3 felt-dampened pianos in their environment using vintage Neumann KM 83 and Coles microphones.
Spitfire recorded complete broad recordings of poly-rhythmic patterns performed by both pianos creating a highly organic textural sound. For me, this was an interesting concept, but would it deliver?
First thing, this is not a traditional piano sample library, and I would call it a niche library at best. It will complement other libraries by building on an emotional soundscape. Before getting too far into the sound, let’s look at the interface, and learn how it works.
When you first open STRATUS within Kontakt, you’ll find 8 NKI matrix presets, an Advanced folder, and a Warps folder. The Matrix is truly unique in its execution
You can hold down one note or a chord to create evolving dreamlike experimental rhythms perfect for underscoring. There are plenty of variations within the matrix grid, and the randomize function becomes a welcoming function for instant spontaneity. The instrument kind of swirls around you like a sonic echoing kaleidoscope with intricate and delicate piano performances that generate surprising results. I did find that I had to work a little harder than I expected in order to develop a distinct arrangement I was hearing in my head. Some of the rhythms sounded a little unbalanced in the beginning, but with a little time, I was able to tailor the patterns to meet my needs.
This is a well-designed UI with plenty of controls and FX. The patterns in the Matrix can be randomized in a variety of ways like a feature called ‘Evolve Over Time’ or ‘Randomise Over Time’. Evolving over time means that while holding down the keys, and depending on what coordinate you have selected, the patterns will change to the next performance when the egg timer icon runs out. Some of the coordinates can have up to five performances designated to them. Keep in mind the ‘Evolve Over Time’ isn’t available in all the Matrix NKI’s. When using the Randomise/Randomize option in the Matrix, you’ll be able to roll the dice on the performances and the FX for immediate, unpredictable results before playback. The other option ‘Randomise Over Time’ randomizes performances during playback up to 16 beats. As you can see, there is plenty of versatility within the Matrix interface. Not only do you get the four piano NKI’s in the Matrix grid, but you’ll also get four Synth NKI’s. I particularly liked the Synth Swarms preset that offered some ethereal soundscapes. Olafur created the synth presets using a Korg PS-3100 and Juno-60.
Inside the advanced folder, you’ll find a collection of 16th and 8th note presets in each of the Matrix categories. There is also a Piano folder containing three standard piano NKI presets Centre, Right, and Left all housed within The Mercury Synth engine. The Warps category also uses the Mercury Synth engine and includes an ample amount of ambiences, textures, and dream-like sonic landscapes.
This instrument uses the Free Kontakt player and requires 15.2 GB to install the library. Make sure to check out all the videos before investing, because it does come with a more than moderate price tag.
It took me a few days to really grasp what Stratus can do, so have patience, and you’ll absorb its capability.
OLAFUR ARNALDS STRATUS is definitely comes recommend for those looking for something imaginative and unconventional. I found it to be a useful tool in building moods and artistic emotion in my compositions.