Thursday, April 4, 2013

Review: Atomic Shadow Panoramic Wave Generator Instrument for Kontakt

Product: Panoramic Wave Generator
Developer: Atomic Shadow
Format: Native Instruments Konakt 4 or later.
Price: $10
Demo: Audio demos on Product Page.

I love unusual sample instruments, so when Atomic Shadow's Rod Mitchell asked me if I'd like to check out his latest creation for Native Instruments Kontakt, I jumped on the opportunity.

Rod says that the inspiration for this instrument came from the early days of samplers like the Akai S612 that only allowed a single sample to be mapped across the entire keyboard.  Although this seems like a severe limitations in this age of multi-gigabyte instruments with multiple-velocity levels and round robin-ing, it could actually be used to great creative effect.  Played out of range, a snare drum becomes an explosion.  A car's engine becomes a cybernetic mosquito.  You get the idea.

So the 30 different instrument presets included in this sound set are all based around a single sample per instrument.  Where this departs from old samplers like the S612, is that we are no longer bound by the tiny sample memories of yesteryear.  So while each instrument here is based around a different, single sample, the samples are often upwards of 2 minutes in length.  In a sense, Panoramic Wave Generator can be thought of as bridging the gap between old school sampling and using long tape loops.

The samples themselves vary from field recordings to sounds of machinery to synthetic waveforms generated with a variety of esoteric audio test equipment.  These sounds were then processed through a modular synth and other effects to give the sounds a very "alive" and organic sound.

A modest control panel allows you to add vibrato with an LFO, adjust the high and low end content via Tone controls, shape the sound with an ADSR envelope, and further sculpt the sound with a Chorus/Flanger/Phaser effect, a Reverb, and an Echo.

So what does it sound like?  Wonderfully weird!  Dirty, gritty, otherworldly.  Think of the menacing industrial soundscapes in David Lynch's "Eraserhead" and you'll have a vague idea of some of the sounds here.  There are more "traditional" tonal sounds created with waveform generators and old lab equipment, but even these have that element of strangeness to them.  Even the more noisy sounds tend to have a tonal element to them, which could be used to great effect for adding some texture and interest to a song.

It's true that this is not going to be an instrument that is going to appeal to everyone.  But to those who it WILL appeal, I imagine it will hold a LOT of appeal.  If you make ambient, film scores, industrial, or any type of experimental music, you'd be dumb not to check it out at only $10.  My only real wish is for the addition of more synthesis options to further mess with the samples.  Filters... multiple LFOs... a modulation sequencer for rhythmic effects... all of these things would extend the usability of these already compelling sounds significantly.  Perhaps in version 2?  [9/10]


Atomic Shadow said...

Thanks for the great review. If you go to this link there is a PayPal option as well as credit card.

Loopy C said...

Thanks for review. I had already put this on my radar but this fills out my remaining question quite well ;-)

biomuse said...

Interesting stuff!
With such long samples, it would be natural to include sample/loopstart modulation and/or randomization as a feature. Is this included or in the works; if not, are the instruments editable so that the user can make it happen?

bb said...

I don’t see a way to hear this, am I missing something? I’ve actually bought some Atomic Shadow CD’s so I’m interested.

biomuse said...

To answer my own question, yes, the sample start is modulable with the mod wheel.

da said...

any audio example ? I like to hear before buying at least …

Tom said...

You can hear audio examples here: