SPITFIRE AUDIO – SAMUEL SIM CHRYSALIS
To say that Samuel Sim is a less well-known composer is a wild understatement. But for those of us who’ve heard his lovely work in Homefires (the theme of which is super great, albeit weirdly reminiscent of Tears For Fears’ Mad World), or more recently Rowan Atkinson’s Maigret, he certainly presents a compelling new voice in the screen composition world.
He has a sound that somehow manages to be at once timeless and contemporary, using classic sounds in innovative ways and, as an accomplished harp player, the notion of a sample library comprised of his hand-chosen, played, and creatively mangled harp sounds is an appealing prospect. This is especially the case because the harp has long been a bit of a secret weapon of screen composers. Its soft sound can do useful work alongside dialogue, the notes have a nice indeterminate sustain, it’s polyphonic, and it’s capable of anything from extreme sweetness to super creepy intrigue.
The library is divided into four sections, imaginatively entitled, ‘Initial Pupae’, ‘Nypmha Pedals’, ‘Metamorphosis Warps’, and ‘The Cocoonase’. The first of these contains some nice sounding, solid, studio harp samples featuring a selection of techniques (unusual spread short glisses, bowed, normale, very soft, dampened, tremolando, and octave tremolando), and with a nice array of mics to choose from and combine in different ways (six no less, including an extremely close mic, a nice condenser, and a couple of ribbons).
These articulations and micings are very useful –I’m particularly fond of the ‘Super Quiet’ articulation- and the library is worth it for this section alone in my opinion. The remaining sections are basically effected and twisted-out versions of the sounds in the first section, but which come courtesy of Samuel Sim’s clever collection of pedals and feature him performing to the pedals (rather than straight-out mangling post hoc).
All of the effected collections run through Spitfire’s Mercury effects engine, allowing users to control a full array of decent effects on top of those already embedded in the samples, and all feature welcome sliders that allow the user to dial in and balance the mix of the original harp with the primary effected signal, resulting in some very intriguing possibilities.
The effected sounds tend to be of the long, sustained, washy variety, often very haunting and lending themselves well to introspective and emotive moods. They are not super hi-fi to my ears, a complaint I often have when pedals are the source of effects, and because of that my own inclination would be to use them as colours in conjunction with other sounds rather than as stand-alone flavours, but I may be alone in this. Being able to mix in the dry harp signal is certainly a great feature that adds a touch of acoustic class to otherwise quite ‘new school’ sounds.
Turning from quality to quantity, whereas the initial harp samples are fairly limited in number – one will search in vain for a ‘classic’ harp glissando for instance – the number of effected sounds is generous indeed.
This is good news, for as far as I’m concerned when it comes to ‘hybrid-organic’ sound the more the merrier. It does, though, create a minor workflow issue with the organization of the library, for while technically the three effected sections are stylistically different – the ‘Nympha Pedals’ section comes with fewer samples and a slightly different GUI which allows one to mix between two pedal outputs and separate faders for the L/R balance of a dry stereo pair while the ‘Metamorphosis Warps’ and ‘The Cocoonase’ sections sport one fader each for dry and wet signal but double their number of samples by providing both plucked and tremolo versions of each sound – practically speaking I found myself having to trawl through all three effected folders to find the effected sound I was after without managing to find salient audible grounds for distinguishing between the folders.
This, of course, is no more than a file-management quibble, but, when it’s being marketed as a tool for screen composers, it’s the sort of thing that can slow one down in a line of work that doesn’t really brook delays. All told, while not a comprehensive harp sample library, the extreme usefulness of harps and sustained, soft, evocative, sounds-of-indeterminate-origin for screen composing makes this an extremely handy library to have up one’s sleeve for those more downbeat moments… and, for all I know, navigation between the sections may prove easier to people who know more about moths and butterflies than I do.
Full details on Chrysalis Samuel Sim Harp are available at Spitfire Audio www.spitfireaudio.com
By Karl Stevens