Evolve is, at its heart, a Native Instruments Kontakt Player sound library much like Damage before it. To say ‘before it’ is a bit of a stretch, though, because a Kontakt 2 Player version of Evolve has been around for a few years now. The update we’re reviewing brings it into line with NI’s latest Kontakt Player, version 5, and with it comes a few improvements.
In a nutshell? Evolve sounds fantastic through and through, and if you’re looking for a way to bust your your internal film score out of your mind and into your sequencer this has pretty much all the tools you could need.
Evolve features a massive library of patches, split between percussive and tonal styles. Don’t expect too many bread and butter basics from Evolve; the majority of the sounds in Evolve are big, epic, expansive… and other such synonyms. There are plenty of crisp and dry sounds, granted, but if you’re after the ambitious feel you get when watching a blockbuster film or playing a triple A video game, there’s a good chance you won’t just like Evolve but indeed find exactly the same sounds buried in its library. It’s been used by some big names in the industry, and the reason is almost certainly down to how easy Evolve is to use.
Drill down into the logically sorted menu system and load up something that takes your fancy, perhaps something from the ‘Sweeping Tonal Strings’ section of ‘Stings and Transitions’ from the main menu, and you’ve more or less done all the work you need to do to get to the finish line. I was very impressed with how good everything sounds in Evolve; using Kontakt’s lossless compression the footprint of Evolve is 3GB, but there are over 6GB of sounds inside it and there’s really no filler. From little flourishes to lead parts, Evolve has it covered.
“From little flourishes to lead parts, Evolve has it covered”
Master effects, individual effects for patches with discreet sounds on keys, trigger effects that are overlaid with presses of the keys in the 6th octave, amp envelope and filters are included in patches. If a sound isn’t quite there yet, then you can easily tweak it to suit. There’s delay, distortion, lo-fi, an amp cabinet, and reverb, and all are tweaked with just a few knobs that are focused on performance rather than head scratching. On some levels it’s a shame that some of the sounds are recorded wet, because Kontakt’s reverb sounds very good, but really nothing beats a well sampled organic reverb and it all comes down to the aforementioned use case: immersive sound.
Loops and Rhythm Generators
As well as the sensibly grouped single hits and instruments, there is a decent amount of looped content… I have a love hate relationship with loop content. One one hand, I love how a well designed loop library basically furnishes you with the greatest reference drummer in the world and allows you to work on elements of a track that your inspiration is feeling more warmed up to. On the other, I hate the way that loops can lead us into temptation and make us (okay, me) lazy. It’s a difficult balance, and different people will see the capability in different ways. If you’re scoring for a project, writing every single drum part can be a drain on resources and creativity – the feel of the music is more important.
“Heavyocity have excelled in making dynamic loop content”
On the other hand if you’re making music for music’s sake, simply composing on a macro level is sometimes a bit of a cop out. It’s not Heavyocity’s responsibility to stay away from loop content, it’s yours to make sure you use it wisely. It is Heavyocity’s responsibility to make loop content feel as dynamic as possible though, and this is something they’ve excelled at.
Arpeggiator patches are included in some of the patches too, but they should be thought of more as rhythm sequencers – the chordal arpeggiation isn’t cycled through notes, but rather each note gets an independent rhythmic sequence. This allows you to create big sounding pads and trippy melodies, but not true arpeggiated lines based on note input.
Maschine integration is one of the new features that comes with the update. Presets are available directly from Maschine in a way that will, I’m sure, be something that NI push for as many of their sample libraries as they can in future; the bottom line is that integration with Maschine is extremely quick and easy, tying in perfectly with the concept behind Evolve.
As far as integration with everything else goes, having to use NI’s Kontakt Player can be somewhat a nuisance as everything’s locked to read only. If you have the full version of Kontakt things are a little more open and you can save tweaks and so on, but Evolve is very much a closed ROMpler – although I feel that this is an issue that I feel means very little in practice, and certainly means that Evolve is a purchase that doesn’t require you to have bought in to a specific sampler.
Who’s it For?
As far as which of you Evolve will make most sense to, it’s definitely those of you with a penchant for cinematic stylings. Minimal house and glitch IDM lovers will be overwhelmed by the sonic aspirations of Evolve, and while there are some nice asides, like beatbox and a couple of fairly clean synth patches, I thought of them more as a bonus than a reason to purchase the set. No, it’s those of you who like to envelop the soundstage with synths and wet pianos, use big pads, crashes, and atmospheric chords, that will love Evolve.
“Whilst Evolve doesn’t have the tweaking potential of a mega-synth it represents far more of the sonic pallet”
One of the main advantages that a sound library like this has over a synth is the breadth of sounds it can encompass, and while Evolve doesn’t have the tweaking potential of a mega-synth it represents far more of the sonic pallet, from realistic sounds to far out pads, than any synth. Thus, for the price, it’s pretty much a no brainer purchase if the sounds are up your street.
Times have changed a whole bunch (you know how we love technical terms here at OD) in the past few years. As technology evolves – that’s not a pun – electronic instrument designers and developers put ever more work into making things happen behind the scenes and under the bonnet of their babies to make the amount of effort required to make an interesting sound come out of a single key press get smaller and smaller. This means that if you came up during the early – or at least earlier – days of electronic music, you might find it difficult to shake a sneaking sense of elitism that comes with being able to program and chain basic synths and effects into an Optimus Prime style behemoth when newer contemporaries expect a single instrument to do it all for them.
The truth is that as the goalposts are moving and times are changing, there’s some stuff we just don’t need to do anymore if we don’t want to – and that opens up avenues to cool stuff we couldn’t have done before. After all, we want to Make Music at Home, not endlessly fiddle with routing and fight with equipment, right?