Review: Artifact Reanimate by Audio Imperia
World class sound design
Inspiring and playable patches
Simple but highly configurable interface
Tonal elements really complement the rhythmical
A focussed and cohesive sonic signature
Very genre and stylistically specific
Artifact Reanimate is a comprehensive toolkit of trailer specific percussion, sound design, and synths with a thoroughly modern aesthetic. It is detailed and inspiring, with both subtle and hard-hitting samples crafted with the utmost skill and nuance.
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Review: Artifact Reanimate by Audio Imperia
For any composer involved in making trailer or epic cinematic music, Audio Imperia will be a familiar name. They are one of the market leaders in creating incredible, larger than life sounds that these genres require. From sound design to huge low brass and ethereal vocals to space pianos, they are constantly providing cutting edge libraries with excellent usability. Their latest release is Artifact Reanimate and although it is based on an older product, it has being hugely expanded and improved for 2019.
Artifact Fractal was well received by my esteemed colleague Brian Brylow three years ago who praised its ability to create rhythmic beds for a range of styles. There was a definite focus on gritty and heavy percussive elements which Artifact Reanimate has added to with a wealth of complementary tonal material. This was two years in the making and results in a wonderfully rounded product, with rhythmic and tonal samples that mesh excellently together.
In addition to the new material, the interface has had a huge overhaul and more closely matches the current Audio Imperia engines. The GUI offers improved manipulation options and the legacy ‘Fractal’ samples were also optimised and improved.
Artifact Reanimate sells for $249.00 from Audio Imperia
The first thing you will notice is the pretty intense graphic design for the GUI. It is very impressive and the dark robotic theme certainly gives you a good idea of the sounds that lie beyond – very futuristic and processed. From here on in banish any thoughts of pure and gentle organic sounds!
The graphics might make the interface look overly complex, but in actual fact it is pretty simple and well thought out. Like precisely how the keyboard mapping works, the GUI is standard across all of the many nki patches. The top half has the essential controls like volume, pitch, amp envelope and panning, with the Big Knob in the middle (becoming increasingly golden as it gets turned – tasty!).
The bottom half includes all your EQ and filter controls which, like any other parameter on the main page, can be applied globally to the patch or per sample. The central portion displays a waveform with the keynote and specific sample name, which comes in handy when navigating around a complex patch and remembering what you liked, or in case you need to find it in the WAV folder. You can also move the start time and select reverse playback of many of the samples, again globally or for individual samples. It is a relatively simple feature, but a really useful way of customising the content.
The various categories in this library are divided over six folders containing a wealth of nki patches. It is also worth mentioning as this point that none of the content is wrapped into Native Instruments Kontakt format and remains as WAV. This gives some flexibility beyond Kontakt and might interest users who do not have it and/or prefer to work purely in audio.
The Construction Kits consist of 40 complex loops across a range of BPMs that are all tempo synced. The red C1 plays back the whole thing and then the following yellow keys break it down into stems, with the green keys triggering selected one shots.
To make these your own I would advise using a few stems and then programming in various one shots and using the main loop purely to audition, though in a time pinch you might just need to use the main loops wholesale. The general vibe of these is dystopian, industrial and always powerful.
The Percussive Kits are a wild ride and with up to 44 samples in some of the kits the ability to create bespoke rhythmic patterns is incredible. They generally start with lower pitched kick drum type sounds and move up to snare and hi-hats, but really don’t expect any of these to sound anything like a real drum kit! Critical to the success of such patches is how well the sounds are curated and Audio Imperia have clearly put much though into this. Although all the kits share the library’s sonic signature of dark, dirty and mechanical, each kit maintains a distinct feel. The Bit Kit, for example, sounds like a Speak & Spell just got circuit bent by a Xenomorph, whilst the Dark Reso Kit sounds like Hal beatboxing into a plate reverb from deep space! I particular liked the fact that many have long tails so you can create slower and simpler atmospheric parts too.
Whilst the kits are great for making continuous percussive patterns, genres like trailer music often call for intermittent percussion that makes a real impact. This is where the 14 Percussive Elements patches are best suited. Each nki comes with a number of one shots and they are very intelligently designed to fit a number of composer requirements. One of the standouts for me are the Cloud Snares which feature a range of heavily filtered snares with copious reverb that sounds great for less intense sections where the emphasis is more on building tension.
There are a range of other percussive treats that make you feel a bit like a kid in a candy store! So much is covered here, from glitches to subs to distorted trailer hits, it really is a toolbox full of essential cinematic music staples yet all with very unique and distinctive timbres. It might not compete in terms of sheer number of sounds to libraries dedicated entirely to trailer music sound design, but the quality is definitely on par and it does includes types of sounds I have found it difficult to easily find elsewhere.
The Tonal Construction Kits mirror the percussive ones in that there is a key for the whole sample and then a series of stems (but no one shots this time). For these patches the various FX trigger keyswitches are moved to an upper octave and now the lower part of the keyboard is given over to two octaves of pitch control. This is the only part of the library that references more organic sources, so there are string, flute, organ, vocal and guitar inspired loops, but they are all clearly being manipulated by a robot overlord. There is also plenty of gritty synth stuff in these kits and the whole feel is generally pulsing and futuristically industrial.
For less pulsing sounds the Signature Synths is the place to be. Here we have Hi, Low and Mid patches that are chromatically mapped across the keyboard and the waveform view now includes a pulldown where you select the actual synth preset.
Each of these has three slight variations which is a really nice touch to give more choice over the basic sound. All the synths are quite long and evolve for a few seconds, yet they don’t quite sound like a pad, nor do they have the directness of a lead. The Lo ones are kind of basses but then can veer towards droney soundscapes too. Basically, these are hard to categorise but I think they are brilliant! They are characterful enough to keep it interesting, but not so over designed as to be hard to use in context. By employing the Step Modulator (see below) all of them can be easily turned into great pulses too. My only very slight grumble is that there is no way of looping them for very long notes, though I got great results by dialling the release up and simply retriggering the midi note.
The final category here are the Tonal Elements and like their Percussive brethren we are straight down to the candy store! There are brass-esque Calls, sub-rattling Downers, time-warped Wobblers and much more.
I especially liked some of the more uncategorizable sounds we use and hear in epic cinematic music, that have now been cleverly categorised by Audio Imperia! Holograms are ghostly metallic scrapes that fade in and out and Markers are almost like gentle baby braams. It is worth pointing out that where relevant these come in two patch formats – either as one shots with low octave key switches for pitch, or fully chromatic with a pulldown in the waveform viewer selecting the specific preset. I found myself using the main nki for finding the sound and then switching to the Tonal Mapping version once I knew what I wanted to use.
All the sounds are incredibly well designed and are hugely inspiring to play with. However, sometimes you might want to customise them further and the Kontakt engine Audio Imperia have been using across many of their products recently is in full use here. I do like it when developers keep established engines standard across products, as it just reduces the learning curve a great deal. Hats off to Audio Imperia for sticking with what works but just melding it to fit the graphical style of Artifact Reanimate. Clicking the FX tab on the main page will bring up a new page as shown below.
The Step Modulator section is where the keyswitch assigned modulators can be configured in quite some detail using a sequencer with up to 64 steps. It is a great way to program in volume, pan and filter changes that can be either permanently activated or set to trigger on the corresponding key switch. Within this page you can also click the Ins/Send tab to bring up the controls shown below.
Here you can access a range of the inbuilt Kontakt effects, such as lo-fi and flanger and to deeply configure their parameters. Again, these can be latched on or triggered via keyswitches. In use I found the FX engine to be a superb way of adding additional evolutions over time enabling the basic patches to come even more alive.
Finally, we cannot really have an Audio Imperia review without mentioning their iconic Big Knob. This is mapped to the modwheel by default and by clicking the cog below a configuration page is displayed.
The top section is where you select the effect you want the Big Knob to control (compression, distortion, lo-fi, rotator , chorus, flanger, or phaser) and dial in specific parameters. In the lower Mapping section you then select which of the individual parameters for your desired effect will be controlled by the Big Knob/modwheel and by how much. You can of course simply put the effect on and not modulate it too as a button activates the bypass status of each effect. This is hugely powerful and means you can, for example, modulate the sample rate of the lo fi, the depth and speed of the flanger and say, the drive and damping of the distortion by different amounts and have a static chorus all via one midi cc! Once set up simply by moving a single piece of plastic on your midi controller you can create really unique and exciting modulations. All of the FX and Big Knob settings can also be saved as discreet presets, should you create something you want to re-use.
So, who is this best suited for? Well, although it may brand itself as a trailer music library, much of the material here can work equally well in electronic music. Infact, some of the loops might actually be too intricate for the increasingly minimalistic nature of trailer sound design and hybrid tracks and arguably better suited for electronic artists and non-trailer music media usage. That said, beyond the precise genre the style is predominantly futuristic, synthetic, gritty and dark. Depending on your individual needs that might make it an ideal acquisition, or could mean that it is simply too niche.
Audio Imperia describe Artifact Reanimate as a library that can help glue your compositions together and to create parts that stand out. I think this is right on point – the Construction Kits and Percussion Kits have a particular timbre that makes them blend easily, whilst the Elements and Signature Synths have a broad spectrum of content which can provide ear catching punctuation points. Infact, there is scope for this one single library to form a huge part of an entire cue! Check out some of the ‘naked’ demos below, which really show off the ability of Artifact Reanimate to do this. Also, for a quick history lesson check out Editor Brian Brylows’s review of the previous incarnation of this library, as it is still highly relevant to Artifact Reanimate and he has some insightful thoughts on it.
I echo Brian’s sentiments on the previous version and would say it really is hard to find any flaws with this new and improved ‘reanimation’ too. The sound design is superb, the interface is both simple but allows for deep manipulation and the overall sound signature is really cohesive. As I have mentioned before in these hallowed pages, the very best sample libraries inspire the composer and I was exploring it to write this review I kept making notes of my favourite patches that I was just itching to start using in my own music. That surely speaks volumes for what an exciting product this is.
Artifact Reanimate sells for $249.00 from Audio Imperia
Contributor Sam Burt reviews Artifact Reanimate by Audio Imperia
“A comprehensive toolkit of trailer specific percussion, sound design, and synths with a thoroughly modern aesthetic.”