It’s been quite some time since I last played with an 8Dio sample library. Their output and my writing style seem to have diverged somewhat recently. However, being something of a strings addict and a lover of quirky instruments, their Bazantar library seemed very much up my street.
The Bazantar is a unique instrument created by Mark Deutsch. It is essentially a five string double bass, fitted with twenty-five sympathetic strings and four drone strings – like some kind of alien offspring of an upright bass and an Indian tanpura. This results in quite a delicious bowed sound, more of which later.
8Dio now have their own downloader software, so once you have bought Bazantar, downloading and installing is a cinch. It’s not a Kontakt Player library, so you will need to find it a home amongst your sample folders, which is easier said than done. I hesitated over whether it was going in the ethnic, orchestral or, altogether more vague, ‘instruments’ folder. This, in my opinion, is a strength of the library and not a weakness. It is uncategorisably good!
In all, there are twenty-seven different .nki patches, that cover multisamples and phrases. All twenty-seven have been programmed for both Kontakt 4 and Kontakt 5, and you also get a nice collection of sixty-seven impulse responses to choose from to shape your reverb sound, should you so wish.
Starting with the multisample patches, there are actually more than I had expected. They cover arco, sustain, plucked and tapped articulations, which is very much all you really require with this instrument. There are no legato options, but the short bowing nature of the instrument means that legato isn’t entirely necessary.
Simply firing up the first arco patch is a joy. You are immediately hit by the richness of the sound, a wonderful fulsome depth, complimented by the fragility of the sympathetic strings. This beast goes very low, for some lung-rumbling bass notes that beg for you to turn your monitors up nice and loud to capture all those delicious complimentary frequencies. There is quite a wide range on this instrument, with some higher notes taking you very much into violin territory. Some of the tuning is a little more fragile in those upper registers though.
The pluck and tap articulations provide an opportunity to take Bazantar into more rhythmic territory. Plucking is very much the sound of an upright bass as you would expect it, only with those sympathetic and drone strings sending in eclectic and eccentric resonance. The taps offer altogether more variety. The Bazantar has been struck in a number of different ways from the purely percussive to the more melodic and the tone/frequency/key of each style of hit can be controlled via very simple keyswitching. Some very avant garde tonal rhythms, in the style of Flaskvartetten for instance, can be achieved here. Very much a jewel of this particular library.
Moving on to the phrase patches… There a wealth of these to choose from, seventeen in total. They range from sad and mystical, dark and light, plus also some harmonic, drone and resonator phrases.
The phrase patches are not tempo-synced, but you can (courtesy of keyswitches) change from normal speed to half speed, third speed and double speed of the original phrase tempo. There are no artefacts to be heard in the slower speeds, but the vibrato/modulation does become a little unnatural at double speed. You can also change the key of the phrase via keyswitches as well, creating another level of playability and programmability.
The phrases are, put quite simply, breathtakingly good. Rich and sonorous, delicate and harmonic; it is all there. You will find yourself utterly lost in playing these patches for quite some time. Irrespective of using them in your compositions, they are just gorgeous to sit back and listen to as you stroke the keys. Whether you choose to build your tracks around the phrases or merely add one or two here and there for spice and colour, there is more than enough variety to achieve these goals over and over again without repetition.
The GUI is attractive and simply laid out. You have instant controls for a lowpass filter, EQ, amp envelope, microphone mix (close and far) and also you can adjust the dynamics. There is a further effects menu where you have control of lo-fi, rotator, delay convolution reverb, reverb and distortion effects. These effects are also accessible (in the sense you can turn them on and off) via keyswitches. The delay and distortion sound particularly great on the Bazantar.
Overall, it is rather a warm, intimate, chamber-esque sound. As well as having enormous depth, it also has a very charming vulnerability. There is also a tangible sense of playing a real instrument with this library. The options for shaping the tone and playability of the multisample patches, in particular, are extremely varied and hands-on to use.
Bazantar can also offer a fresh alternative to the bass, cello, viola or indeed violin in any string quartet music you might be writing. It also provides, certainly in the phrases, enough colour to give you authentic slices of Americana, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent.
It is what at first appears to be quite a niche sample library, but the sound quality and the versatility of the programming means it quickly worms its way into your writing process and makes itself at home.
8Dio Bazantar is available at $249 at http://8dio.com/instrument/bazantar-2