Synthesizers were created to emulate instruments, but in a deliciously perverse twist, Polaris is what happens when a modern string orchestra imitates classic synth sounds.
At first glance, it might seem a bit silly or even flippant to use an orchestra to sound like a synth, but no, Polaris is epic. It exists in that space where massive pads meet massive strings, gliding electrical signals meet sliding fingers, and the wobble of vintage circuits meets the organic nature of wood and catgut. I love this.
Conceived by Brian Transeau, also known as BT, Polaris takes us into complex multi-layered orchestral raw materials. Sounds are fed into and resampled through classic samplers like the Fairlight and Emulator-II. Players had to work up exciting techniques to find the flourishes of modern electronic music. And then it’s captured in Air Studio’s exquisite halls.
It’s not all about the strings; this isn’t a fiddle player trying to sound like an ARP 2600. Instead, this is the pursuit of sounds and tones that can be built upon with synths and samplers. But there’s thought and innovation gone into every recording. BT considered the placement of players and the arrangement of instruments to better mimic how you play big synth strings. This level of possibly over-the-top detail hopes to offer something slightly different to all the other countless libraries of string-infused sample libraries and synthesizer plugins.
There’s no doubt that it sounds epically cinematic and thoroughly engaging. However, I often wonder about the constant reinvention of sample libraries and rompler based virtual instruments and how they jostle for space in such a crowded market. Perhaps in the same way that we’re never done with making synths or building new guitars, then we’ll never be done with sampling another orchestra and reworking it into another plugin. Spitfire seems to refer to this in the video where Christian Henson says that at Spitfire, they are always looking to take things forward into fresh ideas and innovation. Polaris, he says, epitomises what they do at Spitfire.
You get a massive 44.7GB of sumptuously recording strings and synthesizers. First, you get the sampled strings, a modern string orchestra imitating synth articulations. Then you get a bunch of classic synths like the CS-80, Prophets, Oberheims, Jupiters, all the usual suspects. And finally, you get the vintage resampling through classic samplers and tape, VHS and the like.
The eDNA interface lets you combine a pair of sound sources and work through 129 articulations. You can mix and blend, layer and increase complexity until you find that elusive sound. Or you can sample the presets that BT and the Spitfire team have provided for you.
The interface would probably be familiar to anyone who’s used any kind of sample library instrument before. It does look great and is not too daunting. And the sounds that come out of this thing are perfect sci-fi fodder, the sort of environmental soundscapes that we can’t seem to get enough of.
Polaris is available now for macOS and Windows for £229.