Now we’re synthesising!
It really does feel like there’s a new software instrument every day and it’s easy to get buried deep in all the hype of new soft synths or emulations of the famous keyboards of yesteryear. So it takes some pretty out of the box thinking to really catch our attention when it comes to software instruments.
But Expressive E has done just that. Expressive E is of course known for their Osmose which is a (surprise surprise) expressive keyboard instrument, with more playable functionality than any traditional keyboard based instrument.
You can even shake keys for new functions. Their software instruments also go in the same direction in embracing some more atypical software synthesis.
Imagine is the first of the two big hitters in Expressive E’s software instrument catalogue. Built using multi-layered presets of atypical instruments, it’s seriously deep and honestly you might find yourself a little overwhelmed with the amount of options you’re presented with.
My suggestion is to start by diving into some presets, they’re seriously fun and detailed and will give you a much more approachable way to learn the plugin.
One of my favourite things to do was to pick a soft pad as one layer of the sound and a percussive loop as the other. From here you can seriously build up the bones of a whole song from the chords and the groove.
I also really enjoyed that the adjustable parameters were described with adjectives and little moving images on the GUI rather than technical language. it makes you interact with Imagine going more by feel and emotion that with a technical ear.
You do need a pretty impressive rig to get this thing going without a hitch though. I found that when playing patches with a lot going on, my CPU was maxing out and that was causing a few crackles and pops in my audio.
I think my laptop would struggle if this was in session with other instrument plugins or mixing plugins.
Noisy is the second new software instrument from Expressive E. This one – much like it’s bigger sibling imagine – will also take some getting used to.
This is the Expressive E way though, they’re all about making music in new and unorthodox ways. Noisy centres on three ‘resonators’ which act as your oscillators. Almost every parameter here can be mapped to the ‘expressive control’ knob to create developing and swirling patches.
Much like Imagine I found the best way to engage with this was to scroll through some presets, and use them to learn what each parameter does. I in particular loved the FX presets, there are some amazing drum sounds and sound design elements in here.
I think the main difficulty with these two software instruments is just the initial barrier to entry, but I truly do encourage you to challenge that barrier. I’m usually firmly in the camp of using VST synths that are modelled after hardware units.
I know what to expect with these, so I’m comfortable playing with them. That being said, Expressive E has created some seriously inspiring synths with Imagine and Noisy.
I’m not being superfluous when I say that I would actually build a whole EP or Album using these sounds as the base, I really enjoyed the directions that these inspired me to go with my writing.
Imagine is going for 139 Euros and Noisy for 149 Euros. You can pick them both up from the Expressive E website here: https://www.expressivee.com/