Paravox by Bela D Media is an NI Kontakt vocal sample library of a teenage soprano, aimed primarily at horror soundtrack work.
It’s not extreme, over-the-top screaming and shrieking, though. Instead, it contains 369 MB of the subtly creepy side of horror. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?
Open Up And Don’t Say Ah
There are two Kontakt instruments in Paravox (requiring the full version of Kontakt, not the free Kontakt player) – Vocal Tools and Play. I’ll start with Vocal Tools, as they are kind of weird but nevertheless simple. Rather than the typical long “ah” sustains or short staccato syllables one might find in a standard vocal library, this instrument contains a selection of medium-length syllables. There are basically six three-syllable sequences, such as “aah leh voo”, each available in three versions: all three syllables, the last two, and the last one. There are also three additional single-syllable elements. The phrase builder can be used to create very long sequences of these, and key switches make jumping between them quite easy.
So, you can’t actually sing English lyrics with that (well, except for “say” and “to say”), but as mysterious abstract witchy vocals, they’re great. There’s no sampled legato, but the nice thing is that every element has consistent pitch across the entire sampled range (which is an octave plus a minor second), which means they can be used polyphonically and the syllables will remain in sync with each other. That’s a very nice touch.
The sound is a soft, gentle soprano – not Wagnerian full blast – with light vibrato. It’s a timbre which would fit not only in horror soundtracks but also a lot of fantasy soundtracks and electronic tracks which don’t need lyrics, especially trance.
Come Out And Play
The Play instrument has a few different types of content. There are eight vocal phrases, which are four-note (except for one which is three) vowel phrases. These have more of a fantasy than horror sound. Composers who need to fit a phrase to existing music will appreciate the fact that each phrase is recorded in every key, and the manual lists all the notes in every phrase. It’s much quicker just to look at what might fit than it would be to cycle through the phrases to check what the notes are. These are not as time-synchronized as the Vocal Tools, not that there is any need to have that as phrases are inherently not usable polyphonically. As it turns out, though, they actually can be used polyphonically by either holding a chord long enough so only the first note sounds, or (and although I’m not sure this was intended, it sure is fun) releasing the chord as soon as the voice start to rise or fall towards the second note. That’s a very evocative sound, and quite useful for horror.
The eight vocal EFX are creepy whispers, breaths, and moans, and are my favorite part of Paravox. It is a veritable cornucopia of whispers, and I can see lots of potential uses for them to add suspense and mystery to many kinds of audio. These kinds of quiet, breathy vocals are actually not easy to record cleanly and take a good setup and the right microphone. The hymns are four whispered prayers, each recorded in two variations, which are also available backwards on two other keys. I was wondering why anybody would need different variations – wouldn’t one be enough? Then I held all four keys down at once and got a sea of unintelligible whispering – an instant “room full of ghosts” sound. Finally, there’s a selection of half-sung, half-whispered nursery rhymes. With the hymns and rhymes, the vocalist sounds more obviously young than when singing, and really nails the typical “creepy whispering girls” from modern horror movies.
Take Me To Church
The Kontakt instruments don’t have a million controls, but they feature some clever scripting. One important aspect is the reverb – appropriately enough, using a church reverb impulse. It consumes a fair amount of CPU resources, but seems very much worth it, as it makes a huge contribution to the atmosphere. Other than that, there’s also EQ and compression which are on by default but subtle, and room for a fourth user-configured effect. With all the Kontakt effects to choose from, that’s a very nice touch that I wish more libraries would include. The mod wheel simulates dynamics by controlling volume and adding some frequency filtering, but it does this in a very subtle way – mod wheel all the way down is full volume and natural sound, and mod wheel all the way up is only slightly quieter and warmer-sounding. It doesn’t do much, but that’s good – it changes the dynamics only to the degree that sounds realistic and believable, and is useful for adding a touch of expression.
The rest of the controls are simple – attack and release, and the phrase sequencer. I’ve said many times that vocals and especially lyrics don’t quite work in a way that meshes well with MIDI, and therefore any virtual vocalist is always somewhat awkward to use, but Paravox is as quick to use as it gets. It’s not perfect – upon loading an instrument you can play notes but get no sound until you select an element or a phrase – but Paravox is as efficient as I’ve ever run across.
All the content is available as unlocked WAV files (44.1 kHz, 24-bit) so they can be loaded into other samplers or audio editors easily. This is something we rarely see in Kontakt libraries.
Perhaps slightly less dark and scary than the GUI implies, but only slightly, Paravox is a small and tightly focused vocal library whose very unusual sounds range from melancholic melodic phrases to freaky backward whispers. It makes no attempt to provide bread and butter vocals and instead has a lot of fun exploiting a creepy niche.
More info: Paravox ($99.99, use the coupon code AWESOME at checkout before March 28th to get 25% OFF)
Perhaps slightly less dark and scary than the GUI implies, but only slightly, Paravox is a small and tightly focused vocal library whose very unusual sounds range from melancholic melodic phrases to freaky backward whispers.