ERA II Medieval Legends Review

Eduardo Tarilonte is the busiest man in the worlds of sound design and fantasy; and when these worlds collide, the results are majestic and glorious. Andy Jones takes delivery of his latest title to discover, well, a new era…

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A couple of weeks back, Era II arrived in the MusicTech offices with some drama. Perhaps I should have expected it given the collection’s themes of high fantasy, dragons and princesses.

And given the man behind it – MT favourite Eduardo Tarilonte, the man who spawned such wondrous collections as Shevannia, Cantus and Altus – maybe I should have even expected it to be delivered by arrow, perhaps with orcs involved somewhere down the line. But a limited edition certificate, poster and money pouch certainly piqued my interest.

No money in the pouch, sadly, just a mysterious chess piece –a King since you ask – which turned out to be a 32GB USB stick with the software on it.

Whether you get this drama (and chess piece) is uncertain, but you will get its all-important contents, and luckily the collection easily matches the drama of its delivery…

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The Dawning of the Age
Installation is straightforward. If you are lucky, it’s by way of your chess piece or by download. You can even, rather quaintly, opt for a boxed DVD version.

It’s a 20.9GB collection, one of the biggest around and especially hefty for an Eduardo collection, but there’s a lot in it.

Before we get into that, though, it’s worth mentioning the new Best Service player that Era II comes with, as it’s certainly the first time I’ve come across it. It is, as you might expect, a shell from which to run Era and other BS titles, and the engine appears as an instrument within your DAW, like any other plug-in.

You then load in Era’s presets within it – as you would with Kontakt, either stepping through using the up and down arrows or loading new options in via a browser on the right-hand side of the screen.

You can use the Quick Edit menu as your main instrument area, as it has the Era ‘front panel’ and a few of the main dials and sliders (for volume, effects ADSR and more). Here, you can also access a Controls sub menu, where you’ll find parameters such as levels for Wood or Pluck Noise, and these vary for each instrument you load.

There’s also, usefully, an Info sub menu, where you get details about the instrument you have loaded and what is available sample-wise – chords, legatos and so on – mapped across the keyboard. It’s a useful section and when you explore it, the scale and detail of what is in the collection quickly becomes apparent.

Alternatives 

It would be very easy – and somewhat lazy – of me to say that if you want something fantastical, stick with Eduardo, as he really is the ‘go to’ man when it comes to these collections. Still my favourite has to be Shevannia: The Voice Of Elves, but in reality it’s not comparable with Era II in terms of content, concentrating as it does on voices and atmospheres.

You can read more about the differences in these collections  – some subtle, some not so – in my individual reviews of Shevannia , Cantus, Altus and I also wonder if there will be some kind of ‘best of Eduardo’ out at some point, or is that really just some kind of high fantasy?

A Lot
And there really is an astonishing amount going on, research-wise, instrument-wise and sonics-wise.

It’s a collection of early folklore instrumentation, with all sorts of obscure examples from around the world. So if you think it comprises some clichéd lute strumming, then think again – Eduardo and his team have left no medieval stone unturned (although that lute is thankfully included, too).

Instrument-wise, there are Brass, Key, Wind, String, Voice and Percussion categories, but comparisons to a traditional orchestra end there. This is about boisterous gents singing about rum in a tavern while a fidule plays in the background; or bagpipes and war horns sounding while armies gather.

It’s Eduardo, it’s fantasy, it’s taking some ancient but very real instruments – gothic harp anyone? – and putting them into a new fantastical context.

And, typically, there’s a set of soundscapes that acts as a full stop to the collection – almost a throwaway folder, but to my mind full of some of the best combinations of sounds in the collection; and as ever I want more!

Finally, quality-wise, as it’s Eduardo, you know that each instrument is recorded superbly – and we love the recording detail supplied (a Neumann U87 before you ask) – and mapped correctly (not too extremely), with lovely variations in playing style also easily available across different keys.

So it’s a thoroughly astonishing collection – a museum of ancient instrumentation and a fantastic resource. At the very least, it’s a record of times and instruments gone by, but for today’s producer it’s a wealth of history to tap in to and slightly left-of-centre instrumentation to make your compositions stand out from the rest. And in that sense, it scores higher than other Tarilonte collections simply because you can apply it to so many more genres, as it’s less specific.

So it’s a worthy update to Era, but those who opted for the original should check the Best Service website, as they will own a lot of it; although we think, on balance, the €99 update cost is well worth it. And those new to the Era world? Well on the strength of Era II, it really is time to take a visit.

Overview

1:ERA II: Main Screen:  Within the Best Service Player, use the Quick Edit menu to play the main parameters of Era.

2: ERA II: Controls: Access more of each instruments’ parameters within the Controls sub menu. Here, four are working.

3: ERA II: Info: Useful background detail on your chosen instrument in the Info sub menu, plus key mapping.

4: Best Service Engine: The Browser: The new BS Engine, here showing the Browser and loading the same Era II 2 Holed Flute sound as above.

5:  Best Service Engine: Pro Edit:  The Pro Edit menu allows access to more parameters, including, in this case, LFOs.

6: Best Service Engine: Mixer and More: You can also go deeper within the engine to access main parameters or mixer routing options.

Note: During the writing of this review, we heard the Limited Edition collection of Era II had sold out, and that it contained extra soundscapes and two voices: Bard and Heroica. While this is a shame, these extras might become available in 12 months’ time.

Key Features 

  • 20.9GB library
  • 10 flutes, 8 reed, 3 brass, 9 bowed strings, 4 war horns, 13 plucked strings, 3 keyboards, 20 percussive instruments, 1 singing voice
  • AU, VST, Mac, PC, standalone
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