August 10, 2007

Soniccouture mini-review...

by Chris Randall

Obviously, I'm not in the business of writing reviews, and you can find all kinds of learned people without any axes to grind that have waxed poetic on any number of products. No, you come here for opinions, not reviews. And those I have, in spades.

In any event, I've got a pretty sizable chunk of the Soniccouture catalog now, including both Konkrete packages, the Synthi AKS package, Abstrakt: Bass, and Abstrakt Breaks 2. As I mentioned in a previous post, the Abstrakt Breaks collection didn't really move me, but now that I've had it for a couple days, I've actually found quite a bit to be pillaged by mixing and matching the various pieces; some relatively freaky beats have ensued, which may prove useful down the line. (Note that I got the REX format pack; I can't speak to the other formats.)

I also purchased Konkrete 2, and in the interests of full disclosure, the Soniccouture guys did an NFR trade with Audio Damage for the other Konkrete pack, the bass, and the synthi pack. Just so you know where I stand.

So, I'll put some brief thoughts about each of the products I have, and whether you find the information useful or not is entirely up to you.

Konkrete 1 and 2
: I'll lump these together, because they're fairly similar. They contain 24 and 25 drum kits respectively, for 49 total, and each kit has 61 mapped keys; most all of the kits have a complete complement of samples. There isn't an assload of the same snare at different pitches, for instance. So there are a _lot_ of sounds in these kits. Each kit kind of has a general theme to it, but even in that theme there is a lot of variation. If you're looking for an x0x kit, you came to the wrong place; likewise, you're gonna be out of luck for Wrawk Drumz. Almost all of the kits can be used to good effect in D&B; all of them would work in an IDM context. A fair number of them could be used for house. They aren't terribly trancey, though, and in my mind that's a good thing. The less tools there are to make trance, hopefully, the less trance there will be. There's also a crafty little Kontakt script included. (Why don't NI call it a "skript?") More about that later.

Abstrakt: Bass: This is a pretty slick collection, and the best of the four packages that I have, IMO. It is broken up in to three parts which took me all morning to download. (Buy the DVD.) The first section is programmed patches that use a lot of Kontakt built-in effects and what-not. The second section is the largest, and contains more-or-less straight-from-the-synth bass patches, and the third section has actual basses (the kind with strings.) Bass sounds are bass sounds, and there's only so much wiggle room you have. But that said, the person that made this library knows how to program synths to get modern, useful sounds out of them. As I was stepping through the programs, I could imagine almost every sound being useful in some context. The electro-acoustic section is fairly cool; each sample has three "layers:" a DI layer, a close mic layer, and a room mic layer, and you can blend them with the included script in a simple manner. Very good collection, and well worth the money.

Synthi AKS: I'm not certain about this one. I don't have enough experience with the real thing to know if this is a comprehensive set or not. I don't really care for the loops, which are a bit too heavy-handed to sit in a mix. The one-shots are kind of cool, and the leads are very cutting. I had it in my head a Synthi AKS would be good at little bleeps and blurbles, but there isn't hardly any of that in this collection. To be fair, there is a Synthi kit in the Konkrete 2 collection that more matches my idea of what a Synthi is all about, and really, how many different beeps and bloops are there?

In conclusion... As far as quality goes, never mind content, and by this I mean well-looped samples, good layouts, and thoughtful programming, these collections are all top-notch, best-of-breed. I didn't try out the other formats; I only used REX and Kontakt, so your mileage may vary. The Konkrete collections each have this nice little script called Glitch Machine, which acts as a highly programmable retrigger thing, which can be controlled by MIDI CC. It makes it quite easy to stick in little 1/128 and 1/64 rolls, so that ought to make some people happy.

Here's an MP3 of a brief clip of a track I'm currently working on that is entirely comprised of stuff from the above-mentioned products. The drums are the Rig Kit from Konkrete 2, the bass is KORG-SUB from Abstrakt: Bass, and the lead sound is EMS 06 - DECAYED from the Synthi AKS set. The little sounds in the beginning are also from a Konkrete 2 kit, but I rendered them, and I can't for the life of me remember which kit it was. I fucked with 'em pretty heavily in any case, so it's a moot point.

So there you have it. All of them get "buy" recommendations from me, but Abstrakt: Bass is the best of the bunch. Comments? Questions?



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Aug.10.2007 @ 10:08 PM
Cool library. Didn't you promise an IDM workshop a while back? I'd love to hear about some of your techniques and processes, even if you don't think of them that way. :)

Aug.10.2007 @ 10:09 PM
And how do you make a bass "modern?"

Aug.10.2007 @ 11:21 PM
Chris Randall
I don't recall ever saying I'd do an IDM workshop. I'm not very skilled in that particular production method; at least, not enough to give a clinic.

As for modern bass, take a square wave bass sound with a nice decay on the filter EG. Now turn decay to zero and turn attack up. Presto. Modern.



Aug.10.2007 @ 11:37 PM
Ooh, I like that. A little bit like you're storming the Pole studio.

Aug.13.2007 @ 9:08 AM
I have to admit that I'm much more familiar with your website and plug-ins than your music. I really dug the mp3; can you direct me to which of your music is best represented by this style?

Aug.13.2007 @ 11:26 AM
Chris Randall
Wellllll.... That's kind of tough. My output is separated in to three entities. The one you're interested in is Micronaut, the oeuvre of which you can sample here:

link []">link []

If you like that track (or meme of a track, rather) you're probably gonna want Ganymede, which is the album represented by that style (currently). I tend to jump around stylistically, though...

The current version of the linked MP3 above is far more sophisticated. It'll be on the new album, Callisto, which is available as soon as I finish the damned thing.



Aug.13.2007 @ 3:56 PM
I guess it was wishful thinking on the IDM workshop. Thanks for the bass tip. Maybe I'll have to buy that Konkrete library, though I'm not a big fan of Kontakt.

>>the new album, Callisto, which is available as soon as I finish the damned thing.<<

Yeah, what's taking so long on that? ;)


Aug.13.2007 @ 6:12 PM
If you want a taste of the bleeps etc that you were anticipating for the Synthi, check out the following:
link []">link []

I can't comment on the authenticity, but it makes sounds I've not heard anywhere else.


Aug.13.2007 @ 8:03 PM
Chris Randall
This is an inspiring statement:

"Keep in mind that I have made this imitation without ever using the real thing."

In any event, thanks but no thanks. God bless Native Instruments for Kontakt, but I'm a Reaktor hater of the first order.



Aug.14.2007 @ 6:55 AM
I'd be interested to hear why, Chris. I don't own it myself, and every time I'm tempted by it I stop and ask myself, Will I ever use it? And by use it, I mean, do more than drop the occasional ensemble into something I'm working on.

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