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Review of ‘These Small Things Rebuild’ album by Ghost Signs — August 15, 2017

Review of ‘These Small Things Rebuild’ album by Ghost Signs

 
This is an excellent album, there’s a superb ambience from drones, guitar riffs and strings. The songs are excellently arranged, often with contrasting elements and an edge of tension. There’s great use of tape loops and subtle use of spoken vocals.

Black and White Dreams of a Distant Faded Past
A slow evolving opening with drone and rattling wind chime type of sound, there’s a barely audible voice in the background which adds a great element. A subtle movement in the sound, an excellent ambience.

Angelflicker Dying on the Cold Cathode Ray
Guitar riff sits low in the background with a similarly subtle drone a bit like a buzzing insect. The strings similarly emerge subdued and there’s a background looping recording. Bass drone slowly evolves to give a pulsing type of effect. It’s a captivating sound, kind of draws you in as the different themes and elements emerge and grow.

This Town was Built on Landfill and Salt
Evolving drone with subtle bass and almost reversed harsh string sound, there’s a ringing bell that adds contrast and a movement in the sound like a looping quality. The emerging guitar lead adds an excellent element. Another excellent evolving soundscape, the feedback and noise to end builds a great tension.

What Comes After the Bomb?
Slow evolving opening with subdued strings which ebb and flow with a distorted, subdued feel. Emerging vocals have a distant feel building tension to a release.

Hazy Recollections of Another Miami Morning Coming Down
Another brilliantly evolving soundscape, the piano has a pulsing looping quality with a bass drone. A melody emerges and the spoken words have a distant, ethereal feel. Distorted guitar adds a great element. Tension builds slowly to a final release.

Ghost Signs website | twitter | facebook | soundcloud

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Review of ‘Ether’ by Demian Castellanos on Cardinal Fuzz and Out Of Phase Frequencies — August 10, 2017

Review of ‘Ether’ by Demian Castellanos on Cardinal Fuzz and Out Of Phase Frequencies

 
Cardinal Fuzz and Out Of Phase Frequencies are proud to announce a new release by Demian Castellanos of ambient and otherworldly music. The album is released on Black Vinyl in an edition of 250 and comes in a sumptuous Metallic Gold screen printed sleeve with full colour insert. It’s also available as a digital download from Cardinal Fuzz and is embedded above.

Demian Castellanos is best known as the man behind the London psyche rock outfit The Oscillation. Recorded in Cambridge 1995 Demian returned to the recordings in the winter of 2015 where the tapes were transferred and mixed at Xibalba Studios.

This is presented a single piece, 30 minutes in length. Ether has a superb flow, an excellent ambience and hypnotic sound. The arrangement and production is spot on, each sound has its place and has space to evolve.

The opening creates a superb tension with delayed guitar creating a swirling, ebb and flow feel accompanied by deep bass and sound effects which create a great soundscape. The tension resolves to a more ambient feel with a riff, swelling bass and percussive sound effects. A really subtle change with a distorted trem guitar and swirling background sounds. The reversed guitar works really well too. A shimmery riff and distorted phased / flanger sound builds the tension and is propelled by bass and delayed strummed chords with a great release to a more laid back feel with a slow solo and just an edge of tension with a slow release to end.

Cardinal Fuzz twitter | facebook | website

The Oscillation twitter | facebook

Review of Yagow s/t album on Crazysane Records — August 8, 2017

Review of Yagow s/t album on Crazysane Records

 
This is an excellent album with a psych / stoner feel and a hypnotic sound. There are some excellent grooves propelled by solid drumming and bass. A great variety of guitar sounds from cleaner to a heavy distorted sound. There are some excellent background sounds and great use of delay / feedback. The vocals tend to sit low in the mix and have an ethereal kind of feel which suits the style of the album really well.

Horsehead Nebula
A pulsing, swirling opening from bass and background sounds, the riff has a brooding quality, slowly building tension to the introduction of drumming which gives a great momentum. The vocals sit low in the mix and have a laid back, ethereal feel. The song has an excellent psych / stoner vibe.

Snake Charmer
Delay and feedback leads into a riff accompanied by drumming and percussive rhythm. The song has an Indian feel, it’s another excellent groove with a shimmery, repeating riff and laid back vocals. Some excellent sound effects lead into a more distorted riff and superb change to an uptempo groove.

Moss and Mint
Slow Distorted riff to open leads into an excellent groove propelled by solid drumming and bass with a more acoustic sounding lead. The vocals again have a laid back feel. There are nice changes in feel, some excellent background effects and a solo / lead which really compliments the vibe.

Time to Get Rid of It
Opens with a slow riff then is propelled with solid drumming and bass and superb heavy, distorted guitar. Vocals again are laid back and sit low in the mix, it’s a solid groove with a heavy feel and nice contrast with the less distorted riff. There’s a great release of tension before the heavy groove returns to round out the song.

Non-contractual
A pulsing opening propelled by drumming, a slightly distorted guitar riff is accompanied by vocals leading into a solid groove. It’s a hypnotic sound.

Nude-on-the-Moon Dance
There’s almost a tribal feel to the opening with bass drone, drumming, subdued guitar riff and shimmery guitar chords which create an excellent layered sound. This leads into a more uptempo groove with a heavier sound and great vocals again.

Review of Hawkeyes / The Radiation Flowers split LP on Sunmask / Cardinal Fuzz — August 3, 2017

Review of Hawkeyes / The Radiation Flowers split LP on Sunmask / Cardinal Fuzz

 

 
Hawkeyes are a 6 piece instrumental heavy psychedelic space rock band from Kitchener Ontario. Their claustrophobic wall of sound flows from heavy, dark, and monolithic textured ambience towards more spacious soundscapes that always worships at the altar of Pompeii.

Saskatoon’s The Radiation Flowers revisit classic shoegaze and the 4AD sound with a heavier guitar driven edge. Dark, smoky ambience with floating vocals play off against analog fuzz guitars and a solid pulsing low end.

This was released as a limited pressing of 350 copies on eco colour vinyl with full colour printed inner sleeve and limited CDr release in vinyl replica jacket on 7th July 2017. Unsurprisingly the vinyl has sold out although the tracks are available digitally from the respective bandcamp pages which are embedded above.

It’s an excellent pairing for a split LP. Hawkeyes have a brooding, heavy sound with superb grooves propelled by solid drumming and bass, great changes in feel and excellent soloing too. The Radiation Flowers similarly have a distorted sound and superb grooves propelled by solid drumming and bass on 33 Floors up but demonstrate more of a shoegaze feel with dreamy vocals and laidback grooves on Always on the Ground and Never Fade.

Hawkeyes – Atom Heart Motherfucker
Acoustic riff, bass and sparse riff create a great vibe to open with excellent change of feel when the distorted riff enters. It’s a slow groove, purposeful with a great edge of tension. The solo sits low in the mix, gradually building tension to a release followed by uptempo riffing, drumming and bass and an edgy solo which releases to a slower groove ending with distortion / feedback.

Hawkeyes – Creator Destroyer
Acoustic riff to open accompanied by subtle bass leads into a distorted, harmonised groove propelled by solid drumming. The solo adds a great tension leading to a release with slightly distorted riff and subtle background conversation. Drumming enters to give momentum and tension builds to a final, sudden release.

The Radiation Flowers – 33 Floors Up
An excellent opening momentum from riffing, drumming and bass which creates a solid groove. Nice change in feel returning to the original groove.

The Radiation Flowers – Always on the Ground
Organ chord vamp, bass and drumming to open give a great feel to the groove, the guitar riff and wah solo build on this. The organ adds an excellent element. The vocals are superb, laid back with a dreamy feel. Distorted guitar riff adds a great tension building to a final release.

The Radiation Flowers – Never Fade
Distorted riff and chords to open, a slow purposeful groove propelled by solid drumming and bass. Superb vocals again with a dreamy feel. The song has great psych / stoner / shoegaze qualities. The solo and organ add excellent elements.

 
Cardinal Fuzz twitter | facebook | website

Sunmask Records facebook | discogs

The Radiation Flowers website | twitter

Hawkeyes facebook | website

Stand with Bandcamp this Friday 4th August in support of Trans Rights — August 1, 2017

Stand with Bandcamp this Friday 4th August in support of Trans Rights

Bandcamp is a platform for artistic expression, and all manner of variance in experience and identity, including gender and sexuality, is welcome. They support their LGBT+ users and staff, and they stand against any person or group that would see them further marginalized. This includes the current U.S. administration, and its recent capricious declaration that transgender troops will no longer be able to serve in the military. That this announcement was motivated in part to help fund the border wall exposes it as part of the administration’s cynical, discriminatory agenda.

In response, they will be donating 100% of their share of every sale on Friday, August 4th (from midnight to midnight Pacific Time) to the Transgender Law Center, a nonprofit organization that works tirelessly to change law, policy, and culture for the more equitable. TLC does critical policy advocacy and litigation on multiple fronts, fights for healthcare for trans veterans, defends incarcerated trans people from abuse in prisons and detention centers, supports trans immigrants, and helps trans youth tell their stories and build communities.

When an Executive Order was issued earlier this year barring immigrants and refugees from seven Middle Eastern countries from entering the United States, they held a wildly successful fundraiser for the ACLU. They hope you’ll join them in now doing the same in support of trans rights. To participate as a fan, simply purchase music through Bandcamp on Friday and they’ll donate their share of the sale to TLC. To participate as an artist or label, send some or all of your share of Friday’s sales directly to TLC here, and let them know your plan in the comments so that they can help spread the word. Thank you!

—Bandcamp Staff

Below, you’ll find a sampling of some of the music made by trans and gender non-conforming artists on Bandcamp. We hope that as you listen to these albums, you’ll discover some great new artists from all walks of life, who share their experiences in song.

Pandemix’s Poetic Punk Politics
Vocalist Shannon Thompson explains how she uses the genre’s tropes as a jumping-off point for her struggle to understand the world.

Glasgow’s Poisonous Relationship is an Unlikely Dance Music Genius
Jamie Crewe is an artist and filmmaker who explores gender, sexuality, mental health, and politics through surprisingly personal and poetic dance music.

Tica Douglas’s Theology of Uncertainty
The Master of Divinity student talks about how theological studies informs their identity and their haunting new record.

How Oakland’s Experimental Scene Became Browner, Queerer, and More Femme
Conscious efforts to be more inclusive have opened up space in the Bay Area noise and experimental scene for artists like Kohinoorgasm, Spellling, and Beast Nest.

Popper Burns Preach to the Punk Rock Choir
The Austin queercore/no-wave group create a drag world “bigger than an idea” where their audience can feel empowered.

TRNSGNDR/VHS and the Art of Confrontation
The Baltimore artist uses harsh noise to question accepted norms.

Theda Hammel on Giving Sondheim the Synth Treatment
On her EP SondHamm, the self-described “major trans celeb” turns classic Broadway showtunes into synth odysseys.

Vocaloids: Our Friends Electric
Computer-generated vocalists are helping artists like transgender musician Jamie Paige discover their voice.

Mykki Blanco Rips Up the Rule Book
Her new record finds her pivoting from wistful longing to fire-breathing on a dime.

Art-Pop Genius Oblivia on Martyrdom, Sainthood, and Stripping to Cat Power
Armed with a voice modulator and a drum machine, Local Honey, the trans femme performance artist behind Oblivia, says that her music aims to weaponize femininity to heal the wounds of patriarchy.

Tyler Holmes, San Cha, and Vainhein Imagine Experimental Queer Utopias
Three performance artists and musicians found inspiration to survive—and thrive—in their own ways, together, by channeling their rage to build something beautiful.

Hi Bias: Interview With Forced into Femininity
The latest tape by Forced Into Femininity (Chicago-based musician and performance artist Jill Flanagan), is only 10 minutes long, but its five songs pack a ton of power.

Big Ups: HIRS’ Queer Thrash Fury is Taking Over America
The Trans Girl Take Over tour takes the Philly collective to some unexpected places. Meet some of the bands they’re excited to share the stage with.

Album of the Day: ANOHNI, Paradise
On Paradise, ANOHNI imagines a utopia free of violence and masculine authority.

Album of the Day: Sweeping Exits, Glitter and Blood
The Portland glam-rock group switch up the power dynamics of horror.

Album of the Day: Aye Nako, Silver Haze
On Silver Haze, Aye Nako lulls listeners into comfort before turning the room upside down.

Review of ‘For the Sad, the Mad and the Lonely’ by Trium Circulorum (TCT4) —

Review of ‘For the Sad, the Mad and the Lonely’ by Trium Circulorum (TCT4)

Trium Circulorum is a recording name of Martin Kristopher who also records under 3dTorus, 3rd Witness and Kanal Drei. He is a prolific producer of consistently high quality albums and I’d definitely recommend checking out his back catalogue, there are a number of reviews I’ve done previously on my blog.

 
This is an excellent album, it has a hypnotic feel and is really well arranged and produced. There are some great synth sounds and development of percussive rhythms contrasting with the driving kick rhythm. There’s a looping / repeating feel and some of the tracks are like alternate versions.

Part 0
Noise and a looping pad type riff sitting low in the mix creates a great ambience.

Part 1
A 4:4 kick pattern with percussive impacts creates a great rhythm. The emerging synth riff sits low in the mix gradually increasing in volume with the kick rhythm becoming more urgent. It’s really well layered and produced and has a looping / repeating quality.

Part 2
A 4:4 kick rhythm to open with a synth riff sitting low in the mix, this song continues where part 1 left off, it’s like an alternative version. There’s great development of percussive rhythm and excellent layering and arrangement again.

Part 3
A great kick rhythm with a synth riff sitting low in the mix. I really like the development of the percussive rhythm which gives a greater urgency.

Part 4
Again an alternative version with different synth sounds, there’s a great interplay between the synth rhythm and kick rhythm. A drone adds a great element. The development of the percussive rhythm adds a great tension.

Part 5
An excellent opening with synth riff and developing percussive rhythm. The tension builds gradually with a great build and release.

Part 6
The kick rhythm has a subdued feel with percussive impact sounds and evolving drone with great movement which sits low in the mix gradually increasing in volume. The song has a hypnotic feel and a darker edge.

Trium Cirulorum twitter | bandcamp

Review of Joel Thomas – “Sunshine Funshine” on The Label Recordings — July 28, 2017

Review of Joel Thomas – “Sunshine Funshine” on The Label Recordings

Joel Thomas is a twenty-two year old singer songwriter from Liverpool. The latest signing to Edge Hill University’s in-house record label, Joel has been playing the guitar for the last seven years and writing songs for three.

‘Sunshine Funshine’ is Joel’s first release on The Label Recordings. An infectious slice of Indie Pop, he says The Smiths were one of his biggest influences. “Because of their melodic guitar work and satirical lyrics” he explains. “That’s where I got the over the top chorus ‘as long as I’ve got you I don’t care if my skull caves in’ but musically this song is influenced by Ty Segall with his rough around the edges kind of style.”

 
This is an excellent single, a solid uptempo indie vibe with a great energy and a sound that’s tight knit but not over produced.

The opening chord vamp is propelled by solid drumming and bass with a solo leading into the vocals. There are some great harmonies and excellent tongue-in-cheek lyrics. There’s a great change in feel before picking the tempo up leading into the solo with a final chorus to end the song.

  
The Label Recordings is the only industry-led University’s record label in the UK. It was set up at Edge Hill University in 2013 to promote new music and offer students hands-on experience in the hugely competitive music industry.

Students are involved in all aspects of the record label including searching for emerging talent, music production, video production, writing reviews and organising live events. Students work directly with people with years of industry experience and are gradually given increasing responsibilities through a process of shadowing and mentoring.

The Label has been featured on BBC Radio 2, BBC 6 Music, NME magazine, and on BBC North West Tonight. One of The Label’s first signings, Hooton Tennis Club, have gone on to secure a record deal with Heavenly Recordings.

Joel Thomas facebook | twitter | soundcloud

The Label Recordings website | facebook | twitter

Neon Tetra Music PR website | facebook | twitter

Review of Oranj Son – “Still” on The Label Recordings — July 27, 2017

Review of Oranj Son – “Still” on The Label Recordings

 
Oranj Son, a four piece Psych Punk band from Ellesmere Port, are Kieran Linford (guitar & vocals), Lew Yii (drums), Brad Welch-Harley (bass) and Matthew Linford (keys/synths).

The band, whose influences range from Echo and the Bunnymen and Teardrop Explodes to Air, LCD Soundsystem and Sonic Youth, have been together for two years and have already made a big impact on Liverpool’s music scene since they made their live debut at Sound City in 2015.

The new single ‘Still’ was recorded in Glasgow and produced by Luke Palmer and released by The Label Recordings as part of their Summer Sampler on June 2nd which also features Joel Thomas’ ‘Sunshine Funshine’.

 
Still has a superb opening with a chord vamp backed by synth and drumming which gives a great momentum, there’s a solo and a subtle change of feel into the verse which has excellent vocals. There’s a more expansive feel to the chorus. The arrangement and production is excellent, the sound is hard to describe but somewhere between The Clash, synth wave and indie.

 
The Label Recordings is the only industry-led University’s record label in the UK. It was set up at Edge Hill University in 2013 to promote new music and offer students hands-on experience in the hugely competitive music industry.

Students are involved in all aspects of the record label including searching for emerging talent, music production, video production, writing reviews and organising live events. Students work directly with people with years of industry experience and are gradually given increasing responsibilities through a process of shadowing and mentoring.

The Label has been featured on BBC Radio 2, BBC 6 Music, NME magazine, and on BBC North West Tonight. One of The Label’s first signings, Hooton Tennis Club, have gone on to secure a record deal with Heavenly Recordings.

Oranj Son facebook | twitter | soundcloud

The Label Recordings website | facebook | twitter

Neon Tetra Music PR website | facebook | twitter

Review of Erased Tapes Collection VIII album by Various Artists — July 25, 2017

Review of Erased Tapes Collection VIII album by Various Artists

 
Initially founded by German-born Robert Raths in 2007, the London-based label has grown and extended across the world with satellite offices in Los Angeles and Berlin. Spanning over ten years, Erased Tapes has nurtured avant-garde artists from all around the world whilst remaining genre-defying and truly independent.

On February 5th 2017 Erased Tapes opened the doors to their new East London home, marking the 10th anniversary by introducing their fans and the public to the new Erased Tapes Sound Gallery. Coinciding with the launch of this new website where fans can also download a new gratis compilation, the label will be celebrating with many festival showcases and other events to be revealed throughout the year.

Commencing these celebrations with a compilation entitled Erased Tapes Collection VIII, they also welcome the iconic Penguin Cafe to the roster amongst tracks from new signing Daniel Brandt (of Brandt Brauer Frick) and Peter Broderick’s duo project Allred & Broderick. It also includes recent compositions by Rival Consoles, A Winged Victory For The Sullen, Ben Lukas Boysen, Douglas Dare and Immix Ensemble & Vessel, as well as a previously unreleased Ryan Davis remix of Erased Tapes stalwarts Ólafur Arnalds & Nils Frahm which was recently favoured by Aphex Twin and an exclusive edit of Woodkid & Nils Frahm’s score for JR’s Ellis, with spoken words by Robert De Niro.

 
This is a superb album and highlights the talent on show at Erased Tapes. There’s an excellent range of songs with ambient, cinematic and electronica often blending different styles with a modern classical element. The bandcamp link is embedded above, the album is also available as a free download with registration on the Erased Tapes website

Allred & Broderick – The Way
A purely vocal song, there’s great harmonies from the two voices and a feel somewhere between a protest song, bluegrass and barbershop. It’s a pertinent message too.

Penguin Cafe – Cantorum
A superbly crafted song, there’s an urgency to the fast violin riff, propelled by subtle drumming. The piano riff mirrors the urgency of the violin which contrasts with bass and slower piano. The slower violin is also a good contrast, creating a tension to the song with the development of a fuller orchestral sound.

Daniel Brandt – Kale Me
There’s an urgency to the piano which acts more like a percussive rhythm accompanying strummed guitar. Drumming is uptempo and adds a great momentum. There’s a great tension in the song with really well layered sounds. The bass is deep and is accompanied by uptempo drumming and piano arp.

Rival Consoles – Slow Song
A great opening from vocals, drone and percussive sounding synth which gives an almost future garage feel. Reversed strings add a great element. The drumming gives a momentum and bass presence. An excellent synth arp and background sounds too.

A Winged Victory for the Sullen – Galerie
An evolving opening with a bell / chime sound and emerging strings. Piano gives a strong bass presence and the song builds tension to a release.

Ben Lukas Boysen – Golden Times 1
Piano to open with a subtle plucked string sound which weaves around the piano becoming more pronounced at times. It’s a cinematic feel, bass enters to give an extra dimension and strings add a great element. Great evolution of the song. Distorted / bitcrushed synth adds a harsher contrasting element.

Olafur Arnalds & Nils Frahm – 00:26 (Ryan Davis Rethink)
A clicky percussive rhythm to open leads into emerging synths and a more defined groove. There’s an excellent range of percussive sounds, some are impact type sounds, others a bit glitchy. There’s great development of the song, subtle movement in synth sounds and an arp gives movement.

Douglas Dare – Rex
An excellent percussive rhythm to open from processed sounds which have a hint of saturation / distortion. These contrast superbly with the softer piano and smooth vocals. A subtle build and release of tension with a final crescendo.

Immex Ensemble and Visa Erased – Scope
Smooth jazz feel to the opening, it’s a superb arrangement of strings and an oboe sounding instrument which creates a flowing piece with a nice edge of tension.

Woodkid & Nils Frahm – Winter Morning 2 (with Robert De Niro) extract
A bell gives an ominous sounding opening, there’s a subtle drone and accordion which add a great tension. The song has a dark edge to it. The quote from Robert De Niro suits the song really well. It has a cinematic feel, it’s superbly arranged with a great flow and movement.

Peter Broderick – Eyes Closed and Traveling
This is a beautiful piano solo, the emerging piano has an urgency, a kind of contemplative feel. The arrangement is superb, really deep bass compliments the mid – toned riff and similarly complimented with higher notes.

 

Erased Tapes facebook | twitter | soundcloud | vimeo

Review of Bernard Herrmann composer toolkit for Kontakt Player by Spitfire Audio — July 20, 2017

Review of Bernard Herrmann composer toolkit for Kontakt Player by Spitfire Audio

BH.png

Introduction

Spitfire Audio, purveyors of the finest virtual instruments from the finest musical samples in the world, has introduced BERNARD HERRMANN COMPOSER TOOLKIT inspired by the electric genius of its iconic composer namesake who is noted for his lengthy legacy of fresh film scores such as Citizen Kane, Psycho, Vertigo, and Taxi Driver that continue to inspire today’s composers. Working exclusively with The Bernard Herrmann Estate, Spitfire Audio have curated and assembled a unique set of studio orchestra ensembles informed directly by a legendary orchestration aesthetic recorded at London’s legendary AIR Studios (Studio 1) by Abbey Road Studios Senior Engineer Simon Rhodes (Avatar, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Magnificent Seven) before being ‘translated’ to Native Instruments’ industry-standard KONTAKT PLAYER platform as an orchestral innovation for all.

BERNARD HERRMANN COMPOSER TOOLKIT can be purchased and digitally downloaded (as 225.0 GB of uncompressed .WAV files, featuring 186,742 samples) typically priced at £429.00 GBP (inc. VAT) /$499.00 USD/ €509.00 EUR (inc. VAT) — from Spitfire Audio

Background

Much fuss has been made about Bernard Herrmann and deservedly so since he is one of the great modern composers, after all. His work for TV and film is nothing short of iconic and truly synonymous with mid-20th Century cinema. Collaborating with Orson Welles on Citizen Kane (1941), Martin Scorsese on Taxi Driver (1976) and in long term partnership with Alfred Hitchcock on scores such as Vertigo (1958), Psycho (1960), The Birds (1963), Marnie (1964) and beyond, the sheer magnitude of critical works is breathtaking. But not only did his work have a significant impact on popular culture at the time, more recently those works have been used to invigorate contemporary scores such as Quentin Tarantino’s twist on the Twisted Nerve theme in 2003’s Kill Bill, 35 years after its inception — an eerie whistle which is now instantly identifiable worldwide.

But Bernard Herrmann demonstrated a unique and trailblazing compositional style throughout his celebrated career. His orchestrations were entirely original, daring, and inventive — albeit always appropriate for the context, so subsequently incredibly influential in film scoring. Psycho — famed for its strings-only approach — is an obvious example of a totally new way to score a thriller. The bold selection of specific instrumental ensembles — the infamous Torn Curtain featured 12 flutes, for instance — and choice of interesting combinations — harp and vibraphone in Vertigo; stopped horns and pizzicato strings in North by Northwest (1959) — challenged the status quo. Equally, experimenting with electronic instruments in scores — the Ondes Martenot in The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951) and amplified Moog synths in 1972’s Sisters and Endless Night — brought with them sounds previously unheard in cinemas. However, Herrmann also went as far as to affect change in the performance style of players, requesting that they did not play in the then-traditional, somewhat overblown nature that other Hollywood composers of the time tended towards.

Download and installation

The download file is a hefty 135Gb which decompresses to 225Gb. You need to use Spitfire Audio’s download manager which has a small file size and is easy to install and use. It took a total of 27 hours to download and install the library. I downloaded to an external hard drive using USB2 which I’m sure slowed the process considerably. I was able to pause the download and resume from where it left off without any problems. Registering the library in Kontakt Player was a quick and easy process.

Getting Started

As soon as you load the toolkit you get an appreciation of why it is such a huge file.

BH selection.jpg

There are 24 different arrangements available with an ‘advanced’ folder and all of these are also available as stereo mixes.

This is not a full symphony orchestra as such, it’s a studio orchestra and some of the instrument groupings are unusual, being inspired by the works of Bernard Herrmann. For me this makes the toolkit more useable and interesting and I can see that it would be very useful for a wide range of sounds and styles.

There’s a varied collection of low strings with the inclusion of horns and trombones adding a great interest to the sounds. There’s a wealth of mid-sounds including horns, brass, oboes, trumpets and mid to high sounds including flutes, harps and high strings.

The GUI has a very clean look and feels intuitive to use. Even in the free Kontakt Player there is a high degree of configurability to the sound.

StudioOrchestra.jpg

Using the Studio Orchestra as an example, there are controls for the closeness or farness of the orchestra, dynamics, release, reverb and expression. Another really neat feature is that all of the most common articulations are available on this instrument – long; short; a very handy common chords using a single note; exp clusters; cluster stabs; slides; string slides; cluster swells and chatter.

More in-depth controls

StudioOrchestra_adv.jpg

The advanced mixer allows you to adjust each signal in the instrument, adjust mic levels and most usefully, you can purge samples that you are not using. I found that Kontakt crashed several times because it kept running out of memory. If you are only using one of the articulations then I’d strongly recommend purging the unused samples by clicking on the ‘squiggle’ below each articulation. For example, a fully loaded Studio Orchestra is 308Mb as shown in the first image above, purging all articulations except for the first long articulation reduces this to 78Mb so you can see how your memory can quickly fill if you don’t purge unused samples. The other alternative is to load the core techniques or individual articulations from the advanced folder which are smaller instruments and use less memory.

Sound quality

The sound quality is superb and many of the effect articulations are excellent for adding dynamics and variety to the sound. You can also automate the dynamics, release and expression for a more natural feel. The different instruments layer together very well and you can achieve some very subtle or more pronounced layering. You can also process the sounds further and they are equally suited to this too, whether it’s a subtle reverb or delay to a more complex effects chain resulting in a delayed, glitchy type of sound.

One of the more unusual instruments is the Ondes Martenot, one of the first electronic instruments invented in 1928. It has an unusual sound like a cross between an organ, theremin and accordion.

The percussion is also excellent, rich and full sounding kick drums, drum roll, snare, snare roll, hi hat, percussive sounds and toms with rolls.

The advanced folder

The advanced folder also contains a wealth of resources containing sub-folders of ‘extended techniques’, ‘individual articulations’, ‘legato techniques’, ‘other patches’ and ‘synths’.

Extended techniques include a number of different articulations including extended chords for common chords, major chords, minor chords and other chords; con sord (muted) techniques for strings; a number of core techniques (results in a smaller memory size). The individual articulations are exactly that as outlined above, an excellent way to reduce memory usage when you are only using one particular articulation.

The legato techniques includes legato and portamento, these are rather memory intensive.

The synths are an interesting and excellent addition, there’s a great range of 36 instruments including basses, leads, pads and effects. The interface is similarly intuitive to use with a range of controls including filters with ADSR controls, LFOs for volume, pitch and filters as well as a number of inbuilt effects including 3 band EQ, chorus, delay, distortion and phaser.

synths.jpg

The ‘other patches’ folder includes a time machine patch with a stretch control to adjust note lengths, economic and light resources patches.

Using the toolkit

I have really enjoyed using the Bernard Herrmann composer toolkit. So much so that I’ve created an album using it which is embedded above. I’ve used a number of different instruments and processed them using various effects, an example screenshot is shown below. The sounds work very well as ‘dry’ sounds or equally processed with delays and layered with recorded sounds and glitchy sounds.

MulabScreenshot.jpg

The instruments and effects used on the album which was arranged, recorded and mastered in MuLab 7 are as follows:

state of denial – uses midi loops from Mode Audio Escape pack with Bernard Herrmann Toolkit Studio orchestra and horns; Drum loops from Mode Audio Escape pack processed with Incipit (Inear Display)

a field recording processed with Hornet Spaces

drifting: Midi loops from Prime Loops Future Chill pack; a glitch loop created in Sensomusic Usine Hollyhock 3; Bernard Herrmann Toolkit low strings and horns processed with Incipit (Inear Display)

beyond the edges of vision (movement I): Bernard Herrmann Toolkit – Soft Sub Bass; trumpet & xylophone and Studio Orchestra; a field recording processed with Spaceship Delay (Musical Entropy)

beyond the edges of vision (movement II): Bernard Herrmann Toolkit – horns; Ondes Martenot processed with Teufelsberg Reverb (Balance Mastering); studio orchestra; concert flutes; low strings and horns processed with Incipit (Inear Display)

beyond the edges of vision (movement III): a variation of the above, unfortunately the system wouldn’t save the project so I don’t have the exact changes but luckily let me export the finished audio. Phew!.

perpetual awareness: Bernard Herrmann Toolkit : strings processed with Outer Space (Audio Thing)

a glitch loop created in Sensomusic Usine Hollyhock 3 further processed with Incipit (Inear Display);

Polygon (Glitchmachines) processed with Incipit (Inear Display). also uses MuDrum.

hypnagogia: Bernard Herrmann Toolkit : strings processed with Outer Space (Audio Thing)

a glitch loop created in Sensomusic Usine Hollyhock 3 further processed with fog convolver (Audio Thing) and Incipit (Inear Display); a sample from my Kalipheno sample pack processed with Convex (Glitchmachines); Polygon (Glitchmachines) processed with Incipit (Inear Display).

waiting for the mundane to fade into obscurity: Bernard Herrmann Toolkit – percussion; oboe & bassoon processed with Incipit (Inear Display); harp & vibraphone (processed with Incipit (Inear Display); synth pad processed with Outer Space (Audio Thing)

Conclusions

The amount of effort and attention to detail in producing this toolkit are staggering and clearly evident in both the sound quality and flexibility of use. It is so much more than sampled instruments, the various articulations and controls on the interface provide a very usuable and customisable studio orchestra toolkit. It can be used straight away with the default settings but it also provides scope to fine tune and tweak to your requirements with the ability to easily adjust settings such as release, dynamics and expression and adjust mic placements, relative position of the instruments and also add further processing as required.

It is suited to a whole range of styles, not just orchestral and classical but equally in many electronic styles. The main limitations that I found appear to be related to Kontakt and memory availability rather than CPU usage. My system spec is a dual core 2Ghz with 4Gb ram and it can run about 6 instances of the toolkit before it starts to crash so you need to ensure you have as much memory available as possible to prevent Kontakt from crashing when loading multiple instances.