The UK based sample gurus SonicCouture have been busy tinkering away on their latest library for a little while now, and finally they’re back with yet another well thought out and alternate spin to what perhaps could have been just another run of the mill drum sample library, cue soft snare and brush roll, and enter Moonkits!
If there is one thing we can be sure of with a SonicCouture product, it’s to expect the unexpected, and with this in mind we can immediately see that Moonkits is likely to fill a gap in the market that might not have initially been obvious.
There are certainly no shortage of well recorded drum libraries out there, ranging from almost every electronic beatbox ever made, standard acoustic kits, heavy rock kits, hybrid cinematic floor shakers and modular synthetic, but for the most part very few in the real organic category seem to concentrate on a lighter, tighter, acoustic jazz or funk style which make use of brushes or more softer rhythmic downbeats.
With these light to mid range hits as the central focus, SonicCouture have once again set about with typical verve, the task of meticulously sampling in great detail no less than five different kits, with an end result that sounds beautifully natural, and the flexibility to further tune and tailor the kit presets to an even greater degree should you wish to do so.
The location for the Moonkits recording sessions was Konk studios in North London, which was founded by Ray Davies and the Kinks initially as their own private recording venue, back in the early 70’s.
Much of the natural warmth exhibited within the Moonkits library can perhaps be attributed to the wealth of vintage equipment on tap at the studio, not least a vintage Neve console, which Konk acquired from Utopia studio’s in 1979 and has been used on Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’ and Heatwave’s'”Boogie Nights’ as well as many other classic recordings.
The 16Gb library will run in either the full version of Kontakt 6 or the equivelent free Kontakt player. It is fully NKS ready for Komplete Kontrol, and has been recorded in glorious 24bit 48khz Stereo.
There is a single Moonkits master NKI file, with an additional 80 snapshots which serve as the presets you will find within Komplete Kontrol. In the snapshots folder these are sub divided into Jazzy Brushes, Studio Moonkits and Urban & Contemporary which perhaps gives an indication of the suggested field of use.
Download & Installation…
SonicCouture do offer a download application to facilitate a more stable data stream which will automatically resume in the event of a dropout, this will help those with low or slow bandwidth speeds. Although I did not test this myself opting for the direct from website approach.
By choosing to download from the website the download and install process is made painless and uncomplicated by being devoid of any potentially inaccessible installers or difficult to navigate software management tools.
Suffice to say, it’s a question of logging in to your account on their website, directly downloading your product, unzipping it and placing it where you wish on your system, and finally launching and authorising it within Native Access and then scanning it into Komplete Kontrol standalone.
Komplete Kontrol Browser & Plug-in Edit Controls…
Knob 1 & 2 – Vendor & Product
Knob 3 & 4 – Unallocated
Knob 5 – Type, Drums
Knob 6 – Unallocated
Knob 7 – Character, Acoustic, Clean, Sample Based
Plug-in Edit Controls
Page One – Master
Knob 1 – Play
Knob 2 – Level
Knob 3 – Compressor
Knob 4 – E.Q
Knob 5 – Tape
Knob 6 – Limiter
Knob 7 – Overheads
Knob 8 – Room
Page Two to Eight – Kick, Snare, Hat, Tom, Floor, Ride, Crash,
Knob 1 – Level
Knob 2 – Pan
Knob 3 – Pitch
Knob 4 – Room
Knob 5 – Attack
Knob 6 – Hold
Knob 7 – Decay
Knob 8 – Velocity
Page Nine – Beat Shifter
Knobs 1 to 8, Beat Shifter x 8
Page Ten – Beat Shifter (Chance)
Knob 1 to 8 – Beat Shifter Chances x 8
Page Eleven – Beat Shifter, Steps, Swing & Rate
Knob 1 – Steps
Knob 2 – Swing
Knob 3 – Rate
Knob 4 to 8 – Unallocated
Page Twelve – Euclidian (Steps)
Knob 1 to 8 – Steps x 8
Page Thirteen – Euclidian (Hits)
Knob 1 to 8 – Hits x 8
Page Fourteen – Euclidian (Accent)
Knob 1 to 8 – Accent x 8
Page Fifteen – Euclidian (Shift)
Knob 1 to 8 – Shift x 8
Page Sixteen – Euclidian Length, Swing, Rate
Knob 1 – Length
Knob 2 – Swing
Knob 3 – Rate
Knob 4 to 8 – Unallocated
Page Seventeen – Poly Beats (Steps)
Knob 1 to 8 – Steps x 8
SonicCouture as a developer have always been very receptive to making their products as accessible as possible to blind and visually impaired customers, which was a positive and refreshing change I noticed when I first spoke with them after installing their Electro Acoustic library a couple of years ago, and they were happy to implement some changes in an update based on user feedback.
Electro Acoustic was their first drum based library to implement the Euclidian beats feature, which for the uninitiated within these percussive libraries, is a set of rhythmic controls which allow for the adjustment of hits and relative step timings on a per drum instrument basis, and can open many doors to some fascinating rhythmic and groove experimentations.
There is a whole bunch of explanatory information on the web about the concept and application, which we will not cover here, however I have included a link at the review footer for those who wish to explore the idea in more detail.
Moonkits also includes this feature, along with a ‘Beat Shifter’ and ‘Poly Beats’ section in the NKS pages.
These are certainly usable for us within Komplete Kontrol, however due to the lack of speech on the plug-in edit side of KK (other than the control knob labels), it means that accurate and finite adjustments can be tricky. This is certainly no criticism toward SonicCouture, afterall we as visually impaired users are not the only customer base, but due to the limitations of NKS, the full potential of these functions cannot be fully realized, in terms of finite control or dragging, dropping and saving created grooves to our DAW’s from within the Komplete Kontrol environment.
It is for example possible to alter the steps per instrument channel, but without any spoken feedback or tactile or clickable clock face dial arrangement from the keyboard hardware, there is no easy way for us to know exactly what we have previously or are about to select.
I have however stumbled upon a solution that at least addresses some of these factors. By bringing up the parameter list within your DAW (I am using Reaper on Windows here), it is possible to move to the parameters associated with the Eclidian feature, and change the settings, which will actually feedback meaningful associated values such as step size, for example 100% is equal to 16 steps, and 50% drops the steps to 8, and this has been a helpful discovery.
, If you do not wish to dig this far down, then I would certainly say that just within KK, these pattern play features can at least act as a handy tempo synced rhythm generator with some great grooves immediately at your fingertips.
Tweaking the position of the beats is a fascinating process, and experimenting with the Euclidian controls can create some inspirational rhythms, and although perhaps not being best suited for a conventional verse/chorus track structure, it is actually imminently usable for certain genres such as the fields of scoring to picture to provide a backbeat, ambient, experimental jazz and avantgarde styles of music.
The other main eight control pages are as we shall see, precisely what we would hope to have access to within a drum sample library.
Moonkits – The view from the Throne!…
We effectively have controls of 7 Moonkit drum sounds, Kick, Snare, Hat, Tom, Floor Tom, Ride and Crash, with parameter adjustment of level, Pan, Pitch, Room Ambience, Attack, Hold, Decay and Velocity.
There are more samples than the seven drum sounds mentioned above assigned to their own notes on the keyboard, which means that some sounds are grouped together to share the output of the instrument type, and thus the related set of page controls.
For example both open and closed hi-hats use the same level, pitch, pan and other available controls, and this is also the case with the snare variants (including rimshot & brushes), Ride Cymbals and Two Toms.
There is a welcome selection of brush patterns within Moonkits, more than I have seen in any other library. I would like to have seen an additional page within the NKS mapping to control their level, pitch and pan independent of the snare group, , particularly as they do play a important role in the overall concept of the Moonkits sound.
The brush patterns are I feel noteworthy, as there are many pattern variations featured in each preset, they are tempo synced to the host tempo, and it’s clear that some clever work has been done in the edit process to ensure that the sweeps and swirls sound as natural and realistic as possible.
I think SonicCouture have in general done a good job with the NKS mapping for Moonkits, certainly some compromises have had to be made in terms of the number of pages, this is particularly underlined when I tell you that there are actually in excess of 500 parameters exposed when the main NKI file is loaded into Kontakt, so mapping them all would have constituted in excess of 60 pages!
The hidden treasure I refer to in this section therefore, is directly related to potentially using the main Moonkits NKI patch within Kontakt outside of the Komplete Kontrol environment.
For those who really like to roll up their sleeves and get under the hood of a library, this is something to be aware of and well worth investigating from time to time with various products as you never know quite what useful feature you might unearth, with most modern DAW’s on both Windows and MAC now sporting a detailed and accessible parameter list.
By delving deeper into Moonkits in this way you will discover a huge list of available parameters that were not able to be included in the KK NKS mapping, this exposes such goodies as multiple microphone controls per drum.
The Kick for example has microphones for the beater, front, bleed, overheads, rear, and room, as well as the level, pan, pitch, attack, hold and delay and there are also extensive filters, E.Q, compressor, limiter and tape saturation control on a per drum basis, and yes looking at the list of instruments here, there is even a level parameter for those brush sounds, along with the already discussed Eclidian beats, shift and poly features making it entirely feasible to forge the sound pretty much the way you like, as they would be the same set of parameters SonicCouture will have utilised in the creation of the library presets.
I am pleased to say that SonicCouture have now been kind enough to further save out individual NKI files for each of the five kits featured in the library, so users will be able to extensively edit these above and beyond just the main master NKI file which was initially provided, and I will make these available to Komplete Kontrol dropbox subscribers who would like to make use of them.
Out of Kontakt and safely back in the world of Komplete Kontrol, and perusing through the 80 presets, it becomes evident of the wide range of sounds that can be created just from the original five kits.
The kits can be made ultra tight and beatbox like as alluded to with names of some presets such as the Acoustic 808 and Future Break kits, others in contrast highlight the looser and organic dynamic elements of a jazz kit.
I really liked the ‘Car Chase kit’ and ‘Cinematic Rides’ presets, which for me were reminiscent of the cool jazzy soundtracks to movies and TV Shows like Mission Impossible, Bullet and Dirty Harry that were composed by Lalo Schifrin.
It was very compelling to hear and scrutinise the level of detail afforded when listening in isolation to the different drum instruments. The snare hits for example when played using a gradually increasing velocity, it appeared that different samples were being triggered which featured various dynamic changes such as buzzes and rattles from the snare wires, which ultimately culminated in a standard hit.
SonicCouture tell me they have devised their own velocity based sample triggering script solution that negates the need for the more conventional data hogging round robin system, that traditionally involved many duplicate samples.
As a personal aside, I have begun playing drums myself over the last year or so, and use a small electronic Alesis kit to practice in my home studio, but when at the drum room I have access to a real acoustic kit.
MY drumming is unlikely to ever leave any lasting impressions on the music world, I do it more for enjoyment than anything else in an attempt to keep my brain active, however I have definitely found a huge new respect for real drummers who seldom seem to get the credit they deserve, not least for the sheer multi-limbed physicality and energy involved in playing a real kit, but also the incredible almost subconscious level of knowledge and timing that goes into playing complex patterns and polyrhythms where correct sticking is crucial.
To get back on track, what I’m leading up to hear is that this has also taught me to really listen more carefully to the almost infinite range of sounds an acoustic kit produces, and the factors that are involved, and of course working predominantly as many of us now do with sample based instruments, you begin to cross reference organic versus sampled, which is why I can appreciate the quality of the sample recording and intelligent scripting that SonicCouture have built into delivering what on the surface may just appear to be a simple snare hit.
Moonkits stands out for me as being a drum library that if played and tweaked with care and diligence is capable of delivering some really natural and very convincing results.
There are no real accessibility barriers which preclude users from getting work done within Komplete Kontrol. The built in play mode can be an intriguing route to finding, exploring and developing new time signatures and rhythmic experimentation.
The option for those who really want to have control of every facet of Moonkits exists when the NKI file is loaded into Kontakt, and serves as a wonderfully creative bonus for the sound design tweakers among us.
The recording, sampling and overall audio quality is very high, without sounding unduly clinical or sterile, indeed one can only hope that a little of the spirit of those many classic tracks that once passed through the wires of that vintage Neve desk that the library was recorded with, have somehow ended up within the coding of Moonkits, what a lovely thought to end on!
Moonkits is available for purchase and download from the SonicCouture website for £TBA
Inspired by Sound Moonkits Walkthrough:
Moonkits User Manual:
Euclidian Rhythms Explained:
(c) Chris Ankin
October 25th, 2019
The author accepts no responsibility for subsequent purchase decisions made as a result of this article,or Any inaccuracies found within this review. All opinions or product functions stated are based soly on information perceived as a blind user whilst using the product or gathered from official factual sources on the web or product manual.
About the Author
Chris Ankin has worked previously as a freelance review contributor with articles published in Sound On Sound, Home & Studio Recording and ST Format Magazines.