THRENODy AVANT-GARDE STRINGS By SonicCouture
James & Dan from SonicCouture are back, and this time the guys are bringing us their first venture into string libraries, in the shape of THRENODy AVANT-GARDE STRINGS.
As dedicated followers will no doubt know, SonicCouture like to do things a little left field from the conventional sample library establishment, the clue here being the insertion of the phrase ‘AVANT-GARDE ‘ into the titling of this latest release.
If you were expecting another variant of the traditional string library, then it’s time to expect the unexpected , as THRENODy Strings does away with the traditional, and instead introduces some very welcome variations upon a perhaps now otherwise somewhat moribund string library formula.
THRENODy… By Definition…
The literal definition of THRENODy is a wailing ode, song, hymn or poem of mourning composed or performed as a memorial to a dead person (thank you Wikipedia!).
I’m pleased to say that the sounds produced by THRENODy Strings have more melodic potential than this description might have you believe, however those darker Maudlin creatives among you (of which I count myself) will not be disappointed, and also pleased to know that this library will work particularly well for horror and sci-fi themes and scores.
Recorded in Budapest in January 2021 under full lockdown conditions, SonicCouture employed the immense talents of the Budapest Art Orchestra.
This 60 piece string orchestra were put through their paces focusing on many unusual bowing articulations 26 of which made it into the final product.
30 microphones were used to capture The three available mic positions of main , spot and ambient.
For purists, there are still a handful of standard articulations included, but the unique perspective of the product called for some more unusual bowing techniques which seldom see the light of day, or for that matter night, elsewhere.
Threnody runs in either the full version of Kontakt 6 or the free Kontakt player equivalent, and is compatible with NKS and Komplete Kontrol.
The in excess of 3,700 samples were captured in Stereo 24 bit, 48 kHz, with the original 12 GB being squashed down to the 6.5 GB installation size using NCW compression.
There is a single master THRENODy .NKI Kontakt file, which in turn feeds the accompanying NKSN snapshot files which we ultimately find within Komplete Kontrol.
Download & Installation…
Installation is now somewhat of a breeze, simply by pasting the provided serial number into Native Access will enable you to download and install everything from this single application. Komplete Kontrol will scan for new library editions when an instance is loaded, so there should now be no real necessity to use the standalone application when adding a new official Kontakt player library.
Komplete Kontrol Browser & Plug-in Edit NKS controls
Knob 1 & 2 – Vendor & Product
Knob 3 – Bank: Natural, Sound Design
Knob 4 – sub Bank: Sound Design,
Knob 5 – type: Bowed Strings
Knob 6 – Sub Type: Ensemble
Knob 7 – Character: Acoustic, Sample Based
Knob 8 – Presets: x 56
Plug-in Edit NKS Parameter Mapping
Page One – X, Y Pad, Dynamics & Filters
Knob 1 – X Control
Knob 2 – Y Control
Knob 3 – Dynamics Control
Knob 4 – Niant
Knob 5 – Expression
Knob 6 – Unallocated
Knob 7 – High Pass Filter
Knob 8 – slim Filter
Page Two – ADSR, Key Off & Velocity
Knob 1 – Attack
Knob 2 – Velocity Mod
Knob 3 – Attack Curve
Knob 4 – Decay
Knob 5 – sustain
Knob 6 – Release
Knob 7 – Key Off Level
Knob 8 – Velocity Volume
Page Three – Mixer & Reverb
Knob 1 – Main Mic On/Off
Knob 2 – Main Mic Level
Knob 3 – Spot Mic On/Off
Knob 4 – Spot Mic Level
Knob 5 – Ambient Mic On/Off
Knob 6 – ambient Mic Level
Knob 7 – Reverb On/Off
Knob 8 – Reverb Mix
Page Four – Generator & Jammer
Knob 1 – Generator Type: Jammer, Weaver, Phraser
Knob 2 – Play On/Off
Knob 3 – Jammer Presets 1 to 12
Knob 4 – Jammer Rate 1/4 to 1/32
Knob 5 – Mode: Up, Down, Up/Down
Knob 6 – Length
Knob 7 – Velocity
Knob 8 – Swing
Page Five – Jammer 2 (Continued)
Knob 1 – Jammer Loop On/Off
Knob 2 – Note Number
Knob 3 – Octave
Knob 4 – Timing
Knob 5 – Velocity
Knob 6 – Gaps
Knob 7 – Double On/Off
Knob 8 – Re-Trigger On/Off
Page Six – Weaver
Knob 1 – Weaver Preset 1 to 32
Knob 2 – Decay 1.0 sec to Infinite
Knob 3 to 8 – Unallocated
Page Seven – Phraser
Knob 1 – Phrase Selection 1 to 12
Knob 2 – Mode: Transpose, Fixed, Octaves
Knob 3 – Start
Knob 4 – End
Knob 5 – Rate: 1/4 to 1/32
Knob 6 – Random
Knob 7 – Auto On/Off
Knob 8 – Record On/Off
Page Eight – Filter
Knob 1 – Cut-Off
Knob 2 – Resonance
Knob 3 – Velocity
Knob 4 – Env
Knob 5 – Attack
Knob 6 – Decay
Knob 7 – Sustain
Knob 8 – Release
Page Nine – LFO & Instability
Knob 1 – LFO Rate
Knob 2 – Pitch
Knob 3 – Amplitude
Knob 4 – Filter
Knob 5 – Pan
Knob 6 – Unallocated
Knob 7 – Instability Depth
Knob 8 – Instability Rate
Page Ten – Cluster
Knob 1 – Cluster On/Off
Knob 2 – Cluster Depth
Knob 3 to 8 – Unallocated
Page Eleven – E.Q.
Knob 1 – Low Req
Knob 2 – Low Freq Gain
Knob 3 – Low Medium Freq
Knob 4 – Low Medium Freq Gain
Knob 5 – Hi Medium Freq
Knob 6 – Hi Medium Freq Gain
Knob 7 – Hi Freq
Knob 8 – Hi Freq Gain
Probably the first thing we need to understand about THRENODy, is that is not a string library in the conventional sense that we are all familiar with. The idea of hitting a given keyswitch to select tremolo, staccato or pizzicato articulation is not how the instrument is intended to work.
Whilst it is certainly possible using the NKS assigned X,Y controls to dial up one of the provided articulations , and statically play it that way, however by doing so is to miss out on the power of the cleverly scripted articulation morphing engine that lies at the heart of THRENODy.
The real creativity comes into play when we use those X & Y controls to morph seamlessly between up to four articulations that have been pre-assigned to the two axis.
I say pre-assigned, as unfortunately the means of a pick & mix approach is not something we are able to access. This is largely due to the way that the THRENODy engine works, coupled with the limitations of the NKS system.
All is not completely lost though, as there are a healthy selection of articulation combinations presented within the Natural category of the banks section.
,Aside from this limitation, there are still a couple of additional things that it would be helpful to see addressed in a future update.
Currently, within many presets the filter page has the filter section bypassed in the preset as a default in order to conserve cpu, however there is not a dedicated NKS switch in order to turn this on or off, thus using the filter page on these bypassed presets is not currently possible.
Also, the Generator tools that consist of the Jammer, Weaver and Phrase features which are tempo based, do not in the NKSN snapshots have a switchable latch button. This is certainly something included in the master Kontakt NKI, but at the moment it is not passed through to the NKS mapping, a keyswitch could be a solution to this.
My Generation – The THRENODy Creative Tools…
I do enjoy the musical experimentation features that SonicCouture often throw into the creative cooking pot, despite not always being as fully accessible to us as intended, or indeed as much as SonicCouture themselves would like them to be, nevertheless they can still add a healthy dose of musical experimentation , which may then further lead to some productive avenues we might otherwise not explore.
Thankfully the ability to understand and use such tools has been aided significantly by the introduction of speech feedback for parameter settings on the plugin edit side of Komplete Kontrol following the 2.60 update, so the following sections still have something to offer.
The Jammer is essentially an arpeggiator based tool, which allows you to change various elements of it’s played notes, there are 12 presets available via the NKS control, and you can further go on to affect such events as the sync to tempo rate between 1/4 and 1/32 note rates.
Up, down, up/down and random alter the play sequence of the notes you hold,Swing will add some well, swing to the rhythm, and among other choices is the ‘Gaps’ control which will literally substitute the total number of notes played in an arp sequence for rests, the value of which is expressed as a percentage.
This generative tool automatically adds additional notes to those you opt to play and hold, it works in a less formal way than that of the traditional arp, and if you are familiar with the Euclidean beats feature found in other SonicCouture products, then it is more akin to this but using pitched notes instead of beats.
There are only a couple of mapped NKS controls for the Weaver tool, these being the preset selector of which there are 32, and the time for which the generated notes will last, from just 1 second to infinite.
The Phraser behaves more like a sequencer in as much as it allows you to record your own choice of note patterns into a revolving tempo synced cycle.
Here there is the option to select the sync rate, again from 1/4 to 1/32, you can also tailor the start, end and random notes of a sequence, this enables the truncation and randomisation of the notes played in your pattern.
If you happen to come up with a riff or pattern you like, you can always save it as a snapshot preset for later recall.
There are more extensive opportunities available to the sighted user, however these involve GUI clicks which we are unable to access.
There is apparently also the poss ability to load in our own appropriately named midi file, this is done by dropping it into the libraries instrument folder, where from here it can be detected and used within the library.
There are seven different categories of articulations within the library consisting of Traditional, Extended, Cluster, Micropolyphony, Clouds Pitched, Clouds Cluster and Glissandi.
We don’t get to view them as neatly defined as this within Komplete Kontrol, but the preset names do provide some inkling as to their use within the provided patches.
SonicCouture have also now made an accompanying video that steps through all 26 of the THRENODy articulations, which clearly defines the entire range found within the library.
There are some great sounding presets to be found within THRENODy , we could always use more of course, so I’ll be sending positive thoughts into the ether that additional banks might be later available, either as a commercial ad don like Haunted Spaces or GeoSonics, but equally some more as an upgrade would be just as welcome!
Some favourites include ‘Composing In Corners’, ‘Dredger’, ‘Glissandi Time Machine’ and ‘Spiders’ which instantly made me think of that terrifying ‘Spider Walk’ scene from the Exorcist.
There are three available microphone positions available to us, Main, Spot and Ambient.
Main represents a more general sound, while Spot is the close and Ambient the distant containing more of the natural hall.
Each has an on/off switch as well as volume level, should you elect to mix between more than one, which might be more cpu intensive.
Also on the microphone and mixer page is the reverb on/off and dry/wet mix. I think probably in terms of having more detailed control of reverberation, it would be best to simply turn this off and instead insert your own reverb choice onto another Komplete Kontrol FX slot.
There is a Cluster page which when turned on, adds additional notes which are also de tuned from the original pitch of the loaded preset, it increases the polyphony and hence the resources, but this can be a quick way of turning a straight sustained string note into something more sinister!
The ADSR section has a velocity mod and curve control each with their own knob assignment, inserted after the Attack and prior to the Decay controls. These allow you to shape the attack of the loaded preset in more detail than the usual solitary Attack parameter.
On page one there is also a dedicated ‘NIENTE ‘ on/off switch, which in musical terms is supposed to gently and more delicately fade the final note sustain to just a whisper.
This seemed quite subtle, at least to my ears anyway, but may sound more pronounced depending on the articulation and other settings used.
Most of the other mapped NKS parameters are self explanatory, such as the Equalisation, LFO, filters etc, but finally also worth a mention is the Instability depth parameter with an associated rate control, which can detune the pitch of each note you play, to a slight or a wholly more drastic degree.
As I mentioned at the outset of this review, THRENODY Strings is a more niche take on the string library. It can successfully work alongside a traditional orchestral product, not least for it’s ability to morph into a different articulation in a more natural way than the keyswitch approach.
Thinking along these lines and given the number of sample libraries that now make use of the X & Y controls, it might be something hardware controller manufacturers may be wise to include in future products. The rotary knob does the job, but arguably a touch pad would offer a better way of achieving this. There are phone and tablet app’s as well as something like the korg Kaoss controller, but being as touch pad technology is relatively inexpensive enough as we see in a laptop mouse pad, it should also be viable enough to incorporate one into a midi keyboard, right by the pitchbend, modwheel and touchstrips that we already know and love.
I digress, there are some accessibility considerations that may restrict the value that some users may feel they can extract from the library, and things like the latch and filter bypass should potentially be addressable. The articulation assignments are less so due to the GUI engine and NKS workings.
THRENODy AVANT-GARDE STRINGS will certainly have appeal to the film score, media and game composer, with it’s well recorded, unusual and rare breed array of string articulations, which are both immersive and atmospheric.
THRENODy AVANT-GARDE STRINGS can be purchased directly from the SonicCouture website at the promotional price of £176.00 (usually £220.00) until June 18th
THRENODy AVANT-GARDE STRINGS Product Page:
THRENODy Strings – Product Tour:
THRENODy Strings – Articulations:
(c) Chris Ankin
May 28th, 2021
The author cannot accept any 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 solely on information perceived as a blind user whilst using the product and/or gathered from official factual sources such as the developer, web or supplied 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.