Roli + Ondioline

Roli + Ondioline

By James Thompson  |  26.01.2016

Roli sent us a Seaboard RISE to try out; here’s James noodling somewhat poorly with Ondioline.

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The Seaboard Rise is a very effective partner for the Ondioline instrument – I can’t think of any other controller which enables such a realistic emulation of the original units lateral vibrato keyboard. The Seaboard is much more flexible than that, though – the Ondioline keyboard could move side to side, but that was all – with the Seaboard completely fluid slides (in all directions) are possible, and the pressure sensitivity is also possible, although it takes some practice to play softly enough to be able to use it well.

The Seaboard is pretty easy to get used to, but you can imagine there is scope to become a real virtuoso with it.

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Box Of Tricks controlled by MiMu Gloves

Box Of Tricks controlled by MiMu Gloves

By James Thompson  |  13.11.2015

Valentina Morandini sent us these videos of her working with Box Of Tricks and a pair of the MiMu Gloves, co-developed by Imogen Heap.

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Valentina: “in the cello video I am playing single notes moving every single flex glove sensor separately (index+middle+ring), using the bow cello articulations.”

“In the vocal pad video I am playing 3 different chords making 3 different postures (1 finger point+claws cat+ok) with my left hand and at the end I added a delay effect to the last vocal chord, moving the ring flex sensor with my right hand.”






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Lorde + Son Lux: Drum Weapons Of Choice

Lorde + Son Lux: Drum Weapons Of Choice

By James Thompson  |  12.09.2014

Lorde + Son Lux + The Conservatoire Collection + Samulnori Percussion

Not a combination that I’d have predicted might work musically, or even one that I could ever have conceived of.

But I guess that’s the world we live in today. Where any old maverick NY-based producer can collaborate with a crazy kiwi siren using nothing more than some early-renaissance skin drums and a Korean percussion ensemble.

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Ryan Lott / Son Lux emailed me with a niggly NI Service Center issue which we won’t go into here. I googled him, and found the Lorde track, Easy (Switch Screens)

It caught my ear because of its stripped down, angular yet tribal beat. I said to Ryan I liked it, and he told me it was done with Soniccouture’s Conservatoire Collection and Samulnori Perucssion kontakt instruments.

Ryan says: ” Lorde tracked her vocals over the instrumental of the original version of the song Easy, which is on my record Lanterns. Then I adapted the song in response, and I knew it needed to be meaner. Her attitude on it was incredible. She did almost all her own vocal production, creating double and triple layers that were pitched-down and crazy-sounding. I was so inspired by it, I did most of the new version in a single sitting in the tour van between Berlin and Köln back in January. It was actually between the first and second shows ever (I didn’t have a band until recently)! I love the dusty, primitive and simple quality of the percussion in the Conservatoire Collection, so I started there. Those sounds have a lot in common sonically with the skins in the Samulnori stuff. I hacked into Kontakt and messed a bit with the tuning of the individual drums get the right tonal quality. On one of the drums, I did some extreme pitch manipulation to double the sub kick in special moments.”

Hear it here :

Available as a single track on itunes

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C418: Minecraft and the Mbira

C418: Minecraft and the Mbira

By James Thompson  |  11.09.2013

Recently, the sound of our Array Mbira instrument caught my ear. I had followed a link from Twitter to the Bandcamp page of C418, otherwise known as Daniel Rosenfeld. Playing one of Daniels tracks, Surface Pension, I loved the strong, individual use of the Mbira in the intro.

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And the way the Mbira drops in on Certitudes is fantastic :

In fact, listening to the tracks it seemed as though Array Mbira is one of the signature sounds of Minecraft, which is fantastic. So I read a little background on him, and was intrigued to discover that he had got his break writing music for a computer game when he was only 20 years old. Now he has thousands of followers and fans of his characterful, whimsical music.

Array mbira


So, I got in touch with Daniel to ask him how he got started in music..

I started out making music for myself and sharing whatever I created with close friends. Markus Persson, the original creator of Minecraft was one of those friends. When he asked me to create music for his game, Minecraft was merely a tech demo that had nothing but a flat surface you could place blocks upon. As I kinda had nothing better to do, I agreed on helping him out creating music, and sound. So essentially I created every song and almost every little sound effect heard in the game. And I still do, actually. Turns out the game is really popular and sells super well.

Where did you first hear about the Array Mbira virtual instrument?

I kinda learned about Soniccouture in general after I was allowed to play a pan drum for a short while. And there was really nothing about actual hangs in the sampling market, except for Soniccoutures library. I still use the hang library a lot. Mostly in the background as a kind of flavor to the overall sound.

After playing around with the pan library, I got into more and more of the instruments Soniccouture makes, and they’re really brilliant unique stuff. I absolutely love it so so much, haha. Like, the bowed piano, gamelan, music box and the crazy speak and spell library. I pretty much use a little bit of everything in all of my productions.

Oh, and Geosonics is gonna be super useful for some future Minecraft music, and I will use it a lot there.

Would you say Array Mbira is one of the signature sounds of Minecraft ? Could you point us at some of your favourite Array Mbira tracks?

I used the Array Mbira library very prominently for the soundtrack to the documentary about Minecraft. Something about the quality of the instrument kind of made me want to stretch its soundscape over the entire thing. Maybe to make it feel connected, of sorts. So no, I don’t use the Mbira as part of my individual sound, but it sounded so good to me that I decided to write an entire 90 minute soundtrack having it as a backing instrument.

…I think the stuff you make really makes my life easier, since I love to write unique music.

Another track which prominently features the mbira :
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Guy Sigsworths Magic Loop: Producing Alison Moyet

Guy Sigsworths Magic Loop: Producing Alison Moyet

By Soniccouture  |  05.07.2013

A few years ago (checks email : 2010, in fact), Madonna/Bjørk/Frou Frou/everyone producer Guy Sigsworth got in touch to tell us how useful he finds a certain loop from our Tremors collection :

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From: Guy Sigsworth <>

Date: Sun, 19 Sep 2010 18:54:38 +0100
To: james thompson <>
Subject: Hi from Guy

Hey James. I’m sure you’ll remember this loop from your “Tremors”
collection: 140-shambiling-hats

I put it into a track I was writing. Then I played it to Alison Moyet, and now it’s in one of her songs; then I played it to a new artist, Cass Lowe, and it’s in one of his songs too. It’s going viral!

So funny. It sounds so simple – like it’s just filtered white noise – but it’s got this peculiar character. I guess it’s really easy to fit behind just about anything and get an instant feeling of atmosphere. It’s like the modern, digital version of stylus surface noise. I may start trying to program my own versions of it, just for variety’s sake.

Well, as you may know, the album, The Minutes was recently released on Cooking Vinyl, and it was great to finally hear the track in question, Remind Yourself :

Guy also tells us that the harpsichord type sound in the song intro is in fact Soniccouture’s Plucked Piano instrument from Xtended Piano :

“It’s the thing most people think is a harpsichord, playing right across the song. It’s most audible above the fray towards the end of the track. Actually, the French harpsichord gets used quite a lot – often in places where people might not realise. It’s doubling all the big synth riffs in “Apple Kisses”, for instance. I often use Pianoteq’s harpsichords too, but they only do a single stop sound. If I want that big sound, of the 8′ and 4′ coupled together, the SC French harpsichord is the one. It’s huge.”

Guy is a long time Soniccouture user and supporter – in fact he was one of the people who first suggested we create an Ondes Martenot instrument, which we eventually did. He told us :

“I REALLY LIKE the SC instrument libraries because:

1. They’re really interesting, unusual colours. You keep finding exotic instruments and unfamiliar timbres which have been largely overlooked by other sample library makers.

2. You put them together into sensible, practical programmes; so you can just sit and compose with them; at a keyboard, and in C major if necessary. Obviously there’s a place for great atonal noise collections too. But when I buy an SC instrument, I’m not worried it won’t be able to adapt to play something tonal, melodic or chordal in an existing song arrangement, if that’s what I need it to do. Of course it’s more fun to compose something new, specifically for the SC sounds. But sometimes it has to fit into an existing project. And that’s never a problem.

2. They’re in tune. Nothing makes me more angry than buying an expensive sample library only to discover it’s going to sound terrible if you MIDI it up with, say, an FM8 playing at A440 in equal temperament. I never understand library makers who excuse bad intonation or a non-440 pitch centre on the basis that it’s more “real” or “vibey”. It’s really easy to make a 440 ET instrument play at 415 in Pythagorean using the Kontakt factory scripts. It’s a nightmare trying to do this in reverse, especially when you’re on a deadline to finish a song.

3. They’re reasonably consistent across the instrument. I don’t expect a sample collection to have the unwavering timbral uniformity of a digital synth. But it’s also annoying to find, say, all the middle c samples sounding kind of dead and broken. I’ve never had to adjust the key splits on any SC instrument. I can’t say that for other libraries I’ve bought.

By the way. I LOVE your Kontakt script collection. On “A Place To Stay” there’s an organ sample being detuned using that script of yours (can’t remember the name) that does Penderecki-style slow glissandos. I think you should make another script collection!”

And the magic noise loop ? It lives on :

” I’ve used that Tremors top loop again on a piece for Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir which is coming out this month. It’s only in the quiet bits. You can hear it clearly in the long form version, but it’s largely left out of the “radio edit” I’m afraid. It’ll be on the internet soon.”

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