Soniccouture – Box of Tricks

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By David Christiansen

Sometimes virtual instruments are created for artists for studio work, albums, sometimes live performances and later on they are released. Imogen Heap’s Box of Tricks is such a library and an extraordinary instrument created of her in cooperation with Soniccouture. After three years of refining 13 Kontakt instruments are release. The library consists of 30GB of sampled material and comes in a 12.7GB download. Kontakt 5.5 or later is required to run the instruments.

SOUND
All instruments are recorded in high-end quality and with a thoughtful use and placement of microphones. The sound quality is superb and the sample files have been saved in 24bit / 96kHz..

RANGE
One of the most interesting aspects of the library is the programming of the Kontakt instruments. All instruments make use of the complete playable range. On a 88 key controller all keys can be played. In Kontakt the original sampled range is marked blue and the transposed notes on the upper and lower end are marked green.

INSTRUMENTS

Array-Mbira
9 velocity layers, 5 octaves.

Cello
Pizz with 16 velocity layers and 3 round robins / bow / harmonic slides, reverse pizz.

Cocktail-Kit
With up to 64 velocity layers and room and direct mics. Great use of Euclidean Beats Module (explained later on)
* One of the instruments I will use most for all kinds of compositions *

Tongue Drum
10 velocity layers, 3 round robin layers, one octave sampled, sounds good on whole keyboard.

Body & Vocal Percussion
61 sounds
Play sounds with single sounds on the keys, or arrange with the Jammer or or Euclidean Beats Module.

Vibraphone
Articulations are fingernails, bow (decay, looped) and reverse and come all with 9 velocity layers.

Vocalpad
Articulations are: dry, ghost, reverse. The articulations can be mixed with the 3 sliders.

Boomwhackers
32 velocity layers with carpet & wooden beaters.

Whirly-Tubs
Pad sound with chromatic sampled Whirly Tubes.

Glockenspiel
11 velocity layers and 3 round robin layers, great sound and great with Jammer 2.0 and Hamoniser (explained later on).

Shruti Box
With spectral overtone crossfading. Personally it’s one of the patches I will not use too often. It seems to be a bit less versatile than the other patches.

Waterphone
A colorful great sounding collection of 128 waterphone sounds.

Marxophone
9 velocity layers.
It’s a fretless zither and very useful for chords and melodies. * This is well is one of the instruments I will use most for many styles of music *

PERFORMANCE MODULES
Are available for each chosen instrument.

Euclidean Beats
Can be used with Cocktail Kit and Vocal + Body Percussion Kit. With this module it’s very easy to generate and program complex beats. Steps and hits per sound can be inserted easily and the results always sound compelling. This way it’s simple to create individual loops. The midi note result can be inserted with drag and drop into the sequencer.

Harmoniser
Can be used with almost all instruments and is a simple NI script giving harmony. Used for instance in combination with the next module Jammer, this can be quite a powerful effect. 26 scales based on all 12 chromatic notes can be used.

Jammer 2.0
An apeggiator with 12 different patterns, which can be automated while playing and assigning options to any MIDI CC. This module has 5 offset controls and 5 evolve control to play around and find creative settings you can use and store. The scale section gives many options: major, minor, black notes, wholte tone C and C# and 8 Messiaen scales, which were invented by Olivier Messiaen.

Strum
The strumming can be used for the instrument Marxophone and for MBira and has a control to allow settings like direction and speed. In Marxophoone the strumming can be split and be used for the left of the keyboard (chords) or for the melody on the right side of the keyboard.

FOCUS
This button let’s you play the sound you just played on the whole keyboard. This can be used for the 61 unique sounds of Vocal & Body Percussion and for the 128 Waterphone sounds.

Pressure/Drift
This is for the SHRUTI BOX which has a possibility to adjust the pressure of the instrument and makes it sound more organic.

MORE
There are so many options to play with in in this library. There is a whole FX section with 17 different insert effects and a random mode. It comes with it’s own convolution reverb: 10 Spaces of Heap’s House. 22 Rooms (Concert Room, Cathedral, Cave…) and 20 SFX-Patches. Another function which is very interesting to experiment with is the SLIM controller which reduces the fundamental frequency of each chromatic note.

It’s interesting to know, that for all instruments there are different snapshots you can load in and learn from the masters behind it, how they create great patches from sometimes simple and pure sounds.

CONCLUSION
Soniccouture – Box of Tricks is an extremely inspiring instrument. It could have been named ‘Box of Inspiration’. The 13 instruments can be embedded in many kind of music. The sample quality is superb. The Performance Modules, Effects and all the possibilities programmed into the instruments. It helps the composer very much, that the best fitting Performance Modules have been choosen and lead to fantastic results in very short time. Box of Tricks has mesmerizing qualities and gives the composer a feeling of great play-ability at the same time.

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