Review: Infundibulum #1 by Sound Dust

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Never one to do things normally, the weird and wonderful Sound Dust present an arpeggiator instrument with a plethora of polyrhythmic capabilities. Couple this with both familiar and off-the-wall samples and you have the rather eccentric Infundibulum, with ‘fun’ being the operative syllable.

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First Review: Infundibulum #1 by Sound Dust

Sound Dust is not as widely known as many developers but are no less special because of that. Head developer/mad professor there is Pendle Poucher, who specializes not in recreating an idealized version of a real instrument, but in sampling often odd sounds and creating entirely new virtual instruments. One of their most recent creations, the Infundibulum, is arguably their most enigmatic library yet. The name is a geeky literary reference to Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘Chrono Synclastic Infundibulum’, which is a time funnel. This is most apt as playing with this instrument can at times feel so mind-bending you do indeed feel like you are experiencing the past, present, and future all at once!

Infundibulum #1 sells for £50.00 from Sound Dust

Thoughts

The concept of this library is two-fold and it would be useful to examine each in isolation before we round up with how they work together. Firstly, we have the source sounds themselves which are organised as three ‘oscillators’. Some sound sources are deeply multi-sampled, others are not and instead are stretched beyond their normal range, resulting in very interesting artifacts. They all have different loop lengths (which can be further modified) so before we even get to the arp section the samples can be configured to repeat. The sample sets range from real instruments like clavinet and banjo, to hardware synths and drum machines. In true Sound Dust style there are some oddballs there too, such as a tuning fork, music box and mashed up vocals sampled from a greetings card.

Each of the three sounds has a channel strip with volume, pan, autopan, octave up and down, loop start, loop length, sample start, filters, distortion, ADSR, reverb, some basic vibrato and chorus…..and (phew!) sends to the global inserts. Merely by playing with all these controls and changing the sample sets I was able to get some really interesting combinations, some of which veered into pad territory once the looping kicked in. With 20 different sound sources per oscillator the number of permutations are staggering. It is worth nothing they mostly share the same range of sounds, but oscillators 2 and 3 both swap in a few one-off sound sets. It was also interesting to explore the 24 custom IRs.

Now, where it gets really fun is engaging the per oscillator arpeggiator modules. Each of these are identical and fully featured. You can easily draw in a pattern and specify the steps, swing, decay and speed (which can even be chosen to not be constant). A pull down gives instant access to the most useful basic patterns, whilst another pull down dictates how the arp plays back. I particularly liked the increasingly random wonk and uber wonk options. Two less common parameters are also included – offset lets you shift one arp slightly against the others adding an element of groove progressing to more chaotic timing, whereas pitch shifts the corresponding oscillator in semitone increments, enabling you to get more harmonious or dissonant as you see fit.

Finally we have global dirt, EQ, leslie sim and reverb, with delay and reverb sends to boot. Altogether the extensive controls really give Infundibulum a vast amount of malleability, though on the flip side it might be daunting for some users and some controls are not immediately obvious as to their function. The GUI is very intricate and some may find the symbols and writing too small, but for me I don’t mind as I much prefer everything in one tab, rather than having to scroll to different pages. This busy interface is still logically and clearly laid out. The bright primary colours that link each oscillator with its corresponding arp really help in this regard. I also liked how a concise manual is built into the instrument and how Sound Dust detail what each of the sample set names refer to. ‘Thump’, for example, is revealed to be a sine kick from a MaM ADX1 (90s drum synth). A handy bonus feature is the arp recorder which records whatever the arpeggiators are doing and allows this to be transferred to your DAW as pure midi data, either as three separate midi files or one combined file. This could enable another third party instrument to be layered and locked into the pattern, or to fine edit the arp pattern in your DAW, or it might merely serve as an alternative way to create interesting midi patterns.

For those slightly overawed at the complex interface a healthy selection of 135 snapshots gets you straight into the action, but I guarantee it will only be seconds before you want to start tweaking. It really is a lot of fun using this library, but possibly not the sort of thing to load up when you have a clear idea in your head of a part you want to create, as you will soon get led astray. If a grand piano sample library is like going on a well planned package holiday, Infundibulum is your reckless best friend making you pack your bags in the middle of the night and buy a ticket to anywhere! This mad machine is a time warping idea generator. I got some great results setting the steps and speed/note values to different amounts: regular 16th over 8 steps on osc/arp 1 + meltdown (a jittery slow then fast timing) over 20 steps on osc/arp 2 + triplet 8ths over 15 steps for osc/arp 3 = my head just turned inside out. I am not 100% on the maths, but it might not ever play the same thing twice in such a configuration. Another cool trick is to keep one arp on a really slow value with a peak pattern, so underneath the other arps playing a typical faster pattern you get this long trippy wave sound coming in and out.

Aside from robbing me of hours of my life there is not a huge amount to criticise in this library. Arguably there are too many reverbs (three separate convolutions, one send and one master) which can be confusing when trying to dry up a certain part. I also cannot seem to figure out how to easily disable aftertouch modulating the pitch. Three things I would love to see in an update would be fine tuning per oscillator to get it even more wobbly, the ability to assign other variables like loop length and filter to the arpeggiator modules and, most importantly, a latch function for the arp. I found myself longing to set it going and then not have to hold down the keys on my midi controller as I altered the the settings in Kontakt. In such a tweakers paradise this is a surprising omission.

In use the Infundibulum will be of interest to composers and recording artists that thrive on the left field side of things, embracing unpredictability and some aural chaos. The sound is very hybrid with the blend of real and synthetic sample sets. I feel it would less suit those working on more mainstream projects (it’s way cooler than that). I found that it works superbly as an instrument to help you generate those often elusive starting points of songs or compositions. Additionally, due to it being so customisable, it works well later in the writing process when you need it to fit around existing material.

The walkthrough features Pendle often laughing with joy as he rustles up another moment of sonic anarchy and I have to say it had the same effect on me. It simply is a lot of fun to play with. If you love the electronic patterned approach to music making, but also like things to be slightly wonky, slightly edgy and slightly gritty then you won’t go far wrong with this. It’s a very unusual and modern sound, but not so achingly zeitgeist that it will be out of favour in a year. More than anything the Infundibulum is a real writers block slayer. I know that next time I am facing ‘The Great Blank DAW’ I will be prescribing myself a healthy dose of Infundibulum, even though it comes with hugely addictive side effects!

Facts

Infundibulum is a tidy 550 MB download. It features a single NKI instrument containing 135 snapshots. A full version of Kontakt is required.

Infundibulum #1 sells for £50.00 from Sound Dust

 

Demos of Infundibulum #1 by Sound Dust