Review: Sonokinetic Noir by Sonokinetic
Beautifully recorded lush instrumentation
Phrase-based library with many cool, blues-soaked melodies and progressions
Intuitive interface for those familiar with Sonokinetic’s other products
Lots of ways to manipulate and combine the phrases
Needs lots of drive space and a fast drive for optimal performance
Phrases can sound unnatural and glitch when overlapping with other phrases
Interface takes some getting used to for those not familiar with Sonokinetic’s aesthetic
No drums or stand-up bass
Sonokinetic’s Noir gives everyone access to a beautiful world of dark, dreamy, blues-drenched colours that would fit wonderfully in any vintage detective or drama series. Think Hitchcock, or Maigret or even some throwback Film Noir movie that’s channeling that era. While it’s phrase-based approach is certainly not to everyone’s liking, the technology allows any user, even those without formal jazz orchestration instruction, to create realistic pieces that sound lush and very polished.
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Review: Sonokinetic Noir by Sonokinetic
Noir sells for €299.90 from Sonokinetic
To phrase or not to phrase. Seems like the camps of those who are for or against phrase-based libraries are irrevocably set. On the one hand are those who are aghast at using any phrase library considering it as a form of cheating, not to mention railing against its fundamental limitations. (more on that later). Then there’s the other camp who heartily embrace phrase libraries for their ease of use and the opportunity that they afford to quickly create realistically sounding compositions. Obviously, Sonokinetic caters to that crowd!
Where do I sit? Somewhere in the middle, I guess. While I definitely see the limitations of the phrase-based approach, namely the fear that eventually you will run out of phrases to use, and/or that others will be using the same phrases, I also like the advantages. Few composers have access to high-quality ensembles recorded in top-notch halls and studio settings. And if you’re under a tight deadline and need a Bernard Herrmann sounding track for the trailer you’re working on, Noir is a God-send.
Noir sounds spectacular. The strings have that polished shimmer and velvety lushness that you’d expect from a top-notch cool-jazz orchestra arranged by the likes of Gil Evans or Nelson Riddle. The brass swells and stabs are crisp and soulful and eminently useful. The winds are beautifully recorded and offer a broad variety of runs and trills that add just the right colour and mood. I daresay that many of these elements taken on their own would come in handy in many other, different settings, not just film noir. This makes Noir useful to any composer seeking alternate or ancillary textures to add to existing compositions. So, no waste there!
There’s also a solo section with individual lines and solo phrases that fit seamlessly one into the other across the various modules available to weave together a totally realistic melody line. That’s because these are actual performances! There’s been some mention by other reviewers that some of the solos sound a little out of tune, but hey, it’s moody, bluesy music! Frankly, in combination with the orchestral underlays and other stuff, I never really noticed. And that muted trumpet sounds gorgeous! Again, another instrument that could easily be used in some TV underscore or even something more ambitious.
I won’t go into too much detail about the actual workings of the interface. Other reviews have commented on those technical features. Though it is worthwhile to mention that you can output a midi file of the various phrases and roll your own instruments if you so wish.
From my standpoint, though Noir may look weird to those not familiar with Sonokinetic products, it’s actually fairly intuitive once you catch on to their aesthetic and logic. I would say the best thing to do is tinker around and see what does what. It’s not that complicated! If you’re like me, an hour or so of playing around will have you spitting out something listenable that will sound pretty good! Now, that’s not bad in comparison to other top-notch libraries (who shall remain nameless), some of which have a pretty high learning curve. Right?
Ok then. Let’s address the elephant in the room. Why pay for a phrase-based library that has a finite number of phrases when I can write as many as I want of my own and record them myself?
Well, there’s a number of reasons that I can think of. Probably this will engender some blow-back from hard-core purists with hefty purses out there. And that’s fine. Guess what! Noir was not created for you.
But for someone like me, a blue-collar working composer churning out stuff every day to pitch to briefs, often with a few scant hours turnaround time, phrase libraries fill a definite need. What’s that? Access. Namely, access to professionally scored and recorded musical bits and pieces that can help me garnish a great sounding composition in the shortest time possible. I rarely if ever have the time or the resources to hire a 50-string orchestra, put them into a good hall, hire a top-notch engineer with top-notch gear to record them, not to mention copyists, orchestrators and so on.
For me, phrase-based libraries fill a niche that suits my work style perfectly. Fast, great-sounding, somewhat malleable and cheap. Did I mention cheap? Actually, hiring and recording a good Jazz ensemble would cost more than most briefs payout!
The other aspect I want to comment on is this fear that everyone else will be using the same phrases and lines. Well, have you ever played a blues progression? Probably, umpteen times. When you record a blues phrase are you worried that millions of others have used and are using that same progression again and again? Probably not! What about a driving string ostinato. Sound familiar? Sure, because more than likely, that ostinato or a variation thereof has been used thousands of times before! But when that ostinato is put into a musical context with other instruments and textures, it ceases to be an issue. Because no one cares!
So with Noir. Nobody says you have to use individual phrases on their own again and again. Sure, then they will start to sound familiar and overused. But if you use them within a greater musical framework, who’s gonna’ notice? Except you and a dozen musical purists out there. And in the field of production music, trust me, no one cares if things repeat, as long as you hit the brief! And if that music sounds somewhat familiar, all the better!
Other than the missing drums and bass, (trust me, you’ll want to use a great jazz drum library with these plus play in your own bass lines) Noir is a pretty impressive package. I’ve added a piece I wrote using Noir exclusively (except with added drums for continuity and drive). Was pretty painless and didn’t take all that long!
Contributor MCR reviews Sonokinetic Noir by Sonokinetic
“Sonokinetic’s Noir gives everyone access to a beautiful world of dark, dreamy, blues-drenched colours that would fit won While it’s phrase-based approach is certainly not to everyone’s liking, the technology allows any user to create realistic pieces that sound lush and very polished.”