Review: The Unfolding Sun by Rob van Boogert

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A unique, fairly easy to use library created by an actual working musician and not coding geeks. The result is a very musical and useful tool for anyone looking to add some texture and fresh sounds to their musical palette.

Jump to the Videos of The Unfolding Sun by Rob van Boogert

Jump to the Demos of The Unfolding Sun by Rob van Boogert

 

Review: The Unfolding Sun by Rob van Boogert

Now and then, a product appears that actually worms its way into your heart. You find yourself increasingly using it and it even becomes a fixture in your production process. The Unfolding Sun is such a product. Not only does it have a really strange name (more on that later), but it’s home-grown and entirely musician built. In a very short time, it has become a key element (along with a number of other choice products) in much of the work I do. It sounds great, has lots of blending potential, and most importantly, it’s easy to use! More than can be said of a lot of other more, shall we say, well-known products.

For any composer/producer looking for added color and texture, it’s definitely worth a listen. It won’t bring down the house or guarantee you the next epic masterpiece but used imaginatively, it definitely has a place in your compositional toolkit.

The Unfolding Sun sells for 149 euros from Rob van Boogert

Thoughts

Seems like every week, there’s a ‘new’ sample library being released, older ones re-released (if that’s a word) or updated, with new prices to boot! ‘Final’ sales are never really final and products keep being re-marketed. It’s actually somewhat overwhelming. I mean how many string libraries and hybrid sound design sound-sets does a composer really need? Especially in an industry where the call for new music seems to be diminishing, not increasing. At least in the short term.

But every now and then, a product appears that has little hype and no real precedence. It’s not going to be a game-changer. But neither does it make over-wrought promises of turning your tracks into the next cutting-edge masterpieces.

Welcome to The Unfolding Sun. A new sample library created by Rob van Boogert. And no one else! No small army of coders, engineers and composing geniuses, (though to be fair, Rob is pretty talented and writes good music!). Only one man, three mics, a bunch of acoustic instruments and apparently significant time on his hands.

Who you say? Certainly not a name I was familiar with either, though that was my loss. As mentioned, he’s a one man show. A talented musician, engineer and obviously a Kontakt wizard to boot! If you want to hear what he does with his product, his music demos are available on his web-site, which is also the official site for the sample library. As of now, there is only one real product available, ( if you don’t count a package of Repro presets). The Unfolding Sun.

As the title suggests, a lot of the instrument patches, of which there are many, are in the ‘unfolding’ style. In other words, they tend to be pads and textures that unfold or evolve over time. Sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically. There are also many soundscape patches, bass and low end pulses, and obviously many traditional ‘pluck and play’ instrument patches, both acoustic and processed. There’s percussion (shaker, tambourine, small drums etc) and a number of patches that can be tempo synced to your DAW’s project. In other words, you get a lot for your money!

The samples were all recorded by Rob in his studio using a small collection of acoustic string instruments. Makes sense, because he’s fundamentally a guitarist by trade. He recorded a ukulele, mandolin, Kalimba, acoustic, electric and bass guitars (phew!) and added male and female vocal tidbits. Similar to the content of other libraries based on these kinds of sound sources. But, what sets this library apart, in my opinion, is the myriad and ingenious ways that Rob processed and morphed these basic samples into hundreds of evocative and highly playable musical instruments.

That’s where the magic lies! Because these samples all came from organic wood and steel instruments, they sound warm and, well, organic. But they can also blend really well with other synth pads and sounds. I recently layered a number of the pad sounds with some patches from other virtual synths I work with regularly. And I must say, they added a lot of character and in many cases a definite edge to the sounds I was blending them with. I love it when samples play nice and can be used with other samples to create new and fresh sounds. A definite plus in my book, making your purchase that much more versatile.

I want to take a minute to address some of the pros and cons mentioned above. One of the most attractive features of this library is that Rob has given most of the patches descriptive titles of what the patch actually sounds like. Percussive Foley Transition, Singing Wineglasses, Ukulele Soprano, Endless Guitar, Soft Vibrato Pad…well you get the point. There’s still some esoteric ‘artsy -artsy’ titling here and there (Reversed Unfolding Dryness or Parallel Sun Pad) but by and large, you’re not really left wondering what the hay the patch sounds like. I get pretty tired of running through lists of titles with pretentious names like Underground Demon Wish or Fairy Dust Flare pad ( I made these up!) only to find out that they’re basically sine wave or sawtooth filtered synth pads. No idea what they could be used for or in what context based on the title. So, plain descriptive titles is a big plus in my books and surprisingly not commonly found. Makes you wonder why other libraries can’t be more down to earth and clearer in their nomenclature.

Another plus, for me at least, is the intuitive and very simple GUI (though I’m not a huge fan of the design aesthetic, but hey… different strokes and all) There aren’t too many different switches and parameters to fiddle with. Only the basic ones you need. More, less, loud and quiet. (Reminds me of the good old days when a guitar amp only had 4 buttons; volume, gain, bass, treble and maybe some mid-boost or a spring reverb. Simple but effective). While fiddling and playing around is fun at times, most of us prefer to play music not knobs and switches. Rob provides the user with everything they need and nothing more. While it may seem like extra value to have vast amounts of choice, the reality is most of us don’t have the time nor inclination to fiddle around with sounds. We’re pretty much creatures who want immediate playing satisfaction!

Most of the cons I listed, are basically matters of taste. I like manuals but in reality, you won’t find yourself needing one here. The CPU hogging thing is not unique to this library. It’s an issue with most modern libraries. Really only a problem if you have a maxed out older machine or you’re the type who likes to drive their computer off a cliff every now and then. As with most other larger programs, just watch your CPU usage and work accordingly. And it’s only an issue with the more elaborate patches and multis. At least Rob had the decency to warn the user!

One pet peeve I do have is font readability. I suppose this really is an issue for those of us at a certain age. But for heaven’s sake, please consider our poor eyes! Why can’t the text be a little larger? I know there is an inherent limitation within Kontakt that makes that difficult, but that doesn’t mean nothing can be done. Why not make the contrast between text and background clearer so we don’t have to put our noses against the screen just to see what is written on a knob or a switch! Of course, this library is by no means the only culprit. Seems to be a common enough issue. But is it one that could be addressed by the GUI designers when creating the look and feel of a product? That includes the use of backgrounds and wallpapers. I mean, beige text on a yellowish background doesn’t work very well! Ergo my con about the aesthetic of the nature motif in this GUI. Pretty enough, but it interferes with the readability of the text, at least for me. A minor quibble and rant over!

Please note that a lot of the demos for this library use the guitar and string instrument patches heavily. Nothing wrong with that. But there are many ambient pulses and evolving pads too. Again, it all depends on what you want to use this library for. (Of course, a lot of these patches would sound great played through a midi guitar!) But the library could certainly use a few, let’s call them, more sonically adventurous tracks that make good use of the ambient and sound design elements, of which there are many. They could show off the real versatility of this product.

There’s more to be said, but the website lays out pretty much everything you need to know. Oh and here is the final kicker! Free Updates for life!!

So all in all, a great little library that can add lots of fresh color and texture to any composition. Applied wisely, it can become a useful tool in your toolkit. It certainly has for me! Great work Rob. Wondering what you’ll be up to next!

Facts

Full version of Kontakt 6.X and up needed. Will not run on Kontakt Player

18 GB of space needed from 14.88 GB compressed

Mac OS X 10.10 or later, Intel Core 2 Duo and/or Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 10 (latest Service Pack, 32/64-bit) Intel Core 2 Duo or AMD Athlon 64 X2

Recorded at 48000, 24bit

Recorded with two SE Electronics SE 2300 mics in stereo, and an SM57 Shure microphone. (Love it…a Shure SM57!)

The Unfolding Sun sells for 149 euros from Rob van Boogert

 

Demos of The Unfolding Sun by Rob van Boogert

 

Videos of The Unfolding Sun by Rob van Boogert



Contributor MCR reviews The Unfolding Sun by Rob van Boogert
“A unique, fairly easy to use library created by an actual working musician and not coding geeks. The result is a very musical and useful tool for anyone looking to add some texture and fresh sounds to their musical palette.”