Review: Trails by Ergo Kukke
An ambitious sound design library with a beautiful, intuitive interface.
A large variety of sounds to choose from, including atmospheres, one shots, rhythmic loops, FX, and menus.
Huge potential for exploration and creative sound design with the animated 4-core engine.
I would have liked for more organic sound sources- it can be harsh and overly digital.
The synth sounds used in various patches, though implemented creatively, can get a bit redundant and recognizable (example: lots of somewhat harsh lo-fi/bit-crushed presets, etc.)
While some of the presets are inspiring and beautiful, many are too harsh and atonal or bizarre for cinematic music (which is the genre this library is specifically marketed for), and would feel more at home in Electronic music.
Would make sense to allow users to import their own samples.
Trails is an ambitious library marketed as a “visionary cinematic” toolkit, and while it does contain some great sounds, for better or for worse, it alienates itself in the crowded “cinematic” Kontakt market. It requires some patience and effort to get satisfying results. The trade off, however, means your sounds are more personal and unique: if you’ve got the skills and patience.
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Review: Trails by Ergo Kukke
Trails is a fairly unique and beautifully designed Kontakt instrument, developed by sound designer and composer Ergo Kukke. It’s touted as a “visionary cinematic” toolkit for Kontakt, containing a huge variety of sounds in five separate categories: Atmospheres, FX, Menus, One Shots, and Rhythmic. There is a major emphasis on the actual engine behind this library, which features a 4-core sound processing engine and an animated XY grid in the middle, capable of constantly morphing and flowing between each of the four sound sources (based on predetermined patterns or by creating your own custom animated patterns)
Trails sells for £174.50 from Ergo Kukke
Upon loading up Trails, I was very impressed with the beautiful and well designed interface, offering a clean and futuristic look while having all the controls within reach: simple yet functional. I’ll be honest, going into this, I was really not sure exactly what group of composers Trails was trying to market itself towards: some forum threads stated it was “dark and intense”, the official tagline was “visionary cinematic”, and I also saw it described as containing “beautiful trailer sound effects”. Nevertheless, I was very eager and excited to explore this instrument.
Trails contains a large amount of presets, or snapshots, and an equally impressive amount of individual sound sources. The snapshots load up with 4 sound sources chosen for you, along with various effects applied and will often have a specific “movement parameter” loaded for the XY Grid – meaning that as you hold down a note, the dot in the center of the grid will begin to move on a path, either in slow, concentric circles, or shifting to each corner of the grid, or sometimes having a violent and jerking motion that gives a glitchy, wobbly type effect. The premise has been used in other sample libraries in the past, and it’s a fantastic tool to use, creating seemingly endless possibilities.
I really enjoyed many of the atmospheres and rhythmic presets: Some of them are ambient and beautiful, such as “Atmos Distant”, which has a deep, evolving pad with light plucks over top which creates a futuristic and reflective mood. The majority of the sounds, however, seemed dark and bizarre, often containing atonal shifts in pitch, or harsh effects such as distortion or a bit-crush effect applied (example: “Atmos Drifted.”)
I definitely welcome the decision to embrace the more dark and strange side of cinematic sounds, but it also presented a small problem: many of these presets are best played as one note, meaning there may be short, evolving melodies that are layered on top as you hold down the note. This makes it so that holding down a chord presents clashing notes that don’t sound quite right, or meaning you will have to adapt your own composition to that certain preset. I mention this only because while the sounds are generally very good, the actual application can sometimes be hit or miss, and in general this is a VERY experimental and unconventional library. Again, I have absolutely no problems with this approach, except the marketing doesn’t quite reflect this.
I find that describing it as a library containing trailer sounds to be a bit misleading, which again, does not mean that the sounds are not good or that this library is not worth your time. I simply see this more as containing sounds that would feel at home in various sub genres of electronica than a modern cinematic trailer. It’s weird, dark, sometimes beautiful, but very, very trippy and unconventional, and doesn’t quite fit in the market of instantly usable and polished trailer effects (example: the hits are not those massive, punchy hits you’d expect in a trailer campaign, but much more synthy and sometimes contain tonal or pitched elements).
I have no doubts this will be a goldmine for many producers and composers out there, and it does contain a unique sonic personality and easily sets itself apart from the overcrowded “trailer” and “cinematic” toolkits on the market, so just keep this in mind. I actually felt marketing this as such almost does it a disservice, because this is an impressively ambitious and powerful library, and while some libraries share a similar interface, the results and overall “mood” of Trails is something different entirely. The power here seemed to lie in pure creation as opposed to seeking a certain sound or relying too heavily on presets. It can be harsh and digital, glitchy and atonal, beautiful and evolving, and everything in between, but it definitely maintains its own unique personality and never quite falls in line with the other libraries marketed to the same group of composers, which can either be a blessing or a curse, depending on your expectations and how far you’re willing to experiment!
There is massive potential, and seemingly infinite sound design possibilities to be found here. Even the name “Trails” is kind of ambiguous, but the more I explored this instrument, the more I seemed to understand: this library wants you to pave your own trail, blaze your own path, and create something new and unique. With enough patience, you can mold this library to do with it as you will, to serve whatever purpose you may need. Some of us pick up a new library for inspiration and to achieve a certain sound, usually one that is popular or trendy. The purpose of Trails seems to be the opposite: to encourage you to devote your time and energy to create something entirely new, something unique, something you can call your own. It’s all about risk and reward here, but the developer seems to encourage patience and experimentation over instant results, therefor making sure the results are more personal and satisfying.
Trails requires the full version of Kontakt 5.8.1 or higher to run, and comes in at about 12 GB installed. It retails for 174.50 pounds, which is about $228.
Trails sells for £174.50 from Ergo Kukke
Contributor Brian Freeland reviews Trails by Ergo Kukke
“With Trails, an ambitious “cinematic” library for Kontakt, your sounds are more personal and unique: if you’ve got the skills and patience.”