Review: Zebra Tunguska: Dark Edition by The Unfinished

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It might be the height of the summer holidays, but over at Unfinished towers, a cold, dark and sinister storm has gathered with the release of his most disturbing soundset so far for Zebra 2 and Zebra HZ.

Jump to the Videos of Zebra Tunguska: Dark Edition by The Unfinished

Jump to the Demos of Zebra Tunguska: Dark Edition by The Unfinished

 

Review: Zebra Tunguska: Dark Edition by The Unfinished

In the wake of the recent amazing scores for series such as Chernobyl (Hildur Gudnadottir) and Midsommar (The Haxan Cloak) it seems we are ushering in a new wave of suspense and modern horror composition. It is this minimalist, dissonant and sound design heavy approach that is the main inspiration behind Tunguska. The sound designer behind The Unfinished, Matt Bowdler, demonstrates just how far Zebra can be abused, as he turns his talents firmly to the dark side.

Zebra Tunguska: Dark Edition sells for £24.99 (Regular) £34.99 (Dark Edition) from The Unfinished

Thoughts

We are treated to a few more patches than normal (200 versus the normal 180) in this collection, which is doubled in the Dark Edition which remixes all the regular presets for owners of Zebra HZ. All the typical sound types are here, but there is a noticeable bias towards more atonal categories such as soundscapes and far less in the way of leads for example, which reflects the focus of this soundset.

There are a large number of basslines to start us off that crackle with distortion and pounding low frequencies. As with many of the patches here the modwheel is assigned to various parameters, that have the net effect of opening up the sound so it gets brighter and grittier. The combination of sequencer and delay gives some of these lines an off-kilter and complex movement. If you want a simpler brooding bass then the regular ‘one shot’ bass presets are a better bet. There is a great range here – dirty punch to ominous growling to edgy subs. The Rapture preset shown below is a really inspiring one that begins as a very wet saturated sub that finally utterly disintegrates, via the modwheel controlling two wave-shapers at full tilt.

Rapture Preset

There are a handful of drum sounds, including one called Overthrow which gives a new take on a low, distorted kick drum. The keyboard sounds are all detuned and/or quite atonal. Standout ones like Winter Night would work very well as feature instruments for horror cues, either alone or layered with another macabre sound. The synth sounds continue this theme and might be best described as synthesisers in various degrees of deterioration. Although only nine in number they are all very inspiring to play and can really fill the sound out with so much distortion, delay and reverb going on.

The loops reveal a wide range of pulsing drum sounds that veer from quick distorted chattering to slow, brooding throbs. Seinheim is a really cool one with crusty noise on a galloping rhythm that evokes a ghost train of dread. Pushing the mod wheel on this ones closes up the high frequencies and makes the sound tighter and darker.

Seinheim Preset

Pads are very much a specialty of The Unfinished and although we have a little less than normal in Tunguska, there is still plenty to get you inspired. We are transported even more here into a dystopian nightmare of noisy, unstable darkness. Such is the complexity of timbre in many of these that they also work superbly (if not better) as one note drones. Best be in a good mood to use these though as I have yet to hear a more depressing collection of pads (and I mean this as a complement!).

Perhaps my own highlight of this collection are the soundscapes. These are often less well populated in most preset collections, but here we have 39 journeys through a foreboding and desolate future. This is where Matt is channelling the superb atmospheric work in the recent series Chernobyl most obviously. Those textures were all created from various recordings in industrial buildings, but in the right hands Zebra shows that it can be extremely organic and evocative too. Over The Horizons is a fine example of just how evolving these are. As can be seen in the screenshot below there is some really detailed programming involved on all four of the XY slots. You could literally hold one note down and ride each one plus the mod wheel for five minutes and create a continuously morphing atmosphere. Amazing!

Over The Horizons Preset

There is just one SFX here which is a huge braams-esque bass pitch dive and then the collection is rounded out by a significant number of sequences. These pulse away, sometimes lurching, sometimes grimly floating and sometimes feeling like a circuit bent 80s toy. In keeping with the aesthetic of this collection none of them are melodically complex and all are mercilessly noisy and destroyed.

For users who also own Zebra HZ there is an option to buy the Dark Edition soundset, which reinterprets all the normal Zebra presets for this special version of the synth. Comparing a few examples what you get here is a distinctly darker, more twisted and a less digital, more analogue version of the corresponding original patch. For example, in the Fried Onions preset what was a hollow sounding sub becomes a more aggressive sounding bass with a vintage filter and a wider soundstage. By the time you ride the mod wheel right up they sound very different, so for the extra £10 I think it’s a no-brainer to get the add-on pack as it effectively gives you 200 new presets.

Fried Onions HZ Preset

Named after the huge explosion caused by an asteroid in Russia in 1908, The Unfinished Tunguska collection lives up to its namesake with a brutal collection of dark power. I have nothing to fault this collection at all, bar some of the samples being so loud they clipped my DAW, resulting in nasty digital distortion (though for this collection maybe that is the intention, who knows?!).

This soundset will be of interest to any composer working in the thriller, suspense, action, dark drama or horror genres. They will work brilliantly across all media, from film scores to TV, games and trailers. I can also see the appeal to electronic music producers with a penchant for disturbing and unusual sounds. It is very much instant gratification as the patches are superbly finessed and with built in performance parameters that can take many of the presets in quite radical departures with just a few midi cc moves. The Unfinished has an uncanny knack of being able to sense current trends and then create something that builds upon it and pushes everything forward – Tunguska is a prime example of that. It is synth programming of the highest order and I have a hunch this collection may in time become one of the most popular in his already prestigious catalogue.

Facts

Tunguska consists of 200 presets for the u-he Zebra 2 soft synth. The Dark Edition adds a further 200 patches for Zebra HZ. You will need to be a registered owner of each synth to be able to use this product.

Zebra Tunguska: Dark Edition sells for £24.99 (Regular) £34.99 (Dark Edition) from The Unfinished

 

Demos of Zebra Tunguska: Dark Edition by The Unfinished

Videos of Zebra Tunguska: Dark Edition by The Unfinished

Contributor Sam Burt reviews Zebra Tunguska: Dark Edition by The Unfinished
“It might be the height of the summer holidays, but over at Unfinished towers a cold, dark and sinister storm has gathered with the release of his most disturbing soundset so far for Zebra 2 and Zebra HZ.”