Sample Logic Modern Animated Percussion
Sample Logic is well known for their line of unique step animator arpeggiators, used in pioneering titles like Gamelan, Cinematic Keys and Bohemian. The new Modern Animated Percussion borrows core functionality from the engine to take percussion looping in a whole new direction.
Sample Logic titles are always very enjoyable to review, if somewhat ambiguous in nature. This new title is clearly focused on sound design, soundtracks and game music producers, so while sound quality will be important, a comprehendible and uncomplicated workflow will be paramount.
Modern Animated Percussion (MAP) is a sample library based on the Kontakt platform and requires the full professional version to run.
Targeting sound designers, film, TV and game producers, MAP features four core MIDI loop engines, each with flexible step-sequencer, programmable effects and advanced meta-tagged browsing.
Containing nearly 14,000 samples with the new 4-core audio engine, MAP weighs in slightly under 5GB installed. Included are over 6000 (!) presets split over four categories. (Let 6000 presets sink into your mind for a bit.)
Once you’ve purchased, downloading and installing is a breeze using the Connect Manager. We experienced some stability issues with the Connect app, but we have been working with the support team to resolve the problems.
MAP looks glorious in white, with clearly defined core sections in bright contrasting colours. Though the interface looks straight-forward enough, it took a while to become familiar with the unusual workflow.
MAP has four distinct zones or ‘cores’ on the main page. Each has a number of rudimentary controls to the left and a large step sequencer dominating much of the screen.
One of the first things you’ll do is browse through patches using the context-sensitive and meta-tagged database type system. Not immediately apparent at first is the four-way browsing system.
The main global ‘Instrument’ browser is for finding new full instrument combinations, including arpeggiators, effects and samples. The massive database is separated into smaller, meta-tagged categories.
Secondary browsing can be found by clicking on one of three sub-sections; core presets, source or step animator presets. This is quite an involved system for manually deciding on patches, but well designed once you get a feel for how everything interacts.
The source browser features the ability to use C1 and D1 on your keyboard to cycle through presets. A nifty system that that speeds previewing patches on the fly. It would be nice to have all browsers cyclable using keyboard keys like this.
Clicking around the interface reveals a complex structure for each of the cores, particularly the effects engines. But as a new user I found MAP easy enough to navigate through the basic features, load presets and control the playback without too much trouble. Digging deeper requires some manual reading, or perhaps one or two of the well make YouTube video tutorial videos.
The general interface I found intuitive and after some time creating my own patches most controls become second nature. There is no set workflow to follow, you can systematically work your way through or just arbatrailly choose controls to tweak at random, equally interesting results will be found.
Though you can’t play MAP as a typical drum machine with multiple samples assigned across your keyboard as you might expect, you can disable the sequencer playback for each channel and trigger each as a one-shot. While this is far from what I would call a playable ‘drum machine’, it brings an added level of performance for live or when sequencing individual elements on the fly.
Swapping instrument presets is clunky, requiring the engine to stop playback while it loads the new sounds. Individual core samples, of course, load much faster and can generally be performed on the go, though there no way to pre-queue samples ready to load via key trigger, automation, or even after a period of bars or loops.
There is no option to import your own samples, which is not a deal breaker due to the huge content selection included. What I found really disappointing is you cannot export the MIDI output to your DAW for further editing. This is a real shame as, even though MAP has plenty of scope for sequencing longer loops, the ability to export your creations as you make them would be a lifesaver. Rather nice grooves have been lost because I had randomised something or fiddled with another control or two – and you can’t undo changes.
The core animators are the star attractions and perform a fantastic job breathing life into the one-shot samples. There is an array of control over timing, velocity and pitch plus a nifty stutter control should find plenty of uses in most modern production.
To help stay in relative time with itself, each core can be force-quantized which squeezes your creations nicely into one bar. There is also a handy notification at the bottom of the UI informing you of miss-aligned cores and how to fix them.
I did not find the randomiser function as usable here as it is on other more melodic sample libraries. Even though you can filter elements for randomisation, it’s highly unlikely I would be looking for wildly different beat ideas.
I would much rather see something more structured here – a randomiser with direction; something that takes you more towards a style; perhaps more EDM feel, or more Tribal, more Celtic etc.
MAP utilises a very good selection of effects with some rather imaginative presets. The effect section for each core is a fully-fledged sequencer in its own right, with steps for applying effects consistently or in beat with the master sequencer play head, so endless options for animating the sound with processing alone. A nice touch is the effect steps do not have to be regulated by the core, so you can offset the step amounts as you like creating even more levels of complexity.
MAP feels like it has a mind of its own at times, especially once you start layering up the effects. Tweaking a small element in one area might make a major change to the entire sound, depending on how your tower of effects is arranged.
I find this both fun and frustrating. Finding happy accidents is good, but you can’t step back in time, so restoring that great setting you had three or four changes back is tedious.
In addition to inserted effects, MAP has an envelope, filter, EQ and ‘Energy’ effect for each channel and a master effect mixer with a further 6 effect inserts and a global reverb.
At any one stage a zone could have upwards of 18 individual effects running! This can be little like juggling chainsaws, the trick is to lightly sprinkle highlights and let the step animators do most of the heavy lifting.
A Beautiful Noise
Playing through the global instrument presets is a joy. The astounding amount of content is fairly well wrangled by the browser meta-tagging system, and there is little chance of running out of fresh ideas anytime soon.
MAP’s simplistic playback system consists of a single note on your keyboard to trigger all four cores at once, plus four more keys for each of the cores to be played independently.
The only other option is to disable the core animator and play each channel as a one-shot, as mentioned earlier. This actually adds quite a lot to the performance flexibility of the instrument. The one-shot samples usually sound vastly different to the core’s current preset, often allowing you to throw in some timely accents for effect.
I’m hesitant to choose my favourite presets from the collection, but I definitely love the low synth drones and vocal percussion elements. These always sound great when mixed with other more traditional percussive loops.
MAP has a habit of sounding too upfront and busy when used with anything but the most action-packed arrangement. I spent a lot of time reining sounds in because randomised presets can easily sound like a bunch of caffeine-crazed drummers all trying to outperform each other – particularly harsh when matched with more delicate orchestral arrangements.
The trick is to slowly start building up a collection of favourite sounds and animator presets. Cold-auditioning presets, everything starts sounding the same after a while. I have made a handful of go-to’s sounds I tend to start most projects with, this certainly helps focus scratch building grooves.
MAP feels setup extremely well for sound design, the layout and workflow suits more aggressive onboard effect and processing usage. I would say hip hop or orchestral metal producers may find inspiration here, but at this price and the lack of more mundane kits, probably not ideal for pop. Country and folk producers – there is nothing to see here. Sorry!
Though the arpeggiator sequencer is rather clever and flexible, the star attraction for me is the jaw-dropping amount of content included. The massive sample base has been supplied in partnership with Soundiron, all of which sounds outstanding. All of the presets sound top notch, easily on par with the best Hollywood offerings.
6000 presets is hard to comprehend until you’ve spent a good hour cycling though, only to realise you’ve hardly scratched the surface. Presets do contain shared samples, and you do hear the same sounds popping up every now and again. But generally, the presets are unique enough with rhythms and effects that will inspire you to mark as favourites to revisit.
The basic sound of MAP I would describe as cinematic, but quite glitchy, industrial, and tribal orientated. There are a good number of bass, synth and melodic samples mixed in, as well as plenty of really unusual textures.
I do wish there were more standard grooves and sounds included, even though there are a million 808/909 clones out there, I would like the ability to layer some more down to earth beats with the more out-there stuff, particularly kicks, hi-hats and snares of which there are very few included.
I am not convinced that MAP is either a drum machine or a loop player. It has elements you would associate with drum sequencing but really is a clever four-channel effect engine. Just about every company has their own variation of this format, but MAP is the only one with such a formidable collection of high-quality samples and the most flexible effects system I have seen.
Due to the experimental nature of MAP, and particularly the risk of losing progress by inadvertently clicking some random dial or control, the lack of MIDI drag and drop is a massive bummer.
Price is a little steep for causal producers, but the target demographic should find this good value considering the extensive high end content.
Overall though, Modern Animated Percussion is a wonderful collection of contemporary sounding elements with a flexible processing workflow that will provide countless ideas and inspiration for users.
It’s not a jack of all trades, but in the cinematic beat making realm MAP is king.
For full details and purchasing, check the main website www.samplelogic.com
Header image courtesy of Paul Zoetemeijer