A fixture on the UK’s electronic pop scene since the turn of the Millennium, lauded muso Max Tundra’s career to date has taken in a string of singles and albums on Domino Records, remixes for the likes of Franz Ferdinand, The Futureheads, Missy Elliott and The Strokes, and writing and production credits on 2018 comeback album Daphne & Celeste Save The World. Known for his maximalist electronic style and hugely influential in the world of hyperpop, Max (aka Ben Jacobs) is every bit the ‘producer’s producer’, as evidenced by recent Tweeted praise from no less than PC Music founder and fellow sonic iconoclast A. G. Cook
Who better, then, to point us in the direction of five superb free KONTAKT libraries for contemporary pop production, and put them through their paces with a collection of impressive audio demos? Max’s hand-picked selection provides a rich seam of poptastic sonic options with which to fuel your musical imagination.
“Lockdown Kitchen and Old Tape Drums are percussion libraries,” he explains, “so for melody, I’ve added a bit of THE GRANDEUR and RAZOR to Lockdown Kitchen, and some SCARBEE RICKENBACKER BASS and VINTAGE KEYS to Old Tape Drums. The other three tracks were made using only the libraries themselves, and a little FX.”
Standalone Music Neverland Lead
Packing the three lead synth sounds from KSHMR and 7 Skies’ 2018 hit, “Neverland”, into a simple KONTAKT instrument, Neverland Lead is an instant melodic go-to for your pop and EDM projects. The three sounds – the track’s two main leads, plus the top layer that comes in after the drop – can be mixed as required, while filter and amp envelopes enable customization. And if you’re skeptical as to the authenticity, rest assured that these are the actual sounds from the actual record – producer and sound designer David | 7 Skies is one of the main players in Standalone Music.
Rattly & Raw Lockdown Kitchen
This brilliant KONTAKT freebie, put together during lockdown by Ratty & Raw’s in-house engineer, Emre, maps an entire kitchen’s worth of struck and scraped utensils and surfaces across your MIDI keyboard, from pots, pans and cutlery, to a cooker, a bin, a juicer and much more – over 30 ‘things’ in total. Many of the objects include multiple mapped samples for variation, and clicking an object in the GUI reveals its tuning, distortion, reverb and other controls. Lockdown Kitchen might look like it doesn’t take itself at all seriously, but the samples sound great, and the whole thing is incredibly well executed and eminently playable – a fine source of ’found’ percussion for bolstering your punchy pop beats.
Impact Soundworks Super Audio Boy
The crude but characterful sounds of chiptune have long been ubiquitous in pop music, and Impact Soundworks’ acclaimed Super Audio Cart KONTAKT library is as good a source of them as you’ll find anywhere, bringing the sampled soundchips of eight classic videogame consoles (Nintendo NES, Famicom, SNES and Game Boy; Sega Master System and Genesis; Atari 2600; Commodore C64) together in a powerful four-layer engine. By way of an entirely useable-in-its-own-right free taster, Super Audio Boy isolates the Nintendo Game Boy from that historic octet within the full Super Audio Cart interface, complete with tons of filters and effects, copious modulation options, arpeggiation and sequencing. Game over, as they say.
Wavesfactory Old Tape Drums
Work some grit into your latest polished pop number with Wavesfactory’s seriously lo-fi sampled drum kit. A Ludwig Vistalite five-piece (as most famously used by legendary Led Zep tub thumper John Bonham, and historically remarkable for its acrylic shells) has been recorded to tape cassette in mono. The resulting multisamples are presented in an interface that affords control over tape speed, tuning and coloration, as well as optional playback, rewind and fast-forward noise layers, and eight effects slots drawing on 23 processing modules. Without doubt one of the filthiest drum instruments you’ve ever heard, Old Tape Drums is a fabulously hot mess!
99 Sounds Project Exodus
An absolute must for KONTAKT-toting producers of all denominations, and particularly effective at the darker, moodier end of the pop spectrum, Bryan Lake’s Project Exodus comprises 127 “cinematic” NKIs divided into Atmospheres (drones, textures, ambiences, etc), Instruments (pads, leads, basses, etc) and Sequences (looping rhythmic percussive and melodic lines). The interface lets you get hands-on with reverb, delay, distortion, filtering and an amp envelope; and although the lack of multisampling could be viewed as a negative (each NKI hooks into just a single sample), it yields a wicked chord-sampled vibe with the more harmonically complex instruments – just the thing for introducing a touch of old-school flavor to any track.