The duo behind Cinematique Instruments have been composing music for films and documentaries for 10 years and have more recently extended their talents to the sampling of rare and strange instruments. Initially selling these individually and collectively as Kontakt‑compatible downloads from their own web site, they subsequently joined forces with Best Service to offer a DVD collection of several dozen instruments employing the bundled YellowTools engine. Both formats feature identical samples, and when I auditioned them side by side, the only slight differences I could hear were between effects such as EQ and reverb.
This is a most eclectic 1.6GB collection, covering arcana such as the strident Bowed Psaltery, a fan‑blown Magnus Harmonica Organ, shimmering Autoharp, plucked Kantele zither, subdued, muted Baritone Ukulele Muted, and the twang of the Celtic Nylon Harp. There are also dark, ambient, filmscape slices, glitches and weird and wonderful incidental effects from the Experimental Box. I was particularly taken by the 14 instruments in the Downbeat Box, consisting of pads created from treated guitars and feedback, loops and beats created with Korg's MS20 and the theremin‑like Outta Space.
However, don't run away with the idea that this collection is only for music students and avant‑garde composers; on the keyboard side, there are small upright and Rhodes MkI pianos, a glockenspiel and a mangled electronic piano through a variety of stomp boxes. There's also some wonderfully varied metal percussion recorded in a smithy, along with pots and pans, struck wine glasses and a comprehensive collection of more traditional percussion.
Most importantly, the instruments are all very playable and expressive, and explored in a wide variety of ways, with multiple velocity layers, round‑robin variations and release samples. To give you an idea of their scope, the Bowed Psaltery is recorded in short, staccato and tremolo versions, including up-bow/down-bow strokes and mod-wheel control over dynamics, processed into long pad‑like variations as a set of performance loops and effects. It is even available as a tempo‑sync'ed arpeggiated version with a clutch of tweakable variations!
There are a few rough edges: it's great to have round‑robin samples on individual notes for added realism, but they shouldn't jump about in the stereo field as they do in the case of the Celtic Harp, while the Bowed Psaltery exhibits the occasional truncated note that doesn't occur in the Kontakt original. However, these are minor points that scarcely detract from the whole. Overall, whichever format you choose, Cinematique Instruments is a unique and inspiring collection of beautifully recorded, yet unusual sounds that will add extra spice and flavour to your music. Martin Walker