Ambient White is a Kontakt 5 instrument with a laid-back, meditational essence. The understated Yin/Yang interface offers only basic tweaking of the 250 supplied patches, so it’s really just a matter of lighting a joss stick, selecting a patch and playing. Ambient White is compatible with the player version of Kontakt and occupies around 4GB once installed. Best of all it’s a proper Kontakt library, so you don’t have to hunt for it in the ‘Files’ menu every time.
There are seven patch categories, or strictly speaking six because the first is a multi–layered collection more suited to showing off the quality of the package than slipping into your productions. Browsing through the rest, you’ll find Pads & Atmospheres, Percussion, Melodic and Bass patches, Loops and Effects & Textures — enough to make a coherent whole. The simplicity of the interface is also a plus; the envelope, EQ and effect tweaking provided are more than sufficient given the playability of the samples.
To start with, for unashamedly pleasant, soothing backdrops you could do far worse than meander through the final category, indulging in birdsong, windchimes, babbling brooks, forest ambience and dreamy harps, many doused in reverb and delay. Moving on to the instruments, perhaps unusually for an ambient collection, there are a number of notable basses, not least the excellent Gu Quin (a Chinese zither). This proves to be one of many tastefully rendered Asian flavours ideal for world music, ethnic library tracks, etc.
Many of the drum kits are also suited to far–eastern soundtracks, supplemented as they are by small gongs, lo–fi ambient kits and mallets. The reverb and delay effects act across entire kits, so it’s not possible to isolate individual voices for treatment, but apart from that minor restriction, there’s a reasonable spread of world percussion.
The Melodic category contains less than 30 patches, but they’re all distinctive and usable. It encompasses thumb pianos, Tibetan singing bowls, shakuhachis, chiffy flutes and bells, plus one of the most playable ocarinas I’ve come across. One patch, ‘Valkyries’, is based on an ethereal female chorus and is so good you can’t help but wish a few variations had been added. However, my personal favourite is ‘Hassell Horn 02’, a classy Jon Hassell trumpet impression to grace your ambient/world/chillout tracks.
The loops are interesting, even if not all of them are tempo–sync’ed. Actually, the unsync’ed samples work well in the context of atmospheric backgrounds, but I found the most usable material in the patches: ‘Ambient Acoustic Drum Loops’ (it has over 40 grooves) and ‘Fourth World Percussion Loops’.
Which just leaves the pads. Many of these are so harmonically complex that it makes no sense to play chords; one or two notes is enough. A fair few of these are guitar–sourced too (not that you’d always know it) and, in particular, the various Ambient Pedal Steel patches are rich, shimmering and magical.
For those who believe there can never be too many windchimes, flutes and cymbals, this collection delivers splendidly. Ambient White isn’t particularly cheap but it could be the catalyst for a batch of new chillout tracks, as well as spawning music suitable for massage, meditation or quiet reflection. Paul Nagle