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Noon Instruments Toska

Kontakt Instrument By John Walden
Published April 2023

Rating: ***** 5/5 Stars

Noon Instruments ToskaToska is a Russian word that essentially translates as a feeling of sadness, melancholy, despair or anguish that occurs without a specific cause. If you can imagine capturing that sentiment in sonic form, then Noon Instruments have named their first sample‑based Kontakt instrument very appropriately; Toska is a collection of carefully crafted evolving atmosphere and textural sounds that will let music producers or film composers evoke exactly that kind of mood.

The library will run within Kontakt (free or paid) v6.4.2 or later and is built from 6.5GB of sample data derived from a variety of original sound sources including analogue synths, brass, strings, woodwinds, vocal and various field recordings. These source sounds have been blended and carefully processed to create three banks of presets: Instruments (the core of the sounds), Curated Presets (featuring more advanced use of Toska’s processing options) and Relics (sounds with additional, and very obvious, tape‑based processing).

Access to the engine itself is through a UI that’s an interesting combination of minimal and quirky. The PDF manual explains the control set well enough and is well worth consulting because the purpose of some of the controls — Wash, Fog, Mist, Gloom and Haze, for example — are not always obvious. However, despite an uncluttered look, the options for sculpting the core sounds are considerable. For example, the main Warmth, Strength, Width and Wash controls provide analogue saturation, harmonic distortion, stereo manipulation and a dense reverb, respectively. The four sub‑pages (in the lower half of the UI) provide options including an ADSR envelope, EQ, filter (with its own envelope), an intriguing micro‑delay effect with multiple stages (that’s where Fog, Mist, Gloom and Haze come in), a further multi‑stage reverb and twin LFOs to modulate level, pitch, filter properties and a number of other key parameters. Parameters can also be mapped to MIDI controllers for hands‑on control as required.

There are sounds here that would easily slot into the score for Blade Runner 2049 or Stranger Things but, equally, textures that might suit a psychological drama...

Of course, we are not short of ‘evolving pad’ virtual instruments so, the slightly quirky nature of the UI aside, you might be thinking ‘so what?’ To which the answer, as soon as you step through a few of the presets, will be ‘ah, that’s what...’ because Toska sounds absolutely fabulous. The quality and depth to the sounds is really impressive, and they blend a convincing analogue synth vibe with a warm, organic, nature; it’s a very attractive combination. If your film score requires sparse underscore to evoke sadness, melancholy, despair, bleakness, or a sense of the unsettled, a single Toska preset might well be all you need. There are sounds here that would easily slot into the score for Blade Runner 2049 or Stranger Things but, equally, textures that might suit a psychological drama where dark, disturbed or fragile are the moods required.

Toska is an impressive debut from Noon Instruments. Yes, it’s a niche sound set, but it’s full of character and busy film composers will undoubtedly love it. What’s more, given the modest price and the fact that it’s even free to anyone in the UK on Universal Credit, it’s also very accessible even to those not on a Hollywood budget.