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Slate + Ash Landforms

Sample Library By Dave Gale
Published November 2021

Slate + Ash Landforms

Slate + Ash take a different approach to the orchestral sample library.

The Kontakt instrument format seems to have become an ecosystem all of its own in recent years, with more and more developers seeking to provide content to keep musicians and producers stimulated. While many of these instruments adopt a relatively familiar form, there are occasions when developers seek to shake up the Kontakt norm. This could certainly be said of Simon Ashdown and Will Slater, who form the partnership Slate + Ash. Their latest Kontakt‑based instrument, Landforms, draws upon their impressive output and credentials as composers and sound designers.

Sampling From The Real World

At the core of Landforms is a beautifully curated set of acoustic samples, with a little bit of source content in the guise of sound design. Sample capture was undertaken at Real World Studios, in the Wood Room.

Recordings took place in the Wood Room at Real World Studios.Recordings took place in the Wood Room at Real World Studios.

The vast majority of Landforms instruments are assembled in groups of three; while these instruments conform to section types, some of the blends are really quite interesting. For example, the low woodwind samples consist of a combination of bass clarinet, bassoon and baritone sax. This keeps things blended within the section construct, but as with any traditional nuclear family, there’s enough diversity to keep things interesting.

This concept doesn’t end here, though. Each instrument has been meticulously spot‑miked, and the Wood Room has also been strewn with ambient mics in order to capture all the nuances and resonances that the room can offer. As we’ll find later, this provides an irresistible level of control, which extends well beyond the traditional concept of blending the room reverberation with the instrumental sample.

Returning to the sample content, instrument collectives are elegantly organised. The strings are presented in groups of basses, cellos and violins, while the woodwinds are split into high winds and low winds, with an additional trio of flutes. The brass are a little more generic, being split between high and low instrumentation. Flute and Violin are also featured in solo form, while a section labelled Other mops up bonus content, looped and processed elements. This is where the sound‑design stuff lives, although substantial interest can be obtained from the main sampled content, heading way out to the leftfield!

Getting Layered

One aspect of Landforms that is relatively traditional is its capacity to layer sounds. A patch or snapshot employs up to two sound layers, labelled A and B, with the ability to control and edit key‑zone range, tuning, filtering and envelope controls.

What sets Landforms apart from other more traditional orchestral offerings is that the sampled content is a fair distance from the usual set of long, short and legato articulations. Each instrument set boasts a complement of 13 articulations. I’ll call them articulations, but this term tends to suggest the front of a note, and the concept is far more interesting than a plain old staccato or marcato! Slate + Ash use descriptions such as ‘flossing’ or ‘flutters’, which can feel a little elusive. It’s not always useful if you’re in a hurry to create a patch. Maybe that’s the whole point; you shouldn’t be a in a hurry, because many of these samples take a while to play out, and there are some real prizes to be found among terms such as ‘pulses’.

Take a timbre such as the High Brass ‘Waves’ sample. The instrumentalist’s volume increases and decreases in waves, so arguably, you begin to understand the naming protocol. Even at this most basic level, you can hear the quality of recording and instrumental presentation. Humanistic detuning is captured and burnt‑in, but never distracting, providing an organic engagement that feels natural.

Other articulation types yield everything from scrapes and harmonics to detuning, repeated notes and much more. Some are very pleasant, others very angsty!

It’s an incredibly inspiring Kontakt instrument, with an elegantly engaging interface that is utter joy to use.

Taking Orbit

The ability to choose any of the aforementioned samples and place them in a layer‑cake employing parts A and B is made very easy thanks to a sleek interface, which is relatively minimal in design. Once sample selection has taken place, the main Performance page offers visual representation of an amplitude envelope, which can be assigned to one or both parts. While the envelope is only a three‑stage attack‑sustain‑release (ASR) design, the phases are generous, with the attack phase capable of a 15‑second rise time and the release phase offering up to 25 seconds.

Next to the envelope, the Perspective ‘block’ allows elegant control over the microphone signals. Clicking in this box throws up a visual represention of the microphone positions, from the three spot mics to the most distant ambient signal capture. This in itself is really terrific, but click on the legend below and you enter a more detailed portrayal of the evidence. This is where you will find the Movement control, which sanctions the ability to apply an LFO across the microphone sources, or better still, draw and record your own wander across the microphone field, which can then be replayed at the stroke of each note. You remember our Brass ‘Waves’ sample that comes and goes? Now imagine that with movement across the mic field, and that’s before we’ve even driven into the virtual effects arena.

From the main page, clicking the ‘E’ toggles you into the effects page, moving away from the ‘P’ for performance page. This section is a huge resource, with further blocks which make easy work of electing and applying effects. As Slate + Ash endorse the use of slightly abstract wording, you will find many favourites lurking beneath less usual names. Effects range from filters, tape delays and tremolos to reverbs and bit‑crushers, and everything else in between. Each is presented in a X‑Y pad formation, with a wet/dry control to the right of each. In much the same way that a movement element can be applied to the mic placement, the same is true at the effects level.

Landforms is far more engaging as a creative instrument than the more usual ROMpler libraries, with a potential to get totally lost in sound design that will allow for some very unique and inspiring backdrops.

Making Landforms

Landforms comes equipped with a wealth of content. In total there are nearly 130,000 samples, taking up a hefty 104GB of uncompressed disk space. There’s also a complement of 421 really clever Kontakt patches, all curated and divided into menus.

I have to say that Landforms is far more engaging as a creative instrument than the more usual ROMpler libraries, with a potential to get totally lost in sound design that will allow for some very unique and inspiring backdrops. This suite certainly lends itself to the more cinematic and ambient end of musical musings, but could easily find placements in a diverse set of production settings. It’s an incredibly inspiring Kontakt instrument, with an elegantly engaging interface that is utter joy to use.


In the pursuit of new ways to present acoustic instrumentation in sampled form, Slate + Ash have captured a perfect balance between classy sonics, an interface which invites tinkering, and boundless amounts of inspiration for production and composition.


£349 including VAT.