Rating **** 4/5 Stars
Composer Samuel Sim of Home Fires and The Bay fame has reunited with Spitfire Audio in a fresh attempt to unlock the secrets of modern TV music scoring. Maintaining the format of British Drama Toolkit (reviewed here in August 2019), Contemporary Drama Toolkit combines atmospheric pads and textures with melodic top‑line instruments, offering users playable combos which create drama with minimal effort. According to Mr Sim, networks and directors currently favour light‑touch scores which subtly trigger emotion without upstaging dialogue, and CDT duly provides the tools for this.
Where BDT uses an orchestral sound palette, CDT leans towards pop with electric guitars, synths, electric cello, electric violin, and vocals performed by Spitfire’s Homay Schmitz. The sources are heavily processed, typically featuring long, billowing, expensive‑sounding reverbs, subliminal noise washes and glitchy modular synth treatments. The library runs on Kontakt or Kontakt Player 5.6.8 or higher, and is 25.8GB in size once installed.
I immediately found pads and textures I liked a lot: the warm, blissful wash of ‘Lush Pad’ is a killer... while the amazingly lush, gently evolving ‘Frozen Textures’ and delicate ‘Guitar Shimmers’ swathe clean guitar plucks in halos of heavenly reverb.
In the interests of playability the library’s combo patches utilise old‑school velocity dynamic control, freeing keyboardists’ hands from mod‑wheel and MIDI fader duties. As in BDT, combis incorporate velocity‑split texture, soft and loud layers, so you can sustain a quiet pad texture behind the actors’ lines, use the ‘soft’ samples to emphasise certain notes then burst forth with a louder melody line when the dialogue subsides. Being able to do all this without changing patch speeds up workflow and maintains the focus on creativity.
I immediately found pads and textures I liked a lot: the warm, blissful wash of ‘Lush Pad’ is a killer and the high‑pitched starbursts of ‘Piano Black Hole’ are inspirational, while the amazingly lush, gently evolving ‘Frozen Textures’ and delicate ‘Guitar Shimmers’ swathe clean guitar plucks in halos of heavenly reverb. Ms Schmitz’s breathy ‘aah’, ‘ooh’, ‘hmm’ and ‘nana’ sustains sound similarly euphoric. For more disquieting moods, ‘Windtunnel’ sounds like ghostly ancestral voices carried on the wind, and the electric cello’s processed flautandos have an abrasive, grinding, hurdy‑gurdy‑like timbre.
When the inevitable Shocking Moment arrives, be it the sudden appearance of an armed assailant or the discovery of a sawn‑off leg in a grocery basket, you can use the ‘Rasping Bows Octave Distorted’ patch to introduce a nasty edge, or scare viewers to death with the electric cello’s deranged ‘Long Warp’, one of the library’s few atonal instruments. Also included is a nice, all‑purpose set of fat synth bass waveforms and tempo‑sync’ed pulses.
The combis are great, but their playability is sometimes compromised by the so‑called ‘soft’ velocity’ layer barking out like a bullhorn. The YouTube video ‘How to Solo the Velocity Zones in Spitfire’s Drama Toolkits’ suggests a possible fix. As with its predecessor, this toolkit lacks any rhythmic material, but its astonishing sounds are well worth the entry price. We look forward to the box set.