- A little over six months ago, I was sent Gothic Instruments' Dronar Kontakt 5 library for review. I found it to be a simple-to-use yet highly capable atmosphere generator suited to creating evolving sonic layers, eerie soundscapes and, of course, drones. It was especially suited to music-for-picture writing and leftfield dance music productions. Fast-forward six months and now we have a second version of Dronar: the appropriately titled Dronar Guitarscapes Module. Every sound contained within has been sourced from electric and acoustic guitars, including mandolins and steel guitars. You'll need the full version of Kontakt 5.5 to run this library (as opposed to the free Kontakt Player) and at least 2GB of RAM. Dronar Guitarscapes is available via download. Upon install, you'll lose 5.89GB of hard drive space.
Guitarscapes' Main page has six prominent dials, the central four of which allow you to set a volume balance between the layers of sounds contained within a single patch. Continuing the slightly esoteric naming approach of the original Dronar, these are labelled FX, Hi, Mid and Lo, giving the initial impression they might be tone controls. Rather, they act as a mix section to create a blend between sounds of a predominantly high, mid-range or low tone, alongside an atmospheric layer loaded into the FX section. This provides a musical "noise floor" under or on top of the core sound. True to the original Dronar, each of these sections allows you to load two sounds, so each Layer is in itself a blend of sources. This means a fully loaded patch plays back eight sounds at once, contributing to Guitarscapes' deep, rich quality. These are further enhanced by two additional dials, Intensity and Movement. Intensity beefs up a sound, either by increasing its volume or adding extra weight to the internal effects, while Movement introduces the internal Arpeggiator, providing sounds with volume, pitch or tone-related motion.
Guitarscapes has 320 presets in a variety of self-explanatory categories, such as Dreamlike, Nightmares, Pedal Steel and Bass Pulses. There's also a Start Here menu, which allows you to explore a selection of patches that will acquaint you with Guitarscapes' breadth of sounds. Here you'll find strummed acoustic textures that shimmer alongside heavily processed sonic clouds, bouncing and ominous bass guitar patches accompanied by end-of-the-world sci-fi drones and plenty more besides. After exploring these introductory patches, you'll dive into the other folders, discovering along the way how versatile a source the guitar can be. The effects treatments captured alongside the core sounds can be so warped and extreme that there's no limit to the ways in which these sounds can be categorised. Importantly, this means that you'll likely be able to create or modify a sound to suit your production, whatever your musical style.
Configuring sounds from scratch involves the Expert tab. Clicking on the menu slots for each layer—FX, Hi, Mid and Low—lets you choose patches specific to each section. The slider to the left then sets the volume balance between the two sounds within a layer. Here you can control envelopes, filter settings, modulation wheel assignments, stereo width and overall tone and volume parameters for each layer—those looking for a deeper explanation of this page can find it in my review of the original Dronar.
Beyond the new sounds, there is a major development to the Dronar engine in Guitarscapes, which comes in the form of a dedicated Rhythm page. This launches what equates to a gate sequence generator with independent controls for the Lo, Mid and Hi layers of a sound. Clicking on one of the layers at the top allows you to pick a rhythm for it below. Rhythms can be one, two, three or four bars long and each beat in those bars is shown as a separate zone in a grid. Clicking on a beat then lets you choose whether it will be divided into two (eighth note), three (twelfth note) or four (sixteenth note) slices via the Beat Div buttons. This means that a varied, pulsing rhythm of your choosing can be applied to each layer and, as each one has its own editor, polyrhythmic activity isn't far away. Additionally, half- and double-speed options are offered, so even though there is no quarter note option, selecting the eighth note pattern and selecting half-time will achieve this for you. The Rhythm page is a great addition and complements the other functions designed to introduce evolution and movement into your programs, including the Intensity, Movement and Arpeggiator options.
But ultimately, it all comes down to the sonic content. Fortunately, there are no issues here; Dronar Guitarscapes sounds like a labour of love. Whereas the original Dronar module was very much aimed at composers and sound designers working to picture, the diversity on offer here opens up broader avenues for producers of many musical genres. The pulsing rhythm sounds are particularly welcome, while the shimmering qualities of the blissed-out electric guitar samples, when made thick and wide, with a long reverb, some delay and a bit of rhythmical editing, are immediately reminiscent of M83 and Sigur Rós. Equally, if you're a fan of strummed or distressed acoustic guitar or mandolin sounds, there are rich pickings.
The guitar, in its many forms, is increasingly of interest to creators of sample instruments. Earlier this summer I looked at Vir2's Apollo: Cinematic Guitars, while Sample Logic's Cinematic Guitars Infinity is another example of a rich instrument with content exclusively derived from multi-sourced guitar samples. Dronar Guitarscapes occupies its own place in this increasingly crowded market-place, as it costs a fraction as much as those two libraries and provides an accessible interface. But while this library is definitely cost-effective, it's capable of big-budget sounds. Remember too that features you'd like to see included can often be added with DAW effects or by using multiple instances of the program at once. If you're a fan of creating rich textures, pulsing rhythms, one-shot effects or huge evolving soundscapes—and have something more than a grudging respect for the guitar—Dronar Guitarscapes will appeal to you hugely.
Ease of use: 4.6