Samples are arranged in the typical Albion fashion, with five folders named Albion V Orchestra (for orchestral sounds), Brunel Loops (a series of percussive loops), Darwin Percussion (individual one-shot drum and percussion sounds) and Stephenson's Steam Band. This latter folder encompasses pads and textures reminiscent of sounds you'd expect to find in instruments like Omnisphere. The fifth folder offers the Vral Grid Evo—more on that shortly.
Starting with the Tundra orchestral samples, the usual Albion file structure is retained with High and Low performances for Strings, Brass and Woodwind sections. In this library, the Strings patches are offered in two programs, with Main, Soft and Wild options. The Main patches offer a range of articulations with both Long and Short notes, some played with mutes (for a more muffled, less shiny sound) and some with extended techniques like tremolo. As with all Albion libraries, the interface provides controls that can be easily mapped to your sliders or dials of choice, with Expression providing MIDI volume control and the Mod Wheel controlling dynamics, letting you manipulate volume through your performances in a nuanced fashion. There's also a built-in reverb for lusher treatments, while the release phase can be controlled carefully if you want more or less of the sound of Air Studios, where these samples were recorded.
The sound is consistently rich due to the fact that the orchestral section for these sessions was 100 players strong. The High Strings, which contain only the first and second violin sections, are very wide too, as the orchestral setup placed these on either side of the stereo field. Irrespective of the articulation you choose, the sound is consistently majestic, with a frozen quality seeping out, making these perfect sounds to layer with others if their fragility seems too much on their own. Even by themselves, however, they have a wide range of potential musical uses which go way beyond music-for-picture composition. Similar treats lie in store for the Winds and Brass recordings. Forget the delicate or fruity sounds you might immediately associate with these sections in regular sample libraries—the overarching sound here would fit beautifully into downtempo and leftfield dance music, with a richness offering enormous sonic value.
The Brunel Loops folder moves us completely out of traditional orchestral sample library territory. There are four folders here, two of Arctic Combos (with original loops recorded at 80 BPM and 120 BPM) and two more of raw presets. Despite the speeds at which the loops were originally recorded, they lock to tempo, so you won't have trouble finding content to match the speed of your tracks. These loops utilise the engine Spitfire Audio developed for its eDNA Earth library and it contains many parameters more familiar to sample manipulators and electronic music producers. Two sound sources are loaded into Slots A and B, which can then be filtered, modulated with envelopes and LFOs, tuned and panned, among other parameters. Further down, the Oscillate Mixer uses a crossfader to balance the volume of the sound sources, which can be animated to keep sounds constantly moving. In many patches, the Mod Wheel is assigned to the crossfader, so that you can manipulate volume balance on the fly. A Gate Sequencer lets you bring pattern volume sequencing to life, with separate steps for the A and B sound sources to create yet more variation. Lastly, there's a comprehensive effects section, with effects available to each slot individually, plus separate Master, Auxiliary and Motor Effects. The sound content here is inspiring, with an interesting range of percussion sources—Hotrods, Bodhran, Hi-Hats, Djuns and many more—manipulated to produce anything from pulsing throbs to high ticks and tribal rhythms. The raw presets strip many of these sounds back to more natural versions of the original source recordings.
The Darwin Percussion Ensemble is more sparsely populated. It maps a different deep, weighty drum sample to each key. Many of these sound like mountains smashing together hundreds of miles away. Higher up the keyboard, the pitches and definition of these sounds become higher and clearer, so there's enough here to program tribal rhythms. But it's the subbier, deeper stuff that really appeals. The only downside here is that the interface offers few editable parameters. You can't set the microphone blends like you can with the orchestral content and there's only one collection of hits. So what's here is more sparse but it's beautiful and highly useful nevertheless.
The Stephenson's Steam Band folder offers plenty of pads and evocative textures, dividing sounds into Bellow Pads, Jarv Pads and Sammal Presets folders. The Bellows folder is a downtempo producer's heaven, with a rich collection of gently evolving, warm, blunted pads with a pleasing unpredictability. The noise floor on some of these is quite high but this just adds to the tactile, organic atmosphere. Program one of these pads, set up a side-chain compressor and hear them breathe, throb and swell.
This leaves Vral Grid Evo. Before describing what you can expect to find, here's a little background about the Evo Grid concept, which is available across several dedicated Spitfire Audio sample collections. Evo Grid maps a different loop to a group of keys so that you can easily build a syncopated rhythmic pattern or a cluster of sustained sounds in your tracks. Each key group offers a number of sonic alternatives, which you can simply click on to audition with independent level and pan controls available for each. Within Tundra, this Vral Grid Evo doesn't feature rhythmic loops but rather a series of looped, pitched drones and textures, with each note group spanning five semitones. The fun really starts when you build a more complex sound by selecting a different one in each key range. Plenty of the sounds are dusty and full of noises, creaks, shimmers and sonic unpredictability, which should appeal to any producer looking to add an organic tactility to their work.
As ever, Spitfire Audio's role as a supplier of audio tools to media composers is front and centre here, but like other titles within their catalogue, there's loads for those writing across the breadth of electronic music genres, too. If you're looking to get your hands on a Kontakt-ready collection of beautiful, glacial textures for your tracks, you won't be sorry you chose Tundra. The sounds stand alone but when layered with other pads and textures from other libraries, you'll quickly find what's offered here gives your tracks new levels of originality.
Ease of use: 4.4