I’ve used a number of Spitfire Libraries – many of them strings-based - where I’ve either orchestrated a piece of music for screen, or used them to add texture or colour to a project that I’m producing in the studio with an artist. What I’ve never done, until now, is attempt to compose an original piece of music from scratch in half an hour using one library that I’ve never used before. But reviews need to be fun, so let’s dig into Spitfire’s brand new Darkstar Haunted House, and see what it’s all about.
First off, Dark Star Haunted House looks mean – and it has a cool story behind it. This sample library is centred around well respected electronic music duo, Darkstar, whose label, Warp Records, is a revered British indie responsible for a roster of IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) talent. The collaboration expands upon Darkstar’s latest album, Civic Jams, and according to Spitfire, it’s a culmination of tense, atmospheric contemporary electronic music using the magic of analogue synths, sub- bass, manipulated drums, and icy vocals.
And at £29, what’s not to love? It’s great not having to head in to Kontakt anymore when installing this kind of stuff; Spitfire’s bespoke plugin – first seen on its excellent LABS series of free VIs, which continue to evolve monthly – is fantastic, and I’ve got the library up and running as an AUi instrument very quickly indeed.
The dropdown menu lists plenty of synths as well as a rhythm section of lo-fi drum sounds, a ton of voices, some ‘Found Sounds’ which were captured across London, plenty of ghostly bits and pieces, and much more. Within each section, there are of course a multitude of options, all of which can be manipulated within the Spitfire plugin: Attack, Release, Reverb, Delay, and a Flanger.
It’s obvious you can go very deep with this mean machine, but such is the nature of a Spotlight review, I will cut to the chase and see what we can get out of it quickly. After hitting a few notes on the keyboard and walking myself very quickly through the menus, I get an immediate sense that it’s not just the sounds themselves that have been captured here, it’s the quality of processing that is so standout: immense care, as well as an abundance of time and energy has gone into putting this library together.
You won’t have to do too much if anything at all to these sounds once you’ve laid them down. Which suits me just fine for this experiment! I begin on RVVM – the rhythm section. Before I load up the full drum kit, I notice there are some cool ‘ready to go’ loops which I will no doubt come back to shortly.
The lo-fi drum sounds are quite simply fantastic – and after playing around with the decay on my kick and snare, and discovering the delay (which I instantly love), I’m quickly putting down a very simple 16- bar sequence.
It’s key that I commit quickly here or nothing will get done, so I only briefly go back to the kick once it’s tracked and fatten it using the controls within the plugin. Now onto voices. I love ‘Lost Dubs 1’ – beautifully recorded, but creepy as hell!
I play out a melody in what I believe to be D minor, though such is the wobble on this icy vocal, it makes me question my playing. Thankfully, it’s the processing effect and nature of the beast, so to speak. I track a two-part, 10-note vocal pattern which sits under my kick and snare, and I begin searching for a pad sound to sit underneath that.