PRODUCT: Kult plug-in
The sound of Kult, the latest synth by Dawesome, is something very special. Words like “unique” are often used for synthesizers that let you create patches easier than you could with DUNE or Zebra, but which aren’t unobtainable. Kult is the first synth I know of that lets you create sound with a different type of oscillator. It’s that novelty that makes this plug-in truly unique.
The Kult engine works with complex oscillators based on the theory of Strange Attractors. They are, in other words, based on a branch of mathematics that deals with nonlinear dynamic systems (Chaos Theory, anyone?) and the behavior of motion in space under forces.
A few of the oscillators, for example, are based on the Lorenz System. Lorenz examined the behavior of global air convection. The topic of Chaos Theory and its applications may not seem the best approach to sound synthesis, which relies on oscillatory behavior, but the lead developer of Dawesome (a Ph.D. in math) found that Strange Attractors do have some kind of oscillatory behavior, and that he translated into sound generators.
The result is that Kult can create a vast range of sonic timbres that sound great and/or bizarre. And yes, some just have ear-popping characteristics when listened to on their own. Combined with FM and AM synthesis, and using two of them, the whole is more than its parts, and things start getting interesting.
Given that I can barely understand why 2+2 has to be 4, I thought I would run into problems with Kult in the blink of an eye. Creating a useful patch with Kult is indeed somewhat more special than with any other synth because some oscillators on their own are either ugly or unpredictable, or both. There is, of course, also the unanswered question of what a Lorenz 1 oscillator exactly sounds like?
Luckily, the interface is a lot of fun. It’s much like Novum, so very user-friendly and simple to understand. On board is an expanded filter section featuring a formant filter per voice, two comb filters that are driven by a distortion stage, and an analogue filter with two coupled stages. Each of the two oscillators can also have up to five voice unison, generated by five actual oscillators. They can be detuned and spread.
Needless to say all this craves for a processor that can handle it — although I had no problems with artifacts on my mid-2017 iMac with 40GBs of RAM, and running the latest version of Ventura.
What can you do with it?
We’re used to having about half dozen simple waves, but Kult has more than 30 models to choose from. Used by themselves, some will sound harsh, some downright scary, others thin and chirpy or noisy, with a few actually nice to listen to in their purest form. It’s when you start applying some frequency and/or amplitude modulation that things start getting better. Comb filters and effects, like massive reverbs and (careful use of) an S-shift knob that applies modulation on the phase parameter, often change the sound into beautiful harmonies or grunge, grit and aggression.
Given the right cocktail of oscillators, dual filter settings and effects, you can easily end up with experimental audio, a la Buchla. At the other end of the spectrum, you can also end up with sounds that are incredibly smooth, very melodic or very dark and ominous — ideal, therefore, for cinematic soundtracks and special effects.
Another big thumbs up for me is that I have never heard a synth that could sound so beautiful at the low end. Usually, when you start exploring keys C2 to C0, an ordinary synth will produce sound that often quickly turns into a muddy mess. Not so with the Kult synth.
Included with the factory presets is a patch that sounds like it’s made of super smooth, silky transparent material, with that silkiness going all the way down and up without ever sounding aggressive.
The first patch that I made myself was also in that domain, and involved two Lorenz oscillators and some FM and AM.
Kult is also MPE ready, and has a simple to use arpeggiator, which is a feature I always forget to mention.
It takes a genius to make a complex, complicated thing simple. Kult is a complex thing that has been made simple to use. Its factory patches are very nice, many with beautiful or intriguing sounds. Kult’s engine makes it a dream synth for any sound designer, and certainly for anyone making cinematic music and/or sound effects. That is what it has in common with Dawesome’s other synths; for anything else, I put Kult in a category entirely of its own.
If the factory patches aren’t your thing, there are sound packs for this innovative plug-in. If you want to create your own patch, you’ll have to get your head around the strange “bare” sounds of some oscillators that are anything but “usual.” If you spend a bit of time with Kult, you’ll quickly find you cannot just create beautiful sounds, but also those that are really not from this world.
Dawesome Kult is available for download with a generous demo period. It can be yours for $129.
Author Erik Vlietinck can be reached by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.