The Wire

The world's greatest print and online music magazine. Independent since 1982


Si Begg and Sam Underwood release sample library Psychoacoustics

The library features seven sections including Tempo Synced Pulses, Ensembles, Loops, and Pads and Drones and is a fully scripted Kontakt Instrument

Psychoacoustics is a new sample library created in collaboration with sound designer and composer Si Begg and musical instrument designer Sam Underwood.

Underwood created and recorded the raw sound material using a combination of acoustic and electroacoustic sound-making methods, which were then edited and processed into sound files by Begg.

“I first came across Sam Underwood via a shared link on Twitter showing a toy hamster randomly skittering over a large upturned cymbal with a contact microphone attached to it,” explains Begg. ” After listening to that, and browsing many more of his eccentric and frankly bonkers noise-making machines, I knew this was someone it would be fun to collaborate with.”

Underwood confirms: “In many ways this was the outlet I had been waiting for so it wasn’t hard to find stuff to feature on this. I have a pretty good sense of what is more fruitful or intriguing when produced through these means, compared to electronically, so I set about recording.

“I started with some further work on the tuba but I went on to build a lot of contraptions especially for this project.”

With over 200 presets and a selection of filters for customisation, the library is split into seven sections: Sound Design, Tempo Synced Pulses, Ensembles, Loops, Pads and Drones, Percussive Kits and Short Instruments. As well as new sounds is also features snippets from Underwood's archive of recordings. To take one example, these include sounds made inside a grain silo with David Morton. The whole process took about a year to complete.

As for their favourite sounds. Underwood says “I really like the odd percussive sounds. When I create beats I tend to throw loads of sounds into a sampler and then use MIDI randomisations to create stuff that sounds way more complex than the drum programming actually is. In the past I have used sample sets from the likes of Felix’s Machines for this so it was the first thing I tried out. It sounded really unusual and textural with no further processing. Nice!”

For Begg, it's the “tuba parts where Sam used all sorts of different mouthpieces and balloons … also a big fan of the feedback cymbals, which are tracks in their own right when listened to in full!”

“I’ve already used lots of the sounds in pieces, including some trailers for Netflix so I know how useful it’s going to be for composers looking for something that sounds organic and ‘real’ but also totally unique,” enthuses Begg.

Psychoacoustics is developed by Zero G.