Big Fish Audio | Sample Library Review Steve Blizin | Darkwood: Cinematic Indie Folk Product Review
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Darkwood: Cinematic Indie Folk | Sample Library Review

Reviewer: Steve Blizin Back to Darkwood: Cinematic Indie Folk product details

Pros: 15 strong construction kits offering a nice range of cinematic indie-folk and bluegrass-oriented compositions including complete ensemble instrumentation, outstanding file organization and customization capabilities.

Cons: Not a con but be aware that no MIDI files are included in this set.

These are genre-jumping compositions that will add an acoustic, “folkie” flavor to your projects, often blurring the lines between folk, bluegrass and modern country. But these are clearly cinematic themes that feel open, expressive, upbeat and emotive.

Once again, Big Fish Audio has teamed with Sample Factory and hand selected a group of seasoned session musicians, producers and writers to produce some of the most carefully crafted virtual instruments, loop and construction kits on the market. With Darkwood Cinematic Indie Folk, the team has captured the essence of acoustic country, folk and bluegrass without lingering to long in tradition. It’s no exaggeration to say that I couldn’t wait to hear this collection of Cinematic Indie Folk tunes.


In 1971, a physician, a luthier, a mathematician, a cartographer and a graphic artist began jamming together in the basement of a suburban home in Bethesda, Maryland. They went on to form a band that would one day change folk and bluegrass music forever. They called themselves The Seldom Scene and it didn’t take long before they would find that name an oxymoron. The band played bluegrass standards and mixed in rock, folk and pop tunes, played in a bluegrass style. Soon these precision-picking, genre jumping arrangements were influencing folk, rock, country-crossover and any place where acoustic music was allowed to breathe and flow. Forty eight years later, we can still hear the echos of their work reverberate in modern compositions. Back then it was simply known as “folk” and “bluegrass” but now, we seem to find these too confining for useful genre names.

To fully comprehend what Big Fish Audio and Sample Factory mean by their label of “Cinematic Indie Folk,” you first have to understand what it doesn’t mean. This isn’t just a collection of bluegrass music and it certainly isn’t all folk, nor is it country but it’s firmly rooted in these familiar instrumentations of these broader genre brush strokes. Yes, you will find the lonesome wail of an electric pedal steel or the rhythmic chime of a finger-picked banjo but don’t expect these compositions to land in any pigeon holes. If you know the range of artists like Kaia Kater, The Small Glories, Twain, The Wailing Jennys, The Dead South, Allison Krause and Mumford and Sons, you’re in the right neighborhood. These are genre jumping compositions that will add an acoustic, “folkie” flavor to your projects, often blurring the lines between folk, bluegrass and modern country. But these are clearly cinematic themes that feel open, expressive, upbeat and emotive. Once assembled, the kits feel well crafted. But it’s in breaking them down where they may begin to shine. I feel like I will get a lot of mileage from the various elements. Sometimes a kit’s solo guitar can be far more fitting than the fully realized mix.

The themes would be an excellent compliment to work in any outdoor-oriented, travel themed, western or reality project, as well as historical, nature and documentary work, podcasting and promotional messaging. Think aerial shots of forested mountains, time-lapsed flower blooms, springtime thaws versus intimate streams. Tempos range from 64 to 138bpm and instrumentation includes acoustic and electric guitars, bass, banjo, accordion and more. “Darkwood” may be a bit of a misnomer, in that, I did not find that this collection feels “dark.” It does have elements of tension, pensive kits that could create a darker feel, but over all, I felt this collection plays right down the middle of never straying too far into dark or too much into light. And by careful consideration of the instruments and performances, you can certainly influence the feel of each kit simply by adding or subtracting instruments.

Darkwood Cinematic Indie Folk is available in two primary product “packages” with one being Big Fish Audio’s KLI 3.0 Kontakt instrument – which requires the full version of Kontakt 5.8.0 or higher – and the other being a Multi-Format version, consisting of Acidized wav files, Apple Loops and REX files. One of these options will work for you, regardless of how you like to work.

Perhaps, no one has been more consistent at producing a package of reliable file organization than Big Fish Audio. Loops are arranged in a predictable file structure making navigation nearly second nature. Folder names are, kit number, tempo and key signature. This ensures swift navigation within the product folders and even when you’re browsing with a third party utility like Logic Pro’s loop browser, it’s still very easy to determine where you are.

Navigating the KLI version is easy. To listen to all the demos, simply load the DEMO.nki in Kontakt 5.8.0 or later and you’ll find fully produced demos for each of the kits, conveniently located in one place. Note that you can see the kit number, kit tempo, key signature and even the key the demo is in mapped to a key on your keyboard.

For those using multi-format versions, navigation is the same for all kits: Folders are labeled in exactly the same way – Kit number, tempo, key signature. Inside each kit, the naming convention continues to confidently state each loop’s purpose. Instruments are labeled as 12 Banjo Verse or 12 Electric Steel These file names are basically building blocks for assembling the kit as intended – but with the idea in mind, that not everyone wants to follow the exact same construction. Each folder contains, Intro, Outro, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, Breakdown, Turnaround or some variation on this theme to ensure you can build a useable music bed quickly. And just like with the KLI version, a fully produced demo is included inside each kit folder.

Moving on to the KLI version’s instrument or “kits” folder, you’ll see each kit has one .nki file and a folder containing sliced loops. We’ll visit that soon enough. In the screenshot I’ve included, you will find the interface houses all the instruments for a specific construction kit. This kit is labeled: 07 87 Em. Decoded, that’s Kit #07, which has a tempo of 87bpm and is rooted in E minor. This is how all the kits within this set are labeled. This simple interface allows for access to other controls, including key switching via the red keys. Green indicates where the key is current set.

In each kit folder, a separate folder named “SLICED LOOPS” nests inside the kit folder, containing separate nki files or instruments for each loop included in the kit. Experimentation is the key with sliced loops. They offer many possibilities not easily accomplished by manual loop dragging. If you’re new to KLI, this will all begin to make sense quickly. For those browsing the multi-format versions, there is no sliced loop option. But don’t fret (see what I did there?) because I rarely find these useful with acoustic compositions.

So, is Darkwood Cinematic Indie Folk a good value? Only you can decide if you’ll actually use these loops and construction kits in your productions. Personally, I knew before I even heard the demos, that I would like this collection of Indie Folk construction kits. But listen to the demos anyway, they may reveal a great deal – or a real dog for your specific needs. Extensive demos and videos can be found at prior to purchasing this product.

Depending on the version you purchase, you’ll be sent links to downloadable files which are only good for 24 hours. Big Fish Audio employs actual humans who can help you if you get stuck, which is nice to know if you have an issue. Just remember, a little kindness goes a long way.

For the KLI version, first you’ll need to be sure you have the full paid-for version of Kontakt 5.8.0 or higher. This product won’t work in the free Kontakt player The KLI version downloads as a single, 1.7GB compressed files. It includes a total of 667 patches and will occupy 1.93 GB of space on your hard drive, once expanded.

The multi-format version includes 4 compressed parts. Part 1 (1.63 GB) is Acidized Wav Files followed by Part 2 (625 MB) of REX Files. Part 3 (1.49 GB) of RMX files and finally, Part 4 (1.61 GB) of Apple Loops. You don’t need to download all of these but take care to choose the right part for the file type you want to work with. Again, Big Fish Audio Customer service is excellent if things go sideways.

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