Viktor Benev: It’s like a breath of fresh air to me
Polyend: What is the most crucial device used throughout your career? Presently?
Viktor: I’ve had classical music education, so instruments, generally speaking, have played the most crucial role in my development as a musician. I’m a multi-instrumentalist with vibraphone being my main choice, but I also play many other percussions, piano, a bit of guitar, and synths.
Viktor Benev – Alpha Peg (live looping session)
I began making electroacoustic music with Ableton LIVE on a computer. In addition, I always have, lying around, a portable recorder, a midi controller, a few microphones and a sound interface. That has been my production setup since the beginning and hasn’t changed that much throughout the years.
It’s difficult to choose the most crucial electronic device. For me, a tool has to be inspiring. My workflow involves a lot of trial and error, so what I’m always looking out for is having gear that could amplify my personal gesture. Playable instruments, synths with character that could be operated in real time, capturing that specific moment of insight.
Other than the Polyend Tracker, which, for me, is an explorational tool, especially in performance mode, I’m currently using the Korg Minilogue and the Korg R3 synthesizers. I believe they are both extremely manual and have their own distinct character, thus serving particularly well in adding a bit of analog driven color in my compositions.
Polyend: Can you reveal one sound design or music production secret to us?
Viktor: I could state a large number of tricks I’ve found useful: EQ your reverbs, record with good pre-amps in higher resolution for sampling, multi-layer kicks, cut low-end if the source doesn’t go that low and so on… those aren’t secrets really. They are basic engineering manipulations, but the truth is, with music creation, there are no rules.
What most producers neglect in the quest of better gear, in my humble opinion, is meaning, emotion, vibration, a feeling that moves you. You could have the most polished sound, the loudest master, the strongest kick, the most complex evolving texture, the best synth on the market. However, what really counts is if you’re experiencing a flicker of emotional excitement when listening to your work. If you have that, you are on the right path.
Polyend: Why do you choose Polyend devices?
Viktor: I’ve been doing field recordings for a couple of years now. That’s a concept I’ve undertaken in 2020 in pursuit of narrowing down my sound world to mostly sounds I’ve recorded myself, thus making it more personal and unique. To achieve that, I’m using a lot of sampling techniques. That’s one of the reasons I got intrigued by the Polyend Tracker. It offers a great deal of possibilities — pitching, waveform selection, granular synthesis… Those are powerful tools for manipulating samples and finding hidden phonic treasures.
The other reason is the machine’s portability and the fact that I could spend some quality time making music away from my computer. It’s like a breath of fresh air to me.
GENTLE RUSH AND THE POLYEND TRACKER
“An excellent piece of equipment for experimentation.”
In my music, field recordings often collide with electroacoustic material. Sampling techniques aren’t new to me. However, being able to manipulate them seamlessly in a stand-alone unit feels great as it often leads to unexpected results. It’s thrilling to simply transpose a musical phrase, a pad around the small keyboard of the Polyend Tracker. It immediately strikes me with structural and harmonic ideas that wouldn’t be something obvious if I were to pre-meditate and conceive the composition beforehand.
This type of workflow suits me. I’m constantly looking for ways of implementing chance and musically sounding “mistakes” in my compositions and I find the Tracker’s a great tool to embrace in that pursuit. The Tracker has great features to help you get endless transmutations, endless transformations of a sound.
The waveform selection in the editor quickly invites you into the analog world of modular synthesizers. Simply create a random note sequence and play around with it. You could achieve having a constantly evolving melody in the blink of an eye, without spending thousands on modular equipment. The randomize function does wonders. Add random FX and you’ve got yourself a modular patch texture.
I’ve used quite a few different waveforms for the main melodies in Gentle Rush.
The LFO in the edit section can create rhythmic filter patterns for immersive pad sounds with rich harmonic overtones. It can also trigger a sample or panning at random or fixed rhythmic intervals. Great for adding a touch of tension and movement in certain parts.
In the introduction of Gentle Rush, the panning of the rhythmic pattern is triggered by LFO, for example. The stereo-widener feature on the master bus is surprisingly well built. In Gentle Rush, you can hear it in action with parts spread extremely wide in the panoramic scope, all the same retaining their intended clarity and making possible the use of many elements at the same time without them fighting each other in the frequency spectrum.
The bass boost on the master bus is gentle but gives a warm and effective result. I particularly fancy that effect.
Panning and FX decisions in pattern mode are easy to work with. You could get far more creative by being able to manipulate each steps’ parameters. In the ending of Gentle Rush, there’s a wailing pad sound that dances from left to right. Creating such an effect takes a few minutes and is actually quicker than having to automate the same parameter on a computer. In fact, you probably wouldn’t even think about doing such a thing in a DAW, cause it’s really uncommon.
The Tracker is a powerful tool for slicing beat patterns. It is an equally capable midi controller for external equipment. In my case, I’m using it to trigger notes on the Korg Minilogue, which, in this track, is mainly used for bass lines.
Obviously, the unit has its limits, but overall, as with all types of equipment, I believe the limits are in your imagination. With the Tracker you could get deeply creative and it’s all a fun process. That’s not something to neglect when choosing your tools.
Some musicians have already explored the performance mode of the Tracker, so I thought of displaying its production power, although you could easily spend hours on playing around with its live-oriented tricks as well. As the trackers were used extensively in the drum’n’bass genre in the 90s, I thought it fitting to propose a contemporary take on this genre.
Viktor Benev is a Bulgarian vibraphonist, multi-instrumentalist, composer, and producer. Based in Paris, he has been imposing his eclectic taste on the contemporary music scene, associating sound design, field recordings and computer-generated music with live performances. He has received commissions to compose music for dance performances, art installations, and chamber ensembles. He leads an ongoing discographic and touring activity and has played throughout Europe on many internationally acclaimed podiums. He’s the founder of enovae records. Apart from his solo studio productions, he is associated with various formations: Crystal sound project, Oft Robin (formerly known as Via Mavis), Youth Percussion Pool and Aïka.
Visit Viktor’s profiles for more his music: