Polytik is a collection of four remarkably shaped synthesizer modules. The naked industrial PCB nature is subverted by the bright colours, strange shapes and uncommonly artistic arrangement of components. Is it synthesis? Is it art? Perhaps it’s a mixture of both?
This project is the brain-child of artist and designer Jack Featherstone and John Richards from Dirty Electronics. Their collaboration has generated four distinctive, battery powered modules. The idea was to create something both visually interesting and sonically exciting. In listening to a video conversation (below – well worth a watch) about the project I gathered that the design and the synthesis really happened independently. Jack, not having an electronics background, developed the shapes and component layout based purely on aesthetics. John then brought his style of curated noise to create the synthesis engine.
The look is striking and immediately throws up questions as to why we tend to insist on square, ordered PCBs and box-like synthesizers. To see these modules together is immensely refreshing and pleasing.
The four modules
The blue one is the “Core”. It’s the programmer, sequencer and mixer. This is where you start and the rest plug into it to expand the possibilities. The black one is called “Combi” and provides voltage-controller feedback, a VCO and filtering. Yellow is for “Noise” which brings in a noise generator with patchable feedback and another filter. And finally we have the red “VCO” oscillator and filter.
You may have noticed the metal areas on the modules. These provide touch control over various parameters. There are also knobs, buttons and switches to fiddle with in order to produce the sort of noises you’re after.
Patching is possible via rainbow coloured ribbon cables. This is perhaps a missed opportunity. Although the ribbons look fabulous, in terms of functionality I would have like to seen regular 3.5mm or mini patch points to allow for connection to other modular systems.
Art or tool?
So is it just an interesting artistic design idea and sound installation? Possibly. But listening to the Direct Electronics demo track shows that it’s capable of producing some extraordinary noises.
How functional they are, how easy they are to manipulate and play with remains to be seen. I love how design from outside the usual community can produce simple and yet so radical ideas. Integration, whether with other modular systems or other studio gear always requires conformity to certain standards, connections and form factors. Perhaps that’s not as important as we think.
Polytik has now launched on Kickstarter and they are aiming to raise £20,000 in pre-orders. They have a starter pack for £120 with the Core and Combi module or you can get the whole kit for £325. There don’t seem to be any stretch goals or further development that they need the funds for – they are ready to sell. For more information head over to the Polytik website.