Kickbacks | Soda Plains

As previously showcased in his unrelenting Firmiana Simplex mixtape release via DIS, Berlin producer Soda Plains takes a full frontal approach with his astutely-crafted musical and visual aesthetics.

Having first made his debut on Renaissance Man’s Black Ocean label, his new EP arrives on experimental London imprint Liminal Sounds (Visionist, Blackwax, Air Max ’97, Copout etc), loosely based around concepts drawn via diverse subject matters such as architecture, corruption and cohabitation. “I’d hesitate to make direct architectural comparisons but I guess brutalism is largely about functionality and form, a kind of ‘rawness’, which is why it lends itself well to club/grime so well,” he says. “Corruption became another reference point, which came out of thinking about different systems of production and cohabitation, and the potential for progress outside of given rules or laws… There was also a certain romance to titles like ‘Shuttered’ that I didn’t want to neglect.” ‘Shuttered’ is track that oscillates between fleeting, chopped up R’n’B vocal samples and delicately-layered pentatonic melodies in crystalline tones.

Although his style remains present throughout, the new EP sees Soda PLains hone in and refine his sound since previous work – where terse, crisply-produced percussion moves against grittier, abrasive sounds and recurring motifs to form a definitive cohesiveness. His creative process takes an extroverted course, leaving his usual headspace by way of role-playing of sorts. “I think the most important thing is to get outside of myself somehow… I get bored of myself quickly. Often the simplest solution around that is to role-play it, taking on different obligations or perspectives, trying things I wouldn’t normally do but maintaining the integrity by being in character. I still feel very English, whatever that is, so it often seems a necessary step. Another thing to think about might be that at some point you are stuck in front of a computer for 8 hours at a time, so you need a strategy to tempt the freak out.”

His visual aesthetics go somewhat against the grain, unnervingly off-kilter but often visceral such as his Pop Art-esque music video for ‘Æthelflæd’ featuring a traditional Roma dancer, overlaid with Chinese symbols, or the muted tones and negative backdrop of the ‘Kickbacks’ artwork. “I like layered and confusing visuals, polysemous even, but within that I enjoy keeping the outcome simple and striking.” he explains. “I still believe (maybe naively) in making ‘art’, something with a higher ratio of questions to answers, which could potentially stand in opposition to a highly distilled and branded entity. For me that moment of confusion and the absence of answers is still very important. I tend to work with collaborators, so I’m always keen to draw their own visual context into it; so, whilst each element is very stylised, as a whole it should read as minutely fragmented, one thing to the next, not as a seamless transition as if from a single designer.”

With roots in Hong Kong, the UK-raised, Berlin-based producer cites his current city as an important influence on his work. “Of course it’s important to be aware of musical history, but you can’t think too much on it… I live around the corner from the former Zodiac Club (now Hau) where a lot of the German New Wave folk convened – Tangerine Dream, Roedelius and so on. I think my relationship with that is much more ritualistic, almost like I insist on remembering that happened in the area. I have actually sampled that stuff a lot, but it tends not to be such an explicit reference. When I use samples, they tend to get worked to oblivion, or at least until the source is blurred and can remain quite private. It’s definitely an important part of the process to maintain these personal levels of reference.”

Instead, he takes more inspiration from the current wave of inspiring new producers around him. “It’s been really important for me recently to be hanging out with younger, new producers who have really freshened up things. There’s something about being relatively unaccountable that brings this combination of naivety and belief. That may sound negative but it’s really not – it’s definitely the spirit in which I signed up, and would want to maintain.”