Associations with London’s PC Music clan, soundtrack work for a Kendall Jenner feature and a debut release on Renaissance Man’s ‘No Beat Is Illegal’ Black Ocean label. That’s the bullet pointed career of Berlin-based artist Soda Plains, a slightly confusing path through fashion, place-less club music and geography. Considering that Soda Plains is originally from Hong Kong, has resided in the UK and now lives in the German capitol, his whirlwind journey over the past year or so, from the DIS Magazine feature to appearances on Endgame’s Precious Metals NTS show and the aforementioned connection with PC Music, comes into focus at least a little bit. The treasure trove of unreleased Soda Plains material, in his DIS Mag and Liminal Sounds mixes and various radio appearances, goes a bit further towards illumination. Within the Soda Plains aesthetic, there are snippets of nearly every regional sound we cover, from desultory pop to squarewave-driven beatwork and on to the snap of the dembow beat. “Rushes” puts him in cahootys with the likes of Imaabs, Murlo and Rizzla, but those comparisons are as fleeting and inconsistent as the rhythmic structure of the song.
And then there’s the video for “Æthelflæd”, directed by Ivana Mladenovic, that positions dancer Christina Pucean in front a sky blue screen as she twists and turns in slow motion. The song is simultaneously too fast and too slow for Pucean’s movements, a disarming effect of the visuals that results in each and every sonic inconsistency coming to the fore. Without any other visuals to go by, it would be folly to read too much into “Æthelflæd”, but it’s probably not unfair to say that Soda Plains, like Arca & Jesse Kanda, has a fascination with body representation and tactile dance forms. His Astral Plane mix sits comfortable around 100 BPM to start, bringing Ynfynyt Scroll, Kablam, Endgame and more into the fold, as well as a few curveballs in Nava Luvu and The Sabres Of Paradise, before leaping up in tempo and intensity. A Fraxinus dub you might have heard at last night’s Her Records Boiler Room pops up as do Iglew, Last Japan and Strict Face, strafing the ever-changing rhythmic quotient with a bevy of meticulous melodic work. Definitive statements about Soda Plains have largely proven futile to date and, in this case, the path of least resistance, just going with whatever he brings to the table next seems to be the best strategy. And in the meantime, enjoying the jackhammer kicks, skipping syncopation and beatific vocal cut ups of his Astral Plane mix isn’t the most difficult task.