Listen to four audio Sketches by Soda Plains, Ikonika, Sega Bodega and Ivy Lab created using Native Instruments
Native Instruments have continued their Sketches series, inviting a cast of boundary-pushing contemporary producers to create short sketches of tunes using only instruments and Native software.
Season one of the project featured contributions from artists including Jlin, M.E.S.H. and Chino Amobi.
We’re excited to be hosting a fist listen of four Sketches from Native Sketches II. Berlin producer Soda Plains, Hyperdub club polymath Ikonika, producer and sound designer Sega Bodega and experimental post-DnB trio Ivy Lab have all delivered bitesize bursts of creativity which offer a snapshot into their method and outlook.
Listen to their sketches and read a short exchange with them unpacking the thinking that went into the project.
Check out the whole of Native Sketches II here. Each sketch is accompanied by visuals from Berlin-based filmmaker Rainer Kohlberger.
“Sketching is crucial to me because it’s about getting a vibe quickly and getting all the elements in the track that you could potentially use,” Soda Plains said, commenting on the Sketching process, “You basically want to put all the potential of the track in the sketch somehow. Then you can go from there. ”
This idea of using the Sketching leg of the creative process as an opportunity to capture the entirety of a track’s potential is present on this Sketch. Skittering drums burst and harpsichords throb in a hyperreal whirlpool. “I wanted to have these two moments, one which was basically a stacking of all these plucky elements, like strings and harpsichord and stuff. Then that just opened out into this more cavernous moment with the droney guitar.”
Plains’ practical understanding of Sketching, as a forum for a production’s budding development, is central to his method as a producer. “The most important element is to build enough things into the song that you can keep as many possibilities open as you can, basically, so you know it can just evolve and not get stale. If you’re looking at this thing where you’re getting stale then I think you’re in trouble.”
“I think it’s it’s brainstorming and getting rough ideas out, but I think for me it’s trying to find a certain vibe,” that’s what Hyperdub OG Ikonika says Sketching means to her. It’s a playful, colourful approach which shines through on her highly danceable 2-minute Sketch.
“I think I was in a kind of playful mood. If you listen to it, it’s kind of a little bit candy, a little bit pink and purple. A little bit fruity. Those are the colours that I see when I made that sketch.” Through a kind of beta-mode synesthesia, the sugary hues of Ikonika’s Sketch are impossible to resist. Blending dancehall-lite syncopations with bassy atmospherics, it’s the embryo for exactly the kind of kaleidoscopic tracks she’s mastered over the years.
“Everyone always says, ‘Trust your own ears’,” she says, reflecting on the best piece of advice she’s ever been given as a producer. “And I think that’s it. I mean as long as you’re happy with the track, that’s all that matters.”
In order to visualise and ideate the Sketches before completion, Ikonika has a ritual which actively divorces her from the process. “There is one exercise that I like to do. If I think a track is finished, I like to lie down, kick back, close my eyes, and really listen to the music. And if anything feels awkward, I’ll open my eyes and be, like, ‘Yes, that’s not right, I’ve got to fix it.’ If I can sleep through the track, that’s when I know it’s done.”
For Sega Bodega, the process of quickly penciling out the final product has become integral to his method. “Sketching to me, means quite a lot, actually, because a while back I changed my whole way of working – I would work on one song for six months, and then I was like, ‘This doesn’t work,’ so I started to make this rule of, ‘Okay, I’m going to make five songs tonight, or five beats; they don’t have to be good, they just have to be sketches so that I can like, come back on.’
Now that commitment to rapid-fire drafting manifests itself on highly creative and imaginative pieces of work. For his Sketch, a trap-leaning beat pattern is executed with thick percussive sounds and windy textures, all delivered with a feeling of impulse. “When I’m sketching, the most important element is don’t think about it too much, just don’t. Because then you’re not sketching, you’re making a song. People sketch things out so that they can do it again with drawings and stuff, so that’s the most important thing. If you’re thinking too much, then you’re not doing it right, that’s my opinion. Just don’t get too attached to it.”
Sampling has always played a role in what Ivy Lab do as musicians and producers, so the opportunity to create with a sketchbook approach fitted nicely into their artistic cosmos. Unpacking the foundations of this Sketch, they said, “When we were doing this project, sketching wasn’t the process of creating lots and lots of different interpretations of the instruments we had, it was just getting the beats right. We sketched out the beats first and foremost, because the beats are the most important thing for us. That’s the bit that had the sketch vibe, the doodling vibe about it. Then everything else is kind of like colouring afterwards. It’s making it come to life. It’s adding depth and texture and shadows. That’s the stuff that comes in afterwards.”
This tactile, textural production approach shines through in the bright, heavy-footed Sketch which sounds like a mixture of SOPHIE and Flying Lotus, a detour from an outfit associated with experimental strands of jungle and DnB. “What we were trying to achieve was a composition that was a little bit different in its sound from the other music we’ve already put out because we had a bit more of a license. It wasn’t a release. It wasn’t something that had to fit into other music that we had lying around. It was a blank canvas and it was also a bit of mystery because we didn’t know how it was going to end up, how it was going to be compiled with other people’s music, who these other people were. So all we knew was that it provided an opportunity.”
Check out the whole of Native Sketches II here.