The shape-shifting productions of Chinese-Malaysian artist Flora Yin-Wong can be traced back to an eclectic range of sources – from lo-fi field recordings and UK dance culture to Daoist ideas and traditional Chinese instruments. Growing up in London, she started out as a guitarist in art-rock bands before finding her footing in the club scene, playing house and techno at her own parties.
A longtime associate of Berlin experimental label PAN, Flora Yin-Wong contributed ghostly melodies to the acclaimed ambient compilation mono no aware and has recently released her debut album Holy Palm on Modern Love – an exploration of metaphysics, memory and superstition that weaves a vivid sonic tapestry through field recordings and abstract textures.
Her sketch moves under the shadow of a dembow rhythm, marking out the beat in heavily syncopated ticks and cracks. Chimes and bells ring out like haunted clocks and plucked balalaika strings seem to echo the passing of time, but these eerily ancient sounds soon collide with computer futurism thanks to Flora’s off-kilter arrangement and piercing dramatic percussion.
Listen to the sketch below and read on to learn how it was made. You can also grab all of the stems from Flora’s sketch here – then remix, reuse, and repurpose them however you like.
Let’s start with how the sketch came together – can you walk us through your process?
I started off forming the drum lines in Battery using the Cavern Floor and Black Mantle kits. There were some really great samples there and it was easy to edit the parameters. I tend to make drums in a very roundabout way, but I find it easier to manually break up the patterns to sound more off-kilter. I then transposed a couple of samples, including a basic glass recording I tend to use and a single note from a Russian balalaika performer playing “Sharmanka”.
I lined up the Kontakt instrument Ethereal Earth in three separate tracks to make use of its differing sounds and textures, with one routed through Replika XT on a Byzantine [double harmonic major] scale, as well as the MD Metal synth in Reaktor with a descending chords arpeggiator applied.
What does the word sketching mean to you?
The rough formation and construction of a musical or creative idea.
Is that what you set out to achieve with this particular sketch?
I wanted to be able to incorporate a few of the plug-ins which I haven’t used before, so it really fell into place with the tools as the starting point.
Cool. Can you name a favorite element of the sketch?
I think the percussive element was my favorite part to work on. I love layering and pitching disparate sounds and trying to make them cohesive.
Is there a typical route from sketch to finished track for you, or is it always different?
It’s nearly always accidental. It can be a case of minutes or weeks of work and then something just clicks into place.
Can you share the best production advice you’ve ever been given?
Don’t try to focus on or learn what you’re ‘supposed’ to do, just do what feels right to you.
And finally – can you name any online learning resources you’d recommend?
There are no particular channels, but I usually search for something on YouTube that I am specifically trying to do.
Words: Chal Ravens