Singaporean outfit Midnight Shift has been running after-hours parties in the Southeast Asian city-state for years. For the most part, the crew has followed the tested pattern of keeping its performers and locations clandestine, but exceptions have been made for such high-profile international guests as Jerome Sydenham and Green Velvet. Midnight Shift's new imprint seems to have been founded on similar principles. The First Shift, its debut release, pairs an established foreigner—Toronto's Stuart Li (a.k.a. Basic Soul Unit)—with Eddie Niguel (a.k.a. Edel), a producer largely unknown outside the city-state.
Li's career is nowhere near as storied as those of the aforementioned guests, but he has lately become a darling of the techno cognoscenti—Steffi released his Soulspeak EP on her Dolly label last year (with a relatively rare Shed remix, to boot), and he recently contributed an EP for the notoriously selective Nonplus as well. There's good reason for this, as his productions have rapidly matured into a signature of complex, punchy rhythms and expansive, exuberant synthesizers. His two tracks here build on that formula. "Late Nite Shift" tightly slots a sturdy, looping melody into a restless framework. The track picks up a considerable amount of momentum as Li drops organ stabs and an array of jacking patterns on top, until it reaches a breaking point and practically everything drops out. When the stabs re-emerge alongside a newly spacious rhythm, it's less a regrouping than an aftershock, as the track tails off without consequence. His second offering, "Black Ice," initially sounds like Li has gone a bit IDM, as he spends its first half occupied with plush padwork and a bleepy, optimistic melody. This all changes midway through, when an arpeggiated synthline explodes out of the unassuming arrangement, the kicks newly thunderous below and primed for the floor.
Eddie Niguel's side is comparatively polite. On "Paths," he lays stern, metallic stabs alongside gridlocked drums, and while it progresses with a reasonable amount of momentum, it's ultimately rather staid. A bright spot, however, is Niguel's inclusion of high-pitched, tinkling keys, which lends the piece a welcome eeriness. The producer introduces a similar motif on "Absolute," a track that shows him breaking out of his shell a bit more. Niguel stretches the classicist main melody like a rubberband and drops in a series of piercing tones in accompaniment; together, they reach a dizzy, jittery climax above a galloping rhythm. With one side pristine and logical and the other raw and reckless, The First Shift is an open-ended first statement. It'll be interesting to hear what other local talents Midnight Shift has in its ranks, and if the format continues, how they compare with their foreign counterparts.