Searching for a Synthline in Singapore :: Midnight Shift

Midnght Shift is trying to push underground music in a land where the EDM is on the rise.

Searching for a Synthline in Singapore :: Midnight Shift

Last March Lee Kuan Yew, aged 91, died. His death led to national morning. The first prime minister of the city state of Sigapore had passed away. He left behind a country described by the world bank as the “best” on the planet for business. A secure state with a flourishing economy and a bi-lingual population.

Singapore might be perfect for enterprise. But for electronic music?

I must admit, I could probably manage to name only a handful of labels coming from Asia. Any from Singapore? Until recently I’d say no, until recently.

Midnight Shift is the brainchild of Singapore “born and raised” Kavan Spruyt. The webpage makes a bold statement about the sound they’re hoping to release: “This is not music dictatorship. It is not about the global or local divide, not about music trends. It’s about music that moves your soul, makes sense in your head and feels good for the body then, now and forever.”

But speaking to Spruyt, and listening to the back catalog, this above mantra takes on a better grade of clarity. This “music dictatorship” reflects the conservatism of the city state, one enforced by the late prime minister and the police.

“The quality electronic music scene basically dwindled down from mid 2000s as the drug laws were enforced, electro (Justice, Shinichi Osawa, etc) and commercial music were taking over.” While techno tourism was blooming in Europe “you had only 10 people on a dance floor dancing to substantially big names in the house/techno scene” in Spruyt’s hometown.

“That’s when we decided to do something about it and throw parties on our own in 2009. We wanted to keep the dancefloor dancing to the underground and so Midnight Shift was born.” A sense of mystery, perhaps emulating Europe and the US, was maintained the Midnight Shift boss adds. “When we started doing parties, we didn’t reveal any of the guest’s names so people came for the party instead of plainly for the names.”

It’s like Midnight Shift has come at electronic from a reverse angle to many. It didn’t grow from post punk, or the forgotten pits and factories of the English midlands. Nor was it a lack of opportunities and aging equipment that created the incubation. It was against a backdrop of conservatism, a backdrop of economic growth and development that electronic music in Singapore waned. And interestingly, that same story could be said for most countries. The closing of spaces, legislation on noise and a move towards the “big club” has shouldered many subterranean scenes further below ground.

Spruyt is trying to turn the spotlight away from the easy focus. Local talent is represented, Eddie Niguel featuring on a number of 12”s with Journey being his latest. But it’s the international talent across the ten releases that will jump off the platter. Tougher techno journeymen, like Eduaro de la Calle and Tapirus (Charlton), tear it up on the X-Series with the latest from Liverpool’s John Heckle ducking between dementia and delight. Spruyt adds that this new series is “what we hope the music lovers here would grow to love.”

Godfathers, big and small, stand tall side by side. Terrance Parker leaps from the inners of Shift 004, sharing space with the lesser known but no less able Simon Hunter. And this is what you’ll get, a spread of different practitioners coming together. Another example is a personal favorite of mine. Swiss pioneer Deetron edited Basic Soul Unit’s “Black Ice” a few years back on RMX001, an unlikely but cracking combination.

Midnght Shift is trying to push underground music in a land where the EDM is on the rise. Snubbing convention whilst trying to educate the masses is a tall order for anyone, but speaking with Spruyt and hearing his enthusiasm it seems like Singapore’s machine music future is in good hands.

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