Eighteen-year-old Christchurch electronic artist Tim Ward, aka Shli, is currently attending SOLE Music Academy where he has honed his production and songwriting skills on the school’s artist development program with well-known electronic producer Kamandi.
When diving into this EP, there are a lot of references being made, equal parts to the producer’s inspirations but also in the electronic music scene. Starting with the experimental compositions of the opening track, Nightcaps, which take the audience on a sonic adventure through the different eras of electronic music, starting with some ’90s-influenced house chords sliced into a jungle breakbeat sample, similar to the beginning of UK performer Liquid’s Sweet Harmony. With the use of blaring 808s, retro snare pops and dancehall chord progressions, the song transitions into a crossover of late 2000s style trap and breakbeat, and then going from the trap to a 2010-style future bass that feels very reminiscent of Skrux’ You and Me.
Chilling RnB/trap track Horizon features Canterbury-based singer/songwriter Jaz Paterson, best known for her own ‘One Day’ EP. The collaboration takes a bit more of a commercial rap route, using repetitious synth lines, hip hop influenced drum patterns, and of course the vocal stylings from Paterson with her catchy melodies over the track.Horizon feels like it could be the more trap version of Sophie’s First Time, or maybe even a b-side on Kanye’s ‘The Life Of Pablo’, with its drum programming and energy, maybe a little more atmospheric.
The more celestial third track Into Dust combines elements of early 2000’s hip hop drum programming and EDM with spaced-out vocal samples and modern-styled house synths. It’s like the transition from being at a house party in the middle of nowhere while Horizon is playing, and then Into Dust takes the listener on a walk down a long highway at the darkest of night, with the sky lit up in airglow. The production on this track feels very reminiscent to that of Troye Sivan’s debut EP ‘TRXYE’, which was done by Slums and Tat Tong, specifically the track Fun.
With the EP coming to an end, enter a moderately haunting tone with the track Surface Tension. Just like Into Dust, this is a mix of 2000’s hip hop drum programming with more modern EDM synths and spaced out vocal samples. The haunting aspects mixed with the loud and banging beats make it sound like a track that would be played at a nightclub or a Halloween party, nice and abrasive but not too overbearing in the mix. Considering the adventure this EP has been on this ending feels somewhat cynical or dysphoric, without losing the energy that has flowed throughout.
Looking at the evolution of sound spread the four tracks, ‘Nightcaps’ has a sense of transcendence in the way that the project has been produced and the elements that are evidently well used. It’s as if Shli is creating his own universe of sound, and is taking the listener through it. The sense of wisdom and self-awareness in these compositions shows an artist who can see where his road is taking him, while we watch him drive at full throttle.