This one’s already closing in on 200 SoundCloud ‘likes’ and will probably have been on everyone’s radar for a while, but Substanced’s newest set definitely deserves a respectful shout here too. I expect most will have looked with disbelief at such a new-release heavy tracklist – if this was your only set listen of the year you’d be convinced the 2017 scene is in rude (albeit very trancy/melodic) health, with Substanced’s tracks pushing a promising style of updated FINRG sounds.

Remember me positing that Hyphen’s Dryad Machine remix would be the In Praise of Shadows track with the most cross-scene appeal? Hardly a bold prediction, but it seems to be the case, here used from the break as a really effective post-intro opening track. Substanced’s material is an absolute highlight of the set – they might be tricky to mix with really darker stuff, but my gooodness there’s some great work on the melodies, as well as yet more evidence (see that excellent Gamemaster remix) that he’s the current king of the ‘FINRG filter.’

We all know what a good fit Substanced and Transcend’s tracks are together – melodic, often uplifting and with enough nastiness to get everyone dancing, here they’re mixed in a rock solid style that’s hard not to enjoy. Alchemiist’s remix of Can U See Now might be my favourite of the new tracks though, while I was overjoyed to hear Unconsciousness towards the end – the madness of that classic breakdown is a worthy follow up to Substanced’s Cyclone remix.

The ‘I’ in the mix suggests a follow up, and as welcome as that’d be it seems that this set alone has been enough for a fair few FINRG fans to revisit the scene. With the label taking submissions again we could be on the way up again after the recent quiet spell.

Smiling Corpse’s newest release definitely lives up to the name, with 13 tracks of trancecore styled freeform that should bring back memories (for some) of the early scene, pre even the Nu-Energy/FINRG era. The CD compilation will be released this month but is already up for preorder – and with only 120 copies pressed (and 69 left at the time of writing) it might be worth getting in sooner rather than later.

Great to see some DJing names returning to the fold lately, including our old friend Alderz with a quality, nostalgic tribute to Carbon Based.

If I had the choice of their whole back catalogue, my final tracklist would probably end up very similar to this one – Alderz has done a fine job of representing CB’s trademark sound along with some relatively newer tracks, promos and less played classics. Dark Side is a typical starting point, but that switch into Underworld Species is by far the best transition into freeform I’ve heard.

The majority of the set after after that progresses through some of the most satisying examples of FINRG filtering you’re likely to hear, interspersed with melodies to keep the interest up. Anthem is a great choice for the halfway point, and going the melancholy direction for the last three tracks works nicely. The transitions to/from Psychotherapy work especially well.

Cyclone arrives a bit awkwardly, but the tribute certainly wouldn’t have been complete without it. Alderz has done a top job with this one, showing an appreciation for the CB/FINRG atmosphere that veterans and newer arrivals to the scene would do well to check out.

That Solvynt’s was the first Lucky Lotus set I checked out after the event will come as no surprise to those who’ve been listening to his work over the past few years. This one may well feature one of his strongest tracklists so far, even if the tradeoff turns out to be fewer show-stopping transitions.

Starting with Tigris sets the tone – this set is heavy on NRG but at freeform speeds, leading to some really nice connections I never would have considered. The early combo of Desolated Dreams and Prelude works well, while the long combination of Inquisition and Get Fire! has its moments without quite coming together as hoped. Perkele! into Shine is transition of the set though, one of those moments when the line between DJ and creator blurs slightly . Excellent, excellent stuff, followed by a really effective introduction of Brionac via Full Metal Jacket.

Matter of Fact arrives in slightly uncomfortable style, but The Brain Controls Pain transitions far more smoothly, introducing a final third of melodic classics. Skybreak is a great choice, and I love the use of Celestea’s final filters with Gravity’s Rainbow.

Another quality set then, and the nit-picking over a couple of moments is just that – only because Solvynt continues to be one of the few freeform DJs prepared to experiment with such ambitious track combinations. Inspirational stuff that should be required listening, especially if you’re planning a mix yourself.

My first solo mix of the year might not be freeform, but I’m glad to finally get this one finished. What eventually became this set started about three years ago, went very much on the back burner during In Praise of Shadows, and then came to mind again a couple of months ago. It’s relatively short for a Goa set, but there are a few reasons for that and the whole process has been pretty educational from a set-construction point of view.

Having followed Suntrip’s take on the genre for many, many years, I later became slightly obsessed with the idea of far darker tracks that maintained the emotion and melodic complexity of old and new school Goa. A bit of research on Psynews showed I wasn’t the only one, but there wasn’t much that fitted the bill, with most sounding more like slightly melodic forest or dark psy.

That changed once I discovered Psy-H Project’s Dance of Distant Worlds, released on Global Sect in 2013 and followed by the beautiful The Mystery of Crystal Worlds. Psy-H Project absolutely nails what I was looking for, and I orginally had thoughts of an extremely dark set of Goa based around that sound. Sadly very few other artists were doing anything remotely similar – my early efforts at putting a set together turned into a structureless mish mash of styles that kept meandering into super melodic Goa almost by accident.

In despair I gave up on the set, but decided to have another try earlier this year after listening to a lot of Mindsphere and the very promising six-track preview of Global Sect’s new Terraformer. The idea started to come together of a smoothly progressing dark set combining Global Sect and E-Mantra, with Mindsphere’s melodies as brief interludes.

Second Coming was just the track I needed to start things off, especially once I realised Ka-Sol’s Blogz worked pretty nicely as a follow up. It was this combo that also suggested the idea of changing tack slightly and going for a Goa interpretation of ‘dark psychedelic’, and so after some hints in Blogz and Gaura Nitay I eventually decided on Moonwalker as part of a trippier finale. It’s a typically climactic Morphic Resonance track (not a fan of that oddly overlapping snare/kick though) that combines well with E-Mantra and brings some extra weirdness to the set’s atmosphere, leading into Hynotic Signal’s Psychotria Viridis.

Mindsphere’s Tears of Goddess ended up being the sole ‘tranquil’ track, and even that wasn’t intended to stick around for too long. Hopefully it does the trick as a relatively peaceful pause (that all-important contrast), before the ferocious acid of Last Encounter comes in over the vocal.

In theory I could have drawn out the darkness-into-psychedelia theme to make a longer set, but even this version ended up becoming a silly amount of work. Recent events have given me less time and energy for set-tinkering, so even if it’s far from perfect I’m happy enough for now to have had fun with this shorter experiment.

01. Psy-H Project – Second Coming [Global Sect]
02. Ka-Sol – Blogz [Suntrip Records]
03. Psy-H Project – Gaura Nitay [Global Sect]
04. Psy-H Project – Infernal Candyflip [Global Sect]
05. E-Mantra – War of the Hierophants [Suntrip Records]
06. Mindsphere – Tears of Goddess [Suntrip Records]
07. E-Mantra – Last Encounter [Suntrip Records]
08. Morphic Resonance – Moonwalker [Global Sect]
09. Hypnotic Signal – Psychotria Viridis (Original Mix) [Hado Records]

A couple of recent EP releases here that most will have seen, but both are encouraging signs that the big names haven’t given up on freeform just yet. From The Shadows is a very welcome return for FINRG, though this is obviously more of a UK freeform showcase and style-wise is only nominally in the same ballpark as previous Finnish releases. My favourite is Transcend and Hedonistik Ritual’s Scorched, with its trademark Transcend production and some nice filtering on the leads.

The release is also notable as a step away from SoundCloud free releases, appearing instead on Beatport and Juno Download. I know from TYFTH research and my days helping out with Hybridize that sales from digital download sites have to be pretty healthy to make it a worthwhile exercise, so be sure to show some support if your listening/mixing tastes line up with this one.

Next is an EP from one of the UK scene’s strongest producers, Eryk Orpheus. Doofs, Squeaks and Bleeps is an interesting mix of styles that has been a long time in the making – my favourite track in the release, Benodihydrochloridebenzylex, has been floating around for years. It’s another great example of how dark psy/goa can be incorporated into freeform even if things here don’t quite go to Qygen-like next levels. The EP is available for a mere £1.50 via the Intelli-Trance site.

Satoshi Honjo will be a name familiar to many, even if only for his Hannya schranz remix back in the day. He’s still very active though, both with Adrenaline and surprise appearances at darker Tokyo events like Dark Dimension. He and the Adrenaline crew look to be starting a video mix series, and while his set is a lot lighter than anything you’d expect at DD the second (nicely mixed) episode featuring K-Hole goes in a harder direction.

I’m obviously never averse to a trip down memory lane, and the other day I was thinking fondly back to how many ‘amateur’ Finnish producers used to come up with some wonderful stuff, promoted via the FINRG forums (often by way of mikseri).

Jimhe’s Iku-Turso is a decade too late to join Cyber Genetics, Beliar, and the rest, but thanks to SoundCloud there’s still a chance this excellent track will get the exposure it deserves. From the moment the first acid lines and melodies kick in it’s clear that this is freeform in the finest Finnish tradition (both musically and otherwise) that manages the energetic/melancholy balance impressively. Throw in a beautiful, creative pre-break, weighty drop, and some Aryx-esque leads, and you have a quality piece of work.

That I was easily imagining this playing alongside some of Grimsoul’s mikseri back catalogue should say it all, as his rough and readier older tracks sometimes hit atmospheres that weren’t matched by the later versions (see Painajainen and Bleed as an example). I hope to goodness that after an introduction like this Jimhe has plenty more on the way.

I took the chance to upload a few more NRGetic Romancer sets today, including a rare Proteus recording and the original Betwixt set that got me into freeform in the first place. Bringing up the rear is my old set from 2009 – all three confirm once again that Romancer’s atmosphere just couldn’t be beaten, and putting audio quality complaints to one side for now, I love reminiscing while hearing the crowd madness of these mic recordings.

The Proteus set is probably of most interest to many, recorded in 2007 at NRGetic Romancer’s 3rd anniversary. Although I don’t seem to have the other headlining sets from Guld and ADAM Lab 4, this one is a pretty special hour and a quarter that really shows what Proteus was all about at the time. Featuring plenty of the tracks on his then-upcoming The Nature of the Beast, the set also includes some excellent older NRG. I haven’t given a tracklist a try yet, but I’d love to know who’s responsible for the Manson remix around 16.17.

The Romancer playlist is pretty impressive already, but there might well be more to come…