As I’m danger of falling behind recent big announcements I’ll break with tradition and catch up with a few of the main ones in a single post. Good training for the hopefully regular appearance of some longer writing on the site this year, too.

Heading the post is the opening track from Proteus’ upcoming artist album. Rather than NRG or anything like it, instead this sounds very much like something that could have appeared on Platipus back in the day, which is of course high praise. The second track, Gute Nacht has also gone online and shows a more familiar darker style – if the previews maintain this standard then it’s going to be quite the release. Plus there’ll surely be some older-school, pacier tracks in there somewhere.

Possibly the biggest freeform announcement is the recent release of Future_Proof Sounds’ second compilation, a strong collection of tracks with Japanese representation from Hyphen and Kokomochi. Kokomochi’s If Not Machine has shades of ikaruga_nex and is a fine follow-up to Iron Sky.

We’ve also got another label entering the scene in the form of Skeny Tracks – it might lean towards melodic freeform and UK hardcore but the first release Retrofuture features a really impressive selection of newer artists from around the scene. Hyphen’s here of course, but watch out too for Sanaas’ Beastout.

Finally for now is an excellent hour of mixed tracks from BRK. Featuring a full tracklist of his own material plus a solitary remix, this is quality stuff and another clear step up for his productions. The collab tracks with GULD and NEON give the set some welcome variety, while Kaos Lodge is one of his strongest tracks for some time and a well-chosen finale.

Last year was much heavier on releases than we might have expected, resulting in a decent number of sets that tried blending old and new. Even if there were fewer ‘dark side’ DJs doing the rounds in 2017, there was a lot to enjoy and making these final choices was quite a challenge.

1. Shimotsukei – Future_Proof Sounds mix series 005

Shimotsukei has been single-handedly propping up the scene during its quieter spells – it wouldn’t have been that hard at all to pick a Shimo-only top 3. This set for Future_proof is my choice though, thanks to its more considered, ‘studio’ feel than her (still generally top class) twitch sessions. Some of the strongest Shimotsukei mixing of the year can be found here, as well as a quality structure that’s sparing enough with the melodies to make for a very welcome, darker set. Make sure to hang in there for a really excellent final third.

2. Solvynt – Lucky Lotus Online Electronic Music Festival 7

Most ambitious set of the year was definitely Solvynt’s Lucky Lotus submission, with the strongest tracklist you could possibly ask for. Melding some of the trickier tunes isn’t always successful here, but when it works, it really works. Perkele! into Shine remains the best transition I heard last year, and there are many other highlights to look out for.

3. Substanced – FINRG PODCAST 003

Third spot was a close-run thing, but in the end I went for Substanced’s masterclass in how to mix newer freeform with the old. Understandably heavy on his own, newer productions, the way they blend with a couple of classics is an encouraging reminder that the FINRG spirit is still very much intact. Some of the strongest mixing of the year, great cross-scene promotion, and hopefully a sign of things to come in 2018.

Honourable mentions

Hedonistik Ritual, Carbon Based

Let’s try that again, shall we?

Obviously I’d like to offer some huge apologies for cancelling the twitch stream at such short notice – and not even officially cancelling it here, as the couple of lines on Facebook were the very best I could manage at the time. Late on Saturday I managed to get some pretty severe food poisoning that put me completely out of action for a couple of days. An extra nice combo with the remnants of jetlag, as you can imagine…

Anyway, as the first set I’ve ever missed for any reason I’m pretty keen to make up for it ASAP. The plan is to reschedule for 10 days from now, once again at 19:00 JST. I’ll do some wider word-spreading nearer the day, but wanted to update everyone here first.

Before that I’ll be trying to catch up on a few things I’ve had planned, as well as continue with some minor and not-so-minor additions to the site. I’ve been thinking that it would be nice for TYFTH to do a better job of archiving and referencing info, both for Horsers and myself, so that’s something in the works alongside all these other posts I keep mentioning.

This would be another of those things that have been planned for an age, but what with 2017 being the first year without a club set since 2008 it’s probably about time to spring into action. Even if Shimotsukei levels of activity are a bit unlikely, I’ll be aiming for at least one set a month, starting in January. Part of the thinking behind it is to keep me match fit for any sets next year, but also just to get me back into the swing of planning event-style mixes more regularly.

Right now I’m away from TYFTH Towers, but once I return to Japan there’ll be some action on what are usually the end-of-year posts. January will tentatively see the twitch stream, the 2017 top mixes (and hopefully tracks), along with a couple of other things that have been delayed for a while. And while 2017 wasn’t the easiest time for all sorts of reasons, TYFTH will definitely be a bit more active come the new year.

If you’re in the market for some melodic freeform then Nonaka+Chin’s FutureProof Sounds set might be a good one to check out. I often think of Nonaka as the Midas of the Japanese scene – his mixing level, thoughtful selection and taste for the Finnish sound alongside the UK freeform means there’s always something to enjoy.

This one is excellently mixed with some nicely considered transitions, and even if there’s a lot of UK freeform that I can’t name (not laziness, there’s actually no tracklist here) the set is also a fine showcase of Japanese tracks with artists from ikaruga_nex to Hyphen, via Alabaster’s Galaxy. I found myself wishing for some darker sounds but that’s clearly not what the set is aiming for – instead this is the place for some well-selected melodic highlights of the current scene.

If you’re keeping up on your goa releases you’ll know that Terraformer appeared about six months ago on Russian label Global Sect. There was a bit of a mixup with my order that has since been very smoothly sorted out by Adept, so it’s finally time to give it some space on TYFTH.

Global Sect continue to go the extra mile with the design and visuals of their releases, and while the spacey theme isn’t as strong as the more organic Mystery of Crystal Worlds the 4 CD physical version is still an incredible sight to behold. Although I might have been right to wonder if there was really enough top-level goa floating around at the moment for such a huge release, there’s a nice variety going on here with some more quality curation giving each CD a strong identity.

CD 1 is as good a start as you could possibly hope for, with a fine selection of Russian tracks joined by Mindsphere’s fabulous Enchanted Land. Alienapia’s Are You Mad? is a nice return to form, but The Essence of Bhagavat-Ghita is yet another excellent track from Psy-H Project and probably my favourite of the CD.

The second CD is more experimental with fewer heavyweight artists, but also as a pretty consistent sound that works in its favour. Edge of Infinity is about the oddest with its piano and guitars, while my favourite might be Clementz’ Conquer the Universe.

CD 3 is more uplifting and features some very strong tracks. Mindsphere’s Hidden Death is one to look out for, as well as the obvious choice of Gaura Nitay. Of the more uplifting tunes I most enjoy Raving Universe’s Ascension, but there’s plenty of quality from Zopmanika, Fiery Dawn, and Artifact303.

The final CD is entirely downtempo, maybe to follow the success of Artifact303’s outro to Mystery of Crystal Worlds. There are some lovely atmospheres here, but Liquid Flow’s Even Horizon sounds suspiciously like a typical goa track with the bpm bumped down a bit…there’s more to most downtempo tracks than that, it turns out. This was the first time to hear Fiery Dawn’s slower work, and the acid lines really do a fine job at this speed.

The absence of E-Mantra aside, this is clearly a very impressive release. Global Sect deserve support for these huge projects, and with something here for almost any goa fan there’s really no excuse not to.

Another addition to the growing list of interesting BRK collabs, this one features UK freeform’s Eryk Orpheus. An unexpected combination of artists, and the clip is very promising – not sure about release info yet but it’s one to keep an eye on, for sure.

I also should have mentioned BRK’s Love Like This, a collab with very occasional producer NEON that definitely sounds like both had plenty of input during production. Featuring one of those never-ending hard dance breakdowns, the track makes very good use of it with a really nice drop.

Obviously a must-listen, FINRG’s second podcast is a very welcome, Carbon Based-selected look back at a few of the label’s finest tracks. Plenty of these are well over a decade old but have never been bettered – it’s fitting to hear them again just before FINRG’s 16th anniversary event next year.

The mixing’s as rock-solid as you’d expect, and this might also be the first time I’ve heard other artists’ tracks used in a CB set.

Presumably we’re all familiar with Blue Revolver, 2016’s fondest of fond tributes to the modern(ish) shmup? I usually manage to restrain myself from too many game-related posts here, but BR sneaked through thanks to Wyrm’s sound design and a pretty remarkable OST from Qygen. Plus of course there was the excellent collection of remixes, including the return of ikaruga_nex and some lovely stuff from Hyphen – the game itself’s a must-purchase if you’re even slightly into the genre, but at the very least you need the soundtrack, which was comfortably one of the best freeform releases of the year.

Black Label is a CAVE style rebalance/update of the mechanics and frontend, with a genuinely interesting list of new additions. What’s bolder though is an arranged version of the soundtrack, wisely deciding not to try out-freeforming Qygen and instead taking things in a more conventional soundtrack direction. Exemia and Hagane are nice choices for remix duties (especially after Exemia’s quality work with Aerolith Aurorablast), and Hagane’s lush, breakbeaty take on Qygen’s tracks is sounding very successful so far. Black Label will be appearing in January next year.

Although it goes without saying that Shimotsukei’s SoundCloud (and especially the recent artist mix series) should be a regular destination for all Horsers these days, I couldn’t let this one pass by without comment. The difficulty of mixing Alek Szahala’s tracks together might be one reason for so few Alek-only sets over the years, but this two-hour epic is a mighty impressive effort.

As with many of Shimotsukei’s streamed sets this was put together with very little planning, which immediately gives it an extra dose of ‘live’ energy. The drawback of that approach is fewer standout transitions – a shame as that’s something I was really looking forward to in a set of this importance. That’s not to there aren’t any, mind, and the set’s atmosphere is shifted around very skilfully from start to finish.

Nine out of ten freeform DJs would recommend starting an Alek set with Tigris, and why not? It’s still one of the very best intros of all time, with enough darkness and melody to link nicely with a variety of other tracks. Here it’s Invitation – a solid transition to start, but it’s not until Ihme Juttu – Ziggurat that the mixing really picks up. That’s quickly followed by what might be the transition of the set, as Mermaid unexpectedly moves into Ngarnuuk in one of those high bpm mixes that Shimotsukei is so good at.

From that point it’s more about the excellent selection than anything else. There are a few wobbles here and there, as Heaven N Hell and Comet Catcher clash, while the following melodic tracks aren’t always comfortable mixing into each other. Much better is the Lagash – Chimaera combo, an effective transition that doesn’t overdo things while nicely altering the atmosphere. Things are really rock solid from that point – Last of the Mohicans into Icy Clouds is one I enjoyed, before the manic finale that you surely knew was coming.

A couple of omissions aside, this is a wonderful set that covers all era of Alek in a very different style to his own live PAs, and (as if you needed one) a great primer on Alek’s sound.

I’ll hijack the post before I go – it’s actually been in the back of my mind for a while to do a new Alek mix (my second, strictly speaking, as my first-ever recorded freeform set in 2006 was Alek-only), and this might be the kick I need to finally give one a go next year…