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…

PID has been near the top of the now-lengthy ‘promising newcomer’ list for a while, so it’s good to see him making some even bigger strides this year. We Are Finally Here is a contender for his strongest track so far, with one of the best structures I’ve seen for a while.

Give it a listen all the way though and if you’re anything like me you’ll be more impressed the longer the track plays, particularly post-halfway. The Nomic influence is there from the start, along with plenty of other touches that point towards various flavours of FINRG. Filters and a strong opening melody are all well and good, but when the breakdown first appeared with some percussion to add interest I was afraid that was where things might start to tail off. Not a bit of it – instead a lovely distorted lead goes straight into a Carbon Based-esque filters-and-kick drop, followed by a new spin on the main melody that has the track flirting with very high level territory.

The production isn’t at those same levels just yet, but this is still an excellent track that bodes well for the future, especially now that PID seems to be thinking about putting together an album of his own material.

Although a heroic effort at turning NRG into an acronym was the first thing I noticed here, Japanese label Masamune’s Neologism Raving Generator might actually be one of the most important freeform albums of the year. It’s also another one that should have decent appeal across the whole scene.

Most encouraging is the sight of some new artists stepping up with some very high quality production – Nizikawa’s Ebrietas might be the track that finds the firmest middle ground between uplifting melodies and the more aggressive stuff. The majority of the tracks have most in common with the sound of the UK scene, though there’s a definite J-Core influence to some of the melodies that comes out especially in a couple of polysha’s collab tracks, Omniverse especially.

Sanaas’ PALLADION sounds like a really impressive uplifting track, while Hyphen’s Meaningless C.O.D.E. is one of his strongest for a while, at least to my ears. Unsurprisingly it’s Morita Yuuhei’s Redemption Song that’s my early favourite – the moment I heard the preview I started running through set ideas. I shall definitely be using that one.

Neologism Raving Generator was released at last weekend’s M3, but it’ll likely follow the lead of Psychic Formers and eventually be available online.

update: The CD is now available via Diverse Direct and the Tano*C Store. I’d recommend the former – just after placing an order I noticed the ‘For Oversea’ section with an unusually clear guide in English. Postage abroad seems pretty steep if you’re only ordering a single CD, mind, so it might be a thought to add a couple more to the basket.

Who’d have thought that it would end up being difficult to keep track of new freeform releases in 2017? Electronica Exposed’s 15th anniversary is one of the biggest, and an essential buy.

Happily, this landmark for one of the most important labels of them all has as wide ranging and high quality a tracklist as you’d hope. Most of the UK freeform tracks have a nicely acidic, old school feel to them, while there are some real heavyweights on the Finnish side – remixes of Cyclone and Harder Than U Think, along with Alchemiist’s rework of Can U See Now are all unmissable.

The 2 CD release is a relatively small run, and available now, directly from Electronica Exposed.

Now this here is an overdue post – and yet it now turns out to be something of a hopeful preview of things to come. Sherkel’s no stranger to any visitor to TYFTH, but after gophering away for years on his own productions it’s surely time for a post to help them be heard more widely.

Since the upload a year or so ago of Night Falls, a full mixed set(!) of NRG and freeform experiments that had some very promising moments, Sherkel has hit on a incredibly distinctive style that takes his melodies in a (slightly) more conventional direction and pairs them with an unbelievably accurate take on elements of Einhander’s sound. That second bit really is something, somehow nailing not only the trademark Einhander lead sounds but also his filtering techniques. For good measure a number of Sherkel’s tracks also emulate Einhander’s percussion style, as heard in Yarai, my choice to headline the post.

Yarai‘s melody is a rework of a Pokemon OST but still has the distinctive Sherkel style – I can’t stress enough how impressed I am to be describing such a new artist’s productions (or pretty new to NRG, at any rate) in those terms. That incredible filtering gets a run out here, and the track is a fine example of Sherkel’s work post-Night Falls. You might also notice that Yarai is already nine months old, but happily there has been plenty of progress since. edit: The version at the top of the post is now the updated, full length track from January. More recent tracks have definitely upped the level once more, giving me hope that at least some will be completed and online before too long. A Night Falls 2 would already be an impressive set.

I really wasn’t expecting this – a tribute to Buzzmasta that well and truly does justice to his varied sound, as well bringing some deserved attention to one of the most important names in the Tokyo hardcore scene. Once again we’ve got Shimotsukei to thank, which of course means impressive mixing and plenty of obscurities in the tracklist.

Those familiar with Buzz’s back catalogue will know that he covered the full hardcore spectrum in his productions, nicely reflected here in a mix that goes all the way from happy hardcore to Full Circle freeform anthems. I was expecting Shoreline as the opener, but after that almost every other track (at least in the first half) was something new to me – I always loved how Buzzmasta hardcore had far more of the 90s spirit about it than most of the UK hardcore you hear these days, and the ‘happier’ section of this set is just what I was hoping for.

One of my favourite tracks, For Action, links very nicely with Sing to Me, effectively introducing a harder final third that brings back plenty of memories of Buzzmasta and Yousuke at NRGetic Romancer. Shimotsukei pulls out all the stops on the section, finding some lovely transitions to keep things pacy – Equinox into Euphonica is especially nice. Most will know that Full Circle tracks were also Buzzmasta-produced with suggestions from Yousuke and Cogi – the hyperactive (and lengthy) filtered sequences in Gate Crasher and Halcyon are good examples, and both thanks to Cogi’s cajoling. The Full Circle material is also an impressive example of his range, then, with Alchemy perhaps my favourite track that finds a comfortable spot between the two extremes.

Even putting aside the emotional aspect this is an excellent Shimotsukei set, but as a tribute to one of the kindest, most genuinely nice guys in the Japanese scene it’s even more special. I’m sure that Buzz himself would have absolutely loved this one.

I should really have mentioned by now that FINRG’s latest EP has been online since last week, as I suspect you’re going to have to search hard to find a better freeform and NRG release anywhere this year. The ever-reliable combo of Alchemiist and Substanced has done it again with Dead Silence and its freeform remix, two tracks that definitely play to the strengths of their genres.

This might in fact be the darkest release since a certain compilation and I’m really looking forward to trying them out in a set. Both are available now from Beatport.

Later this month sees the sudden, surprise release of an very promising remix album, courtesy of Kokomochi. This is actually another freeform take on ZUN’s inspired soundtracks for the Touhou series – the emotional melodies are made for freeforming, as we’ve seen in goodness knows how many past compilations.

Kokomochi looks to have done a spot-on job of adding some aggression to the tracks, thankfully sidestepping the jolly style of some hardcore remixes I’ve heard in the past. Instead there’s plenty of melancholy here (see my first-impressions favourite, White Heron), along with some quality track progression and an impressive level of production. The tone overall strikes the sweet spot between freeform’s various camps, with some UK-style fills and effects combining nicely with nastier Finnish filtering.

As things stand the release is only announced for this month’s M3 event, but I’ll update as and when any other release info turns up.

Last-minute announcement that Hedonistik Ritual and Hz DJ will tonight (BST) be playing what looks like the first of a series of sets of trance, hard trance and freeform. I didn’t see a sign of how long the set(s?) will run for, but it’s probably safe to assume things will start off on the slower side and build up from there. Find out for yourself this evening and show some support on the Hard Tranceformers Facebook page, where the whole thing will be streamed.

Aspiring freeform producers who missed the recent(ish) announcement should note that FINRG is accepting track submissions. Another promising sign (after Substanced’s Pure Freeform) that the label is resurrecting itself for the end of the year, and it can’t come soon enough.

As much as I’d love to be accepting tracks to be be released on TYFTH that’s not a possibility for the forseeable future, so it’d be lovely to see some IPoS-inspired darker tracks surfacing on FINRG in the meantime. Surely getting in touch through any of the usual channels will do the trick, but the orginal announcement can be found on the FINRG Facebook page.