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Here then is the first of what’ll be a few Romancer-related uploads to TYFTH’s YouTube channel – a set from Betwixt & Between that’s probably a new listen for anyone who wasn’t a regular at NRGetic Romancer back in 2008.

This set was mixed for Romancer and handed out as a CD promo, around the time that promotional mixes were becoming a common sight at the event. The mixing is a bit haphazard in places, but production-wise it really shows Betwixt at his best, a period when a lot of his oldies still got play alongside newer tracks like Wide Awake and Surendrajit.

I hope everyone enjoys it and will be looking forward to more – there might eventually be a downloadable home for the sets but they will be collected here for the time being.

edit: Almost forgot to mention, but in the original recording the transition from Genshi Kurage to Zusammengehorigkeit suddenly (and I assume accidentally) cuts off, with silence for a few seconds before a second version of the transition cuts back in and continues the set. It’s not a pleasant listen, so I’ve cleaned up that 20 second section to allow Zusammengehorigkeit to play without interruption. Full disclosure, and all that.

Although Decion might be best known for his NRG collabs with Alchemiist, he was also part of the freeform scene from the very early days of the Finnish sound. Anyone who missed out on his more freeform-centric sets should head towards his mixcloud, where there’s an impressive back catalogue that also includes NRG and hard dance. The freeform sets are very TYFTH-friendly, and maybe especially interesting for the inclusion of some lesser-known artists of the time such as Cyber Genetics and Beliar.

While lately the bpms might be slightly calmer, Decion showed in his recentish This is How I Roll 2 that he still has taste for the older stuff, ending another excellent, varied set with Hase’s Houkai.

A few days ago the classic NRGetic Romancer DVD was reuploaded to the TYFTH YouTube channel, after a recent voyage of discovery through my old hard drives. I found a few other old event videos that might go up soon, but there’ll also be some very old, Romancer-related stuff that never made it to the plasmadancer account.

Watch live video from Shimotsukei on www.twitch.tv

Chances to hear live freeform are few and far between at the moment, and so although Shimotsukei has already posted in the forum her upcoming live set is very worth a mention here too.

The stream will start on Friday afternoon at 5pm EST, translating to 7am on Saturday JST. Signs are that it’ll be quite a long one, so I’m hopeful to be a presence in the chat for at least part of it.

First impressions of 2017 are that this could really be a year for rookie producers to step up and fill the gaps left by the ever-increasing numbers of departing big names. One of the big motivations behind In Praise of Shadows was to inspire new producers with the spirit of the past decade or so, but it’s very likely that CODEX is what’s most responsible for giving many of the Japanese crew the final push towards a DAW.

pld is the most prolific of the new faces on the scene, with an obvious taste for the Finnish and Japanese styles that has developed nicely over the past year. His most recent upload, Blitzkrieg, might be my favourite so far, thanks to some very atmospheric, consistent sounds and satisfyingly nasty filtering. It also crucially has that ‘surprise element’, a couple of melodic touches that I wasn’t expecting, immediately taking it up a few levels.

Another new track is Greed from 4nkoo and Gil, a track that starts quite strongly and then gets better with each new element. Very clearly Hyphen inspired, the second half of the track manages the impressive feat of improving on the breakdown, finding a nicely emotional spot that bodes well for future tracks.

Mokoko’s Neuro is a shorter track and apparently a first step into freeform production. Personally I’d prefer a grittier, less ‘clean’ sound, but there is some really nice filtering on the leads and a U-F SEQUENCER-esque style that I always enjoy. The lack of an outro or full intro means Neuro is more of an experiemnt than the others, announcing Mokoko as another name to keep an eye on.

I’m sure we’ve mentioned the Smiling Corpse Slack group before? If you were previously signed up to the now-departed Freeform Forum then you likely received a recent, gentle reminder that the Slack is the new place for freeform folk to gather. There’s definitely potential there and discussion seemed very lively when I first signed up, even if the time difference between Japan and Europe/the US makes it trickier for me to really take part. I’ll definitely be popping back now and then, and hopefully this link (thanks Sherkel!) will lead non-members to a sign-up page – with freeform awash in releases for an apparently shrinking audience, anything that solidifies the community a bit more is very welcome indeed.

Thought I’d make the most of this quiet spell for new sets by posting up another favourite from the Golden Age. This time it’s the very beginning – Alek Száhala playing at Säde, almost 14 years ago. That a good few of the tracks would still be in my all-time top ten says it a lot for Alek’s production, but this set is extra special for the live edits and interesting transitions that we don’t see much of from Live PA artists these days. Imagine hearing Invitation suddenly leaping into this set, back in 2003, or the atmosphere during the Afternoon Owl – Man Eaten mix.

Believe it or not, over the past few months I’ve actually been making more of an effort on the production front, putting in a few hours each week. Not quite the daily grind that I remember Aryx and Substanced both recommending, but I’m determined not to only have the Hell’s Gate remix to my name and it’ll hopefully end up leading somewhere. Seems like I’m not the only one, as the forum has woken up slightly with the first hoover/leads production discussion.

What with freeform being such a niche affair, videos that show the producers at work are an absolute mine of inspiration and guidance – some classics are of course Alek’s Ziggurat, Aryx’s Galaxis and Solar Flare, and Qygen’s Past Blaster. Now we can add Hyphen’s AWAKE remix to the list, doing for FL what the previous guides did for Reason users.

Hyphen’s YouTube channel already has some very nice tutorials and a look into his track Laser Fusion Reactor, but this video goes way deeper with almost 30 minutes of back and forth through the track, including detailed looks at the synths and piano rolls. This will massively benefit anyone, no matter the DAW, and whether you’re looking for a more uplifting sound or not this is surely the best introductory freeform tutorial so far.

The last couple of choices have just been submitted, and so it’s now time to share the Japanese scene’s favourite tracks of the past year. As with the 2015 edition I’ve added links to as many of the tracks as possible, hopefully helping those who want to hunt down the unfamilar choices.

In an effort to keep mine unbiased I’ve ruled out any tracks that appeared on In Praise of Shadows. Although that made things tricky (had the compilation appeared on a different label all of my choices would very likely have come from there) it was good fun to dig through the rest of the year’s releases. The three I’ve gone for are still excellent tracks of course, and would have been challenging for a place in the list either way.

As always, I hope you enjoy the look back – with such a strong year of releases it’d be great to see some Horser choices in the comments, too.

GULD (NRGetic Romancer)

  1. Aryx – Aurora (GULD remix) [TYFTH]
  2. GULD – Perkele! [TYFTH]
  3. Alek Száhala – Enuma Elish [TYFTH]

Hyphen (SOLIDBOX RECORDS)

  1. Substanced – Afterlife Penance (Transcend & Cyrax remix) [FINRG]
  2. Transcend & Cyrax – Unleashed (Substanced remix)
  3. Grimsoul – Badass Geeks (Lost Faith & Spectrum remix) [ReBuild Music]

Alabaster (M&C Recordings)

  1. Synthwulf – Not Your Angel (Synthwulf bootleg) [Justice Hardcore]
  2. Alchemiist – Triple X Rated [FINRG]
  3. Morita Yuuhei – The Ghost [TYFTH]

Morita Yuuhei (Illegal Wave Records)

  1. Nomic – Caldera [TYFTH]
  2. Substanced – Rise From The Darkness [FINRG]
  3. Kokomochi feat. Setsunann – AWAKE (Hyphen remix)

Kokomochi (FutureProof Sounds)

  1. Substanced – Rise From The Darkness (Original mix) [FINRG]
  2. Alabaster – Galaxy [TYFTH]
  3. Hyphen – Hell & Heaven [FutureProof Sounds]

Raqhow (CODEX, Freeform Bros)

  1. Morita Yuuhei – Now or Never
  2. Kokomochi – Iron Sky [FutureProof Sounds]
  3. Kevin Energy & Cube::Hard – Voice of Carme (Transcend remix)

NONAKA+CHIN (SPREEMO, Freeform Bros)

  1. Alias A.K.A. – Techn8 (Qygen Remix) [ALIAS A.K.A.]
  2. Nomic – Shattered [ReBuild Music]
  3. Substanced – Into the Light (Original mix) [FINRG]

ASAHI (CODEX)

  1. Freakangel – Not A Love Song (STUDIO-X Hard Dance Remix) [Alfa Matrix]
  2. KSHMR & Marnik – Bazaar [Spinnin’ Records]
  3. Don Diablo & Khrebto – Got The Love [Spinnin’ Records]

PlasmaDancer (TYFTH, FINRG, CODEX, NRGetic Romancer)

  1. Mellow Sonic – Psychokinesis [Cosmicopia Records]
  2. Qygen & Novaturtle – Ecumenopolis (Spacechase Version) [Stellar Circle]
  3. Alchemiist – Triple X Rated [FINRG]

Hyphen’s quick off the mark this year with a new showcase set, especially noteworthy for 2017 edits of three (!) tracks. My favourites are the Yuki Kajiura bootlegs, but all six tracks here show off a nice variety of styles, confirming (as if we didn’t know) that Hyphen is definitely leading the way for Japanese freeform at the moment. Transition fans will also enjoy the track connections, showing off some smooth approaches to key changes that make the whole set a quality listen.