UK

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.

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.

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.

Pre-Lucky Lotus it was tough to find quality sets of newer freeform, making Hedonistik Rutual’s FutureProof set a very welcome one. It’s a beautifully put together hour or so with a very strong theme, managing to represent a few sides of the scene without things getting disjointed.

The opening is the real standout of the set to my ears – Hedonistik coming up with a lovely live edit of Byrgius that flows perfectly into Hyphen’s NEXUS. This excellent start leads into some more thoughtful melodic tracks (including Sentimental Pain, of course), with Transcend’s remix of Isn’t it all a little strange proving to be a nice bridge into the more UK-centric sounds.

Some might not float my boat, but both the mixing and selection are solid and really well considered – that use of Artifical Reality as another bridge to switch things up again is a nice touch. Finishing with Iron Sky and Hyphen’s Dryad Machine remix nails the energetic melancholy that always works for a finale, taking things back to the Alek-esque atmosphere of the opening.

Kudos to FutureProof for promoting a variety of sounds in their mix series, and to Hedonistik for showing how a skilled DJ can travel the middle ground between the UK and Finland in fine style.

01. Alek Szahala vs Aryx – Byrgius (Ritual Intro Edit)
02. Hyphen – NEXUS
03. Grimsoul – Sentimental Pain
04. Exemia – Aeroduel (Hyphen Remix)
05. Shokk – Isn’t it all a little strange (Transcend Bootleg)
06. Transcend & Hedonistik Ritual – Scorched
07. Aeon – Games with God
08. Ace Ventura – Neurochemistry
09. Transcend & Cyrax – I’ll show you the Darkside
10. Arkitech & Cyrax – Destroyer of Worlds
11. Transcend & Hedonistik Ritual- Mercator de Mortem
12. Substanced – Artifical Reality
13. Kokomochi – Iron Sky
14. Alek Szahala – Dryad Machine (Hyphen Remix)

Only a week to go until this year’s Lucky Lotus, including my first recorded set of the year. Once again it’ll be a back to back with Shimotsukei, but this time with more of a freeform feel than our previous collab.

As always the lineup for the rest of the event is as good as you could hope for, happily with another good showing from the freeform scene. Names that leap out so far include Horzi, Hedonistik Ritual, Orphic, Alabaster, Solvynt, Decion, Byproduct and Alek Szahala, but as the festival runs for the usual three days it’s definitely worth checking the event page for updates and timetable info. Shimotsukei and I are scheduled for Saturday the 24th at 13:35 GMT.

I dread to think when the last post was – Life Stuff has meant some schedule juggling to fit everything in, and TYFTH has been suffering a bit as a result. Finally getting around to a few posts though, starting with the grand launch of Lucky Lotus’ CD compilation, Summertime Dreams.

The most significant news so far for freeform in 2017, this compilation has some very big names on board – Nomic, Qygen and Morita Yuuhei top the bill, with a very nicely produced contribution from Erkenfresh and Archari and Shimotsukei’s Dagor Dagorath adding some up-and-comers to the tracklist. With Shimotsukei in charge of things the rest of the release is about as eclectic as you’d expect, giving us a taste of everything from funkot to downtempo chillout, via Lab4’s excellent, roll-back-the-years NRG track, Moving To The Beat.

edit: I’ll blame posting rustiness for not mentioning something so important yesterday, but LL has announced that Qygen’s Crystal Cave will be his last freeform track. Talk about another huge loss to the scene, though the signs are that he’ll make a return to music of a different sort in the future.

Not really a release you can afford to miss, I’d say – it’s set for the end of June, but preorders are open already on the Lucky Lotus bandcamp and bigcartel sites.

About time some posts started appearing again, starting with a recording of Lab 4’s set from last weekend’s Dark Dimension. By most accounts it was as good an event as you’d expect but I had to miss it, making this upload a welcome chance to catch up.

Overall this is a slightly disappointing set when compared to Lab 4’s previous Japanese appearance (at Ageha a few years ago), as it tries to find a middle ground between their pure NRG of the past and newer tracks that take in semi-hardstyle, fewer filtered leads and even some dubstep breakdowns. On the other hand this selection likely has wider appeal than an hour of ten-year-old NRG, and I’ve only heard good responses to the set so far. A nice selection of the classics also helps of course, my favourite being a lovely edit of Psychopath that introduces the final ‘old school’ section, ending with Candyman.

edit: Thanks to Shimotsukei for the tracklist, via DJ X:

Intro
Efini – 00.39
Rave Revolućion – 5.15
Last Night ( Lab4_Unit13 feat Steve Blue Eyes) – 9.19
Requiem – 14.16
London ( Party All Night ) – 19.54
Come With Us ( Genetic Response ) – 24.10
No One’s Gonna Take Us Alive – 28.05
Ex Machina_( Weaponised ) – 30.25
We Live _ Mash Up – 35.06
Psychopath – 39.32
The Uprising – 45.18
Candyman ( Drop Glitch ) – 52.58