Believe it or not, this post is in response to a few requests I had, many years ago, to talk a little about how I put my sets together. Back then I felt I had a lot to work on, and either way wasn’t really confident enough to articulate what I’d learned so far. Although there’s still plenty to improve, the combination of more regularly hitting what I feel is the ‘TYFTH style’ and the collected notes made during a decade of mixing mean that now might be the right time to give an explanation a try.
With as many mixing styles as there are DJs, it should really go without saying (despite the occasional imperative mood) that I’m in no way prescribing this as the way to put a freeform set together. Taking set construction so seriously has always been massively rewarding for me though, so the hope is that this will be an interesting look behind the scenes for those who enjoy TYFTH’s mixes.
These thoughts (they’re far too meandering to be called a guide) are roughly divided into three sections, covering the main steps in my mixing process. Particularly important points are noted along the way, and to help with the explanations a few PD sets (or even transitions within them) are used as examples, as well as occasional mentions of non-freeform sets that have inspired me over the years.
Some housekeeping for the comeback post, as In Praise of Shadows is available again via the bigcartel page. Of course it was offline for a while during my Europe wanderings so that potential orders weren’t on hold for a month and a bit, rather than having sold out. Although the compilation has sold repectably by recent (or 2016) standards, the print run was closer to 2007 golden era numbers, meaning there’s plenty of stock left. That also means, sadly, that there’s a long way to go before costs are recouped, but as a labour of love I’m not so worried about that part. Financially idiotic or not, I’m glad to have kept the quality bar very high for all aspects of the release.
Anyway, I thought I’d also use this post to say a massive thank you to everyone who has ordered so far. Even this year there has been a small but pretty steady flow of orders, which is especially amazing considering my lack of action here or promotion elsewhere. The compilation has now found its way to 18 countries, and I can’t tell you how inspiring it is to imagine it being played around the world. A second release might only be wishful thinking at the moment, but keeping the TYFTH sound alive in some form or another is I hope a decent way to start repaying you for the support so far.
While you’d be forgiven for thinking this latest TYFTH quiet spell is the terminal one, here’s a quick update to keep remaining readers in the loop and let you know about some plans for the rest of the year.
The recent absence has been partly enforced, and in a related move I decided to spend the summer outside Japan. What I hadn’t bargained for was the lack of wifi at any of my destinations – I haven’t been able to keep track of anything in the freeform world, while the TYFTH SoundCloud needs a renewal. At least before leaving I thought to change In Praise of Shadows’ status to ‘Coming Soon’ as a last-minute idea to stop orders coming in while I was away.
This time next week I’ll be back at TYFTH Towers, when those housekeeping bits and pieces will be sorted out. The site will also be waking up again, but depending on the amount of news I’ve missed there probably won’t be a flood of updates. One thing I had been thinking about pre-disappearance was that with so few TYFTH-esque tracks appearing these days there’s a chance the site will lean more towards a place to collect my own projects and TYFTH-centric information, at least for the time being.
The break has done me some good musically, I think, so all being well I’ll be back to tinkering with tracks and mixes very soon. At the very least there’ll be one mixed set to appear this year, and more if one of my related plans comes together. With more of a focus on TYFTH stuff there’s a higher likelihood of some longer posts showing up now and then, as well as some shorter updates on what I’m up to.
Even with a lot of catching up to do after recent weeks this guest set for Hardcore Junglists United by Shimotsukei has remained top of the to-post pile. Definitely the best I’ve heard from her in a long time, this is one of those sets that was obviously a labour of love and manages to bring together just about all of my favourite freeform elements.
I’d roughly divide the set into three sections, as things start with a very aggressive and genuinely dark opening, followed by some more melodic, uplifting tracks and a finale that makes a decent fist of blending all the previous styles. That opening is quite the thing though, setting a tone that Shimotsukei does a quality job of never straying too far away from. The mixing throughout is excellent, very rarely overdoing things and keeping it simple when longer transitions wouldn’t really work out.
If you can ride the wave successfully, mixing the aggressive filters of two different tracks does wonders for the atmosphere and can give a lot of flexibility in terms of which tracks you use. That proves to be true here at least, with combos like Kadotettu Todellisuus 2009 and Fear Myself working out incredibly well – other highlights might be Adversary – Reign of Terror, and Attacker – Daemons, even coming from a listener who usually struggles to get into Lost Soul’s tracks.
There’s a lot more going on here though, including a fine section of Tyranoid/Strongstream transitions and the mid-set use of Raindrops. It hasn’t shown up in a mix for a very long time, but Nightforce’s melancholy breakdown is a lovely choice as a set centrepiece. Personally I might have slightly shortened the melodic section pre-Attacker, but that’s present-day PD speaking and for many I expect it’ll be a nice break from all the aggression. Even having said that, the limited use of vintage Substanced and only one Transcend track shows that Shimotsukei was clearly going for an atmosphere that wasn’t stretched by too many different styles of melody. Really impressive stuff.
The lack of Alek/Nomic/Betwixt means it isn’t quite the grand tour of the scene you might be expecting in two hours – instead it’s a simply superb set that flows as well as any I’ve heard this year or last.
Almost perfect timing for a comeback post, what with 16 Years of FINRG clips appearing daily and the release set for the 25th of this month. Thanks to the FINRG grapevine I knew this compilation was in the works, but lost track of things since the initial murmurings and am as much in the dark as everyone else re. the remaining previews.
Such a strong lineup suggests there is still plenty to look forward to, as the tracks so far are keeping standards very high indeed. There’s also a good range, leaning towards uplifting sounds with a welcome strain of FINRG nastiness. Alchemiist’s Cybernetics might be the best example of that so far, while the return of Cyrez with the excellent Downshifter is my overall favourite at the time of writing. Another very welcome return to production comes from JNKS – The Game Needs Me sounds like a really impressive mixing of his DJing influences.
Notable of course to have such strong Japanese representation from Hyphen, Kokomochi and polaritia – after probably contributing the strongest track to Lucky Lotus’ Before The Dawn I’m excited to see what polaritia’s come up with this time.
There’s more Shimotsukei to talk about soon, but before that a quick mention of this three (!) hour NRG session that ticks plenty of the TYFTH boxes. Although there’s already an endless supply of recordings on Shimotsukei’s SoundCloud, it really does add to the enjoyment of live sets when you can see what’s going on. Plus in this case there’s the very helpful overlay to answer any tracklist questions and a pretty lively chat that’s worth keeping an eye on.
If NRG’s your thing then this really is an essential listen – it’s very likely you’ll hear some forgotten classics as well as some more obscure selections. As things move into freeform territory it’s also a good chance for fellow DJs to check a few Before the Dawn tracks in a (well) mixed environment
I’m slow (of course) to mention the most recent FINRG podcasts, but even if you’ve heard them before they’re well worth a revisit as DJ case studies.
Listening to these sets you can hear right away what freeform means to each DJ, with both featuring some similar tracks as part of two very different atmospheres. JNKS’ 64 minutes goes from happy/UK hardcore to some solid gold FINRG and back again, while Alchemiist plays some surprisingly melodic freeform, connected to neurofunk and hardcore by a few darker oldies.
JNKS’ selection is spot on, with a huge number of later-era happy anthems (including remixes to keep veterans of the early 90s happy), while the potentially hazardous transition into the FINRG section is very nicely handled. You really can’t beat the gritty sound of tracks like Killer Instinct and Illuminate, and of course it’s nice to see the obligatory Alek appearance.
Alchemiist’s steady progression into the non-freeform final third is just as well handled, but the standout section of the set was a more conventional one. I might prefer the original PVC, but the transition from Ghost of Jupiter into Lost Soul’s remix is still top class and a worthy centrepiece to the set. Absolutely lovely stuff.
Both essential listens then, as is the entire podcast series so far.
Yet more release announcements, this time for the huge, freeform-only Lucky Lotus compilation, Before the Dawn. I can’t the only one who’s been hoping for something like from LL for a while now, and this is a high quality cross-faded preview. Also an impressive tracklist, with some veterans anchoring things in amongst the new faces and a lot of Japanese representation. I haven’t heard the full tracks yet, but going on this preview and others I’ve heard Kounta Kulture’s Cannibal Girl might be the most immediately promising. Definitely looking forward to a leisurely listen of the whole release, though.
The other good news is that the compilation will be released in little over a week via the LL bandcamp – the official date is 10th March.
I know, you’ve very likely heard all about this already. This post is a public service announcement for those not up to date with freeform on social media, as preorders are open for Substanced’s already legendary solo album. With the scene the way it is these days it’s impossible to guess how quickly the 300-copy run will last, but for such a long-awaited release it might be best to err on the safer side and order soon.
Respect aplenty to A.B and Stamina for taking on the release – preorders are open now on the Stamina site. No sign of a release date or even a tracklist yet, so that’ll also be the place to stay up to date on both.
This was the first of Hedonistik Ritual’s live sets that I was able to catch for quite some time, but even a quick skim through should be enough to convince you that this one deserves a proper listen. Stretching a full two hours, it’s another one of those mixes that really shows what HR is all about.
Some harder UK tracks alongside plenty of rock solid Japanese and Finnish classics make for a really nice atmosphere, while the excellent use of some happier vocal tracks add another surprise element. In the wrong hands that could be the recipe for a right old mess – that this set works so well speaks to some high quality selection and nicely judged mixing. Finish things off with subtle effects and mic use for that live feel, and you have a streamed set done the right way. Check out the set on Youtube, along with the past Hard Tranceformers shows.