UK

What was already the strongest year for releases in a long time just keeps improving, as Futureproof Sounds’ first compilation has just sneaked in before the end of 2016. A UK label with a taste for the darker side, Futureproof has given strong support to the Japanese scene in FS Vol 1, with tracks from Hyphen and Kokomochi.

I’m not sure I’ve heard the Hyphen track yet, but judging from the collection of preview clips Kokomochi’s Iron Sky leads the way in the rest of the lineup. One of those Hyphen/ikaruga/Falchion-esque tracks that goes heavy on the melodies but anchors things with some nastier sounds, it sounds like a track that could fit into a lot of sets.

The rest of volume one features some interesting melodic tracks without heading too far into darker territory (Transcend and Cyrax’s Forever is a nice example), but the release is definitely one to keep an eye on. It’s available now from the Futureproof site with a very limited run of 100 copies.

What’s this, UK Freeform? Yup, Stamina’s newest compilation has just been released, featuring some huge UK names and a very welcome appearance by Substanced. Artificial Reality is everything you’d hope for, hitting that trademark Substanced middle ground of melodic freeform with an aggressive, Finnish edge.

Heading further across the melodic spectrum are tracks from Transcend, Digital Commandos and A.B, while (as I mentioned in A.B’s promo thread the other day) Ales’ Genre This! remix has a really interesting atmosphere that caught my ear right away. There’s of course a vast expanse of uplifting UK sounds for those whose boats float that way, but even the darker crew should be giving this 2 CD (plus WAVs) release a look.

Everyone’s familiar with Alias A.K.A., if not for his multi-genre productions of the past few years then definitely as Electronica Exposed’s main man, Shanty. I’ve been following Alias’ releases and mixes for a while and really should have mentioned them here, especially the fabulous Prime Suspect album.

Praise be, then, as the latest Freeform Remixes compilation takes on some of those darker tracks along with all sorts of other fun and games for a compilation of very big names. The majority of the artists lean towards UK freeform, but we also have some high quality deeper sounds on show. Nomic’s Regret remix is the big standout for me so far, but Wyrm and Sutr are a perfect fit to take on Nurgle, originally one of those excellent Prime Suspect dark trance tracks. The remix doesn’t quite hit the dark atmosphere of the original (it is named after the god of disease and decay, after all), but the second half of the clip shows a ton of promise – pacy, twisted and heading in a darker direction.

The last of the previews went online recently, but keep an eye on the Alias A.K.A. SoundCloud or Facebook page for more info on the release.

ReBuild is back once again with a hefty 3 CD release, of most interest to me (and many Horsers, I expect) for the inclusion of Nomic’s Shattered. A new Nomic track is always an event, and this is another of those mid-set, atmospheric pieces of freeform that he has really made his own.

Sadly the rest of the album is aimed firmly in the UK hardcore direction – possibly a tough sell if you only have eyes for Shattered, but orders can be placed here.

I’ve been meaning to get this post online for a week or so, but now it’s especially timely – Cave/Raizing-inspired shmup Blue Revolver was released today (JST) on Steam, and is essential if you’ve even the slightest interest in the genre.

What should be of interest to all Horsers is the soundtrack, composed by Qygen and featuring remixes from the likes of Hyphen, Exemia and Blue Phoenix. In Praise of Shadows aside, Qygen’s work here is far and away the best freeform I’ve heard this year, and it’s really exciting to consider how many people could be exposed to his sound if this release does as well as it deserves to.

The top of this post is a recent episode of STG Weekly, featuring Blue Revolver and its developers. Although my shmupping has lapsed a bit over the past year, I’ve been back at Guwange and Crimson Clover recently and can’t wait to give BR a proper go.

There aren’t as many Alek Szahala-only sets kicking around as you’d expect, so this 80 minute mix from Midas was a very pleasant surprise. The tracklist is an especially interesting one that sets off from an unusual starting point, runs through some darker classics, and ends on some faster darker classics.

You could hardly ask for better, and that unusual opening (starting with Lagash 2012) features some really brilliant transitions – Astraia and Avalanche were made for each other at this bpm, and Heaven & Hell is a great choice. Very nice to see Noitavasara in there (a tune I’ve been trying to use for the past year or so), while Hydra is yet another excellent, surprising selection. After the bpm has crept up this high, then why not finish with the traditional Xochitlan?

This set came to soon for any chance of Enuma Elish, but that aside, a quality tracklist and rock-solid mixing in typical Midas style make it very highly recommended.

An interesting take on the dark/melancholy formula here, in a set from DJ Danny Stokes. Recorded a few years ago, the set is anchored around a few heavily pitched up Lab 4 tracks – this might be a deal breaker for some, but it’s this and the surprising combo of Nu-Energy with darker tracks that are the noteable elements here.

Although personally I could do without tracks like Kevin Energy’s remix of Lumi, it’s tracklists like these that show the potential of coaxing more UK freeform-centric DJs towards the FINRG, EE, Kreatrix and (wait for it) TYFTH side of things. As an example, CLSM’s Revolution remix works brilliantly here as a link between Lab 4, with Adaption making perfect sense as a follow-up.

It’s thought-provoking stuff, before the second half of the set switches into a nicely mixed selection of old favourites. I have my own thoughts on how the TYFTH flavour of NRG and freeform can reach wider audiences, but sets like these (and Thumpa’s, obviously) show a another possible, optimistic attack vector on the less grimdark corners of the freeform world.

Lucky Lotus 6 was very high on quality, and I’m still working my way through a few of the sets from the event. So far my favourites have been Nomic and Solvynt, two distinctive sets that did a fine job representing freeform.

Nomic’s hour won’t disappoint – it’s one of the nicest balances of melancholy and harder stuff that I’ve heard for a long while, while the WIPs and new tracks mean there’s plenty for Nomic veterans to check out, too. We have to mention the opening, of course, as the third part of Falling Star is an absolutely beautiful track that does more than enough to distinguish itself from the ’08 version. Watch out for new track Shattered, as it starts a very classy section from there to Black Lotus, before the traditional harder finale, this time of Leave Me Alone / Mad Man and Holocaust.

Solvynt’s set comes at things from a DJ angle, and so in my book the transitions, selections and ‘story’ of the set should take centre stage. Right from the start it’s clear that Solvynt has kept that in mind, as the Superstition – Purple – Tendrils of Reality combination is about as good as you’ll hear anywhere. There’s a lovely flow to it, from the psychedelic darkness to the way things build up to the harder stuff with Tendrils, and if things had maintained those standards for the entire set we’d be looking at an all-time classic.

Easier said than done (and I certainly don’t think I’ve ever managed it either), but even when the flow is interrupted slightly the tracks themselves are high quality choices. It’s from Brionac, though, where things get back into top-level territory and the kind of twisted atmosphere that’s so hard to get right with freeform – that move into The Ghost of Jupiter is great, followed by some superb use of Nomic and Pain on Creation. Unicorn Grove signals a classic Alek/Betwixt finish, a nice way to end a very impressive hour.

Long overdue, like a lot of posts these days, is a heads up re. CODEX7. Arriving in September, this looks to be another quality event of freeform and NRG, but this time with an additional psychedelic floor with ChankoDiving headlining.

On the freeform side we have some great guest bookings in the shape of Evolutionize and Nu-Energy veterans Digital Commandos. I have high hopes for Evolutionize’s set, and finding myself on the lineup once again I hope to contribute a bit of darkness, too. It looks as though GULD has become a semi-regular CODEX member, and his set will raise the level that bit higher, as always.

This time I’m slightly sad to see that the venue won’t be R-Lounge, but Circus Tokyo is the recently refitted incarnation of amate-raxi and it’ll be interesting to see what has changed. I have heard talk that there will be a selection of CDs available at the event (maybe even including you-know-what), so stay tuned for more info on that as well as timetables and the like.

Main guest
Evolutionize from USA (Smiling Corpse)
https://soundcloud.com/dj-revenge-1
Digital Commandos from UK
https://soundcloud.com/digitalcommandos

Main floor DJ
Alabaster (Cradle to Grave)
GULD (NRGeticRomancer)
Hyphen (Splash Energy/SOLIDBOX RECORDS)
NONAKA+CHIN (SPREEMO / Freeform Bros)
PlasmaDancer (TYFTH/FINRG Recordings / NRGeticRomancer)
raqhow (CODEX / Freeform Bros.)

Psychedelic Floor DJ
ChankoDiving (cubegrams)
jube (Peace Day&Night)
kossy(D/0)
m9icchy(D/0)
TAK666 (Cradle to Grave)
Viral Program a.k.a 6th (Illigal wave Records)
yo5hi9 (Digital Om Productions/Wing Makers)

VJ
VJ ALE (RisingGENERATION / deeepa)
Manabirds (RisingGENERATION)

Photo
Mizuho

A brief pause in the manic TYFTH self-promotion to mention another great looking release that’s rather more immediately on the way. Evolutionize’s solo album has been in the works for a long while now, but will be releasing tomorrow (15th July) on Smiling Corpse.

I expect Smiling Corpse will be the place to keep an eye on tomorrow, but for now there are plenty of preview clips to check out and a promo mix by Dyzphazia. Evolutionize’s hyper-aggressive, Finnish-influenced sound works in almost any set, and the album looks to have a huge amount of variety. Personal favourites right now are Yolvenvur and Provisional Unit 05, which you can hear in the playlist above.