UK

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.

A few things to catch up on, starting with an impressive looking release from Alias A.K.A. More familiar to most of us as Shanty, Alias’ album is a freeform take on twelve of his house, breakbeat and trance tracks, with production duties taken on by a broad range of the scene’s artists.

It’s this diversity that’s the selling point of the compilation – a real showcase of Alias’ taste in freeform, with everything from Qygen’s psychedelics to some very strong contributions from the UK crew. Alchemiist’s frantic rework of Inescapable Fatalism deserves special mention for representing the FINRG sound, but there’s lots to like here. CD2 is a mixed version of all the tracks, something likely to be appreciated by the car/home listening brigade.

The album is up for pre-order here until the 26th of this month, and as it’s only after that production numbers will decided, showing some support right now makes lots of sense.

If you’ve ever wondered what freeform jungle produced by Transcend would sound like, then this post combined with the previous one might get you somewhere close – another sample pack, but this time free and featuring a huge range of classic jungle/drum and bass samples from 1989-1999. It was compiled by veteran intelligent junglists Blu Mar Ten, and while it might only be Qygen who has effectively incorporated 90s jungle into freeform so far, there’s more than enough here to get anyone’s inspiration going.

Heading the post is fine example of BMT’s work in the 90s – the quality drum edits and beautiful atmosphere of Lunar.

Transcend has long been my favourite artist active in the UK freeform scene, even if the always-long breakdowns and trancier elements have done just enough to keep his tracks away from my own sets. This sample pack from Stamina is genuinely exciting then, as it gives artists and fumbling also-rans alike the chance to put their own spin on some of Transcend’s trademark sounds. Both demos have some brilliant sounding stuff, and the £23 asking price sounds very fair indeed for what I hope will become a long running series.

It’s a bit of an injustice that Midas hasn’t had more mentions on TYFTH, as he’s been doing a brilliant job over the years of sneaking Finnish and Japanese sounds into his sets, both online and around the UK. In fact I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some of the UK freeform crew have Midas to thank for their first exposure to FINRG.

You won’t often hear Wizbit and Alek Szahala in the same mix, but Midas was on top form for his recent-ish Freeformaniacs set, deftly negotiating his way from nutty breakbeat hardcore to some classics of the darker side. I’ve been known to dabble in breakbeat hardcore myself, and it’s hard to resist some of these throwbacks to the amen-heavy mid-nineties, especially when mixed this well. Some teeth-gritting might be needed through the tracks that start sounding a bit too nu-skool, but we’re soon into some of the best of current UK freeform, including Transcend’s excellent Candyman remix.

Midas has often pushed the Hybridize era nasty-but-melodic sound, and here it works as a nice bridge into the darker final section. Morokai, Fluorite, Icy Clouds, Alchemiist’s Pain remix – you really couldn’t ask for a much better selection if you’re looking to introduce folk to our side of things. Quite the journey of a set, and one that’d easily grace the peak time of many a UK event, I reckon.

Let’s go non-freeform for the next in the long list of sets I’ve been checking out recently – Alias A.K.A.’s mammoth look back at late-90s intelligent drum and bass.

That 1997-1999 era was when the intelligent sound started heading along the road to oblivion though, and by 2000 the melancholy and deeper melodies had mostly been abandoned in favour of faster, less complex drums and endless sweeping pads. I felt at the time that this was a real last hurrah for the subgenre, and Alias has picked out every single one of my favourites in an excellently mixed set.

Coincidentally the other day I listened again to one of Bukem’s finest mixes from this era (Progression Sessions), which obviously had an influence on Alias’ tracklist, but there are also plenty of well selected jazzy tracks amongst the spacey tunes. The opening combo of The Rhyme Goes On and Do What You Gotta Do sets the standard, and the rest of the set does a fine job of living up to it. Occasional clashing pads aside, there are some brilliant connections in here –  Mind Games followed by Planetary Funk Alert is a worthy centrepiece for the set.

A lot of the freeform crew might already have been listening to early NRG and trancecore by this stage, but this is essential listening for anyone with an interest in deeper dance music, especially if you missed these tunes at the time.

It’s very encouraging to see Hellfury’s continued support for the emotional side of freeform – the first half of his recent Freeformaniacs set is loaded with impressively mixed, long-break heavy tracks and downtempo interludes. The overall atmosphere ticks just about every box for me in terms of what quality freeform needs to be – thoughtful, melancholy, but also aggressive when the time is right.

The interludes here take it to an extreme, however, and it got me wondering what sort of a crowd would go for this in a live environment. I’m convinced there’s a club audience for this kind of break-heavy play style, but maybe somewhere other than the hardcore scene…thoughts for another time maybe, but it’s a very promising direction and I’d love to see Hellfury and others develop it further. Being picky I’d suggest that half-speed downtempo tracks that blend smoothly with the freeform would take it to the next level, but Hellfury’s selections here are a quality start.

The second half of the set is perhaps a nod to the upcoming N.E.M.M. compilation, with far older trancecore/freeform tracks mixed impressively into some newer material from Qygen. The combination works really well, and the energetic shift in tone from the first half opens up the set to even more potential listeners.

Quite the demonstration of how diverse a single set can be, then, and very highly recommended.