Goa / Psy

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.

My first solo mix of the year might not be freeform, but I’m glad to finally get this one finished. What eventually became this set started about three years ago, went very much on the back burner during In Praise of Shadows, and then came to mind again a couple of months ago. It’s relatively short for a Goa set, but there are a few reasons for that and the whole process has been pretty educational from a set-construction point of view.

Having followed Suntrip’s take on the genre for many, many years, I later became slightly obsessed with the idea of far darker tracks that maintained the emotion and melodic complexity of old and new school Goa. A bit of research on Psynews showed I wasn’t the only one, but there wasn’t much that fitted the bill, with most sounding more like slightly melodic forest or dark psy.

That changed once I discovered Psy-H Project’s Dance of Distant Worlds, released on Global Sect in 2013 and followed by the beautiful The Mystery of Crystal Worlds. Psy-H Project absolutely nails what I was looking for, and I orginally had thoughts of an extremely dark set of Goa based around that sound. Sadly very few other artists were doing anything remotely similar – my early efforts at putting a set together turned into a structureless mish mash of styles that kept meandering into super melodic Goa almost by accident.

In despair I gave up on the set, but decided to have another try earlier this year after listening to a lot of Mindsphere and the very promising six-track preview of Global Sect’s new Terraformer. The idea started to come together of a smoothly progressing dark set combining Global Sect and E-Mantra, with Mindsphere’s melodies as brief interludes.

Second Coming was just the track I needed to start things off, especially once I realised Ka-Sol’s Blogz worked pretty nicely as a follow up. It was this combo that also suggested the idea of changing tack slightly and going for a Goa interpretation of ‘dark psychedelic’, and so after some hints in Blogz and Gaura Nitay I eventually decided on Moonwalker as part of a trippier finale. It’s a typically climactic Morphic Resonance track (not a fan of that oddly overlapping snare/kick though) that combines well with E-Mantra and brings some extra weirdness to the set’s atmosphere, leading into Hynotic Signal’s Psychotria Viridis.

Mindsphere’s Tears of Goddess ended up being the sole ‘tranquil’ track, and even that wasn’t intended to stick around for too long. Hopefully it does the trick as a relatively peaceful pause (that all-important contrast), before the ferocious acid of Last Encounter comes in over the vocal.

In theory I could have drawn out the darkness-into-psychedelia theme to make a longer set, but even this version ended up becoming a silly amount of work. Recent events have given me less time and energy for set-tinkering, so even if it’s far from perfect I’m happy enough for now to have had fun with this shorter experiment.

01. Psy-H Project – Second Coming [Global Sect]
02. Ka-Sol – Blogz [Suntrip Records]
03. Psy-H Project – Gaura Nitay [Global Sect]
04. Psy-H Project – Infernal Candyflip [Global Sect]
05. E-Mantra – War of the Hierophants [Suntrip Records]
06. Mindsphere – Tears of Goddess [Suntrip Records]
07. E-Mantra – Last Encounter [Suntrip Records]
08. Morphic Resonance – Moonwalker [Global Sect]
09. Hypnotic Signal – Psychotria Viridis (Original Mix) [Hado Records]

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.

Inspired by the incoming Terraformer from Global Sect, I was meaning to go back to Goa for a post-In Praise of Shadows refresh, even before the freeform drought we’ve seen so far in 2017. Another release I’ve taken a proper look at in the meantime is Veil Of The Moon, the excellent fourth installment in Neogoa’s Dimensional Gateway series.

After a lot of recent Suntrip, Altar and Global Sect compilations that cater for the lighter Goa sound its nice to hear a darker, melodic, old-schoolish atmosphere throughout VOTM, especially as my forever-WIP Goa mix is always at the back of my mind. The intro track Dragon Twins starts the release off in impressively creative style, with some nice acid, psy elements and even decent use of the Think break. It’s into more conventional Goa territory for the following tracks, maintaining a consistently high standard throughout even if some of the production falls short of the scene’s big-hitters, with some occasional (comparative) muddiness or slightly spongy kicks.

Favourites for me would be the Proxeeus tracks Dagon and (with GoaD) Acid Implant, as well as Clementz’ Black Dwarfs. Negans’ Silver is a fine track, but doesn’t quite match the lovely stuff on his own Neogoa release, Danse Macabre. Both that and VOTM are freely downloadable and a very nice accompaniment to the great music appearing on the physical labels at the moment.

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.

The mining for Romancer mixes continues, uncovering a classic, almost decade-old COGI set that I thought had long since disappeared. This is a short (and through the mic again, I’m afraid) recording from NRGetic Romancer’s 4th anniversary, right around the time that COGI was experimenting with various configurations of dark psy and freeform.

He fits a lot into the 35 minutes, starting with Void Of Farthest and ending on Cosmo and OSOM’s Instrumental, via some really interesting transitions. The Epyx & Cyrez remix of Hanuman Visits Lanka was always one of his favourite tracks, while he does very well to shenanigan a mix between Ultimate Protection and Invitation. It’s a superb, if short set that brings back some very fond memories, and I hope the rest of you enjoy listening back as much as I have.

I’m sketchy on the three (?) dark psy tracks in the middle of the set, but here’s what I’ve made of the tracklist so far:

01. Hase vs Psyfix – Void Of Farthest
02. Twisted Freq – Hanuman Visits Lanka (Epyx & Cyrez remix)
03. ?
04. ?
05. ?
06. Carbon Based – Utimate Protection
07. Alek Száhala – Invitation
08. Cosmo vs OSOM – Instrumental

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.

One of my side quests over the past year or so has been to round up enough darker goa for a full set, but I’ve been struggling to find more than a few tunes that really hit the right spot. It turns out that for modern goa it’s a narrow target, as diddle with the basslines and melodies a little too much and things quickly head into psytrance, tech trance, or dark psy territory.

With my set stalled at around the 20min mark I was about ready to give up, but a few months ago I discovered The Mystery of Crystal Worlds, a 2015 compilation from Russian label Global Sect that’s the best goa release I’ve seen for quite some time.

Psy-H Project became one of my favourite goa artists after the release of Dance of Distant Worlds, one heck of an album that ranks up there with E-Mantra’s Arcana for goa with a darker edge, and he’s a constant presence here. The compilation shifts all over the place though, with the music one part of a massively ambitious project – a psychedelic poem (!) gives some alternate rhyming context to the tracklist, while the imagery and presentation of the 3 CD physical version is utterly beautiful.

In truth most of the tracklist is lighter than my WIP set requires, but some excellent material from Artifact303 is a highlight (including a superb downtempo finale in Family of Light), as well as an interesting collab between Nova Fractal, OXI, and E-Mantra. Alienapia and Khetzal’s Endless Glade doesn’t quite live up to expectations, but is another quality effort.

This one comes highly recommended then, but does anyone have other suggestions for modern dark/acidic goa in the Arcana or Dance of Distant Worlds mould?

Sharp-eared SoundCloud lurkers might remember that Qygen’s Supersonic Speed received a very smooth drum and bass remixing last year from Mellow Sonic. I listened to it at the time, but foolishly put off checking many of his other productions until now – thanks (as usual) go to Shimotsukei for giving me the necessary kick in the right direction.

It turns out that I’ve seen the light at just the right time, as three months ago Mellow Sonic’s Psychokinesis was released. No doubt about it, this is one of the most important albums of the year – and I know, in 2016 that’s saying a lot.

This isn’t a freeform-only release, mind, but it’s the way the freeform slots into this cyber-psychedelic, atmospheric collection of downtempo ambient, goa and psy that really made me pay attention. Even if it was just giving us a look at another potential-filled direction for freeform it would be a must-listen, but there are some blinding tunes in here that stand with the best of recent months.

Paradoxon is a very solid track with some nice, approachable melodies that benefit massively from the grindy leads and filtering, as well as the dark goa feel. Drum and bass breakdowns aren’t usually my favourites, but Mellow Sonic at least has the advantage of being an established dnb producer and it definitely doesn’t outstay its welcome.

Shifting Reality keeps the quality and tempo high, with a lovely structure and the best screaming leads since Pink Magic, while Blackout does all sorts of genre splicing tricks to excellent effect – I was expecting a fairly standard dnb-influenced semi-breakcore freeform track from the opening, but some goa-style sounds and deep breakdowns take it in really nice directions.

Psychokinesis, though, is where things get serious. A strong, freeform-styled intro leads into some glorious pads, and then the break. Featuring the depth of a drum and bass breakdown along with the earlier freeform elements, it somehow ends up sounding like something very new. Post-drop, the main melody is a winner – deceptively simple, it echoes some of the best emotional efforts of the FINRG classics, but surrounded by this new atmosphere it sends the track further into uncharted territory. This is what ‘deep’ freeform can (and should) sound like.

The intro and outro tracks are both downtempo, with Conspiracy in particular showing some E-Mantra-esque touches that I really enjoyed – as does Slipstream, even if the goa-influenced tracks don’t quite match the darkness and emotion of the rest of the album.

Whether or not Mellow Sonic was inspired by Qygen to take steps into freeform, Psychokinesis shows that in time he could make just as big, and unique, an impact. Let’s hope there’s more to come, but for now Psychokinesis is available on Mellow Sonic’s Bandcamp.

Something else I’ve been meaning to mention for a while is Psychic Formers, a new psy/freeform compilation, featuring the ever-present Hyphen and a lovely comeback track from ikaruga_nex.

Variety looks to be the goal here, and while there are also quality, high bpm tunes from Ata and polysha, the rest of the album takes a gentler stroll through some slow paced, melodic psy. This could be another chance for new listeners to join the scene, then, though the release is currently only announced for this year’s M3 event, taking place in Tokyo on Sunday.