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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.

Apologies to the Lucky Lotus chat crew who have been expecting this for almost a week, but hopefully late is better than never – best we take a look at this one before we work through some other very promising sets from last weekend.

You might remember that we were both originally on the lineup to play individual sets, but what with one thing and another it worked out easiest for us both to go for another collab. Not that I’m complaining – last year was really good fun, while this one was a great way to get over a slight lack of recent freeform inspiration on my part. I have a darker set in the very early works, but last year’s In Praise of Shadows mix worked out so well I’m having trouble matching that for the time being.

Instead I thought a slightly more melodic approach might be interesting this time, including some of the freeform side of IPoS. Shimotsukei had her own ideas of course, and the set somehow worked out very nicely with minimal rejigging of the tracklist. My toughest job was to come up with pre-Fleshfest sequence which led me to settle on Some More. Years of diddling around with the track has still left me with no decent transitions, and so after spending time on all sorts of bizarre combos I gave up and went for a Grimsoul-only opening. We don’t hear his tracks often enough these days (Sentimental Pain aside), plus it was my first time to use any of the three in a set.

Shimotsukei’s sequences are all fantastic, from the standout NRG of Fleshfest Mad Man to the so-mad-it-might-just-work finale of Voodoo to Xochitlan. Each sequence is made all the more impressive by the fact that Shimotsukei was mostly working with my completed sections of the set, once I had cheerily passed them on for her to struggle with.

My own favourite section is Syxautik to Ascend to the Stars, even if it’s the most roughly mixed (with some suspect levels that definitely didn’t seem as bad while mixing). I was trying a dark, deeper atmosphere there, with some more emotional sounds coming in as it progressed – I think it’s pretty successful, and a bit of a preview of the kind of thing I’d like from the next solo set.

It was very nice to see the positive reaction to the set in the LL chat, as well as exchange a few words with Horsers for the first time in far too long. Big thanks of course to LL for the invitation, and especially to Shimotsukei for all the hard work to get the set ready in time. I hope we’ve still got a few more collabs ahead of us, they’re going well so far.

I haven’t given up thoughts of the occasional live set stream (on chew, twitch, or somewhere else) and will keep you all posted, but I do at least have a new mix approaching completion – not the usual thing at all, but hopefully it’ll be the kick needed for a more productive second half of the year.

01. Grimsoul – Escape Forever [Electronica Exposed]
02. Grimsoul – Pahus [Electronica Exposed]
03. Grimsoul – Some More [Electronica Exposed]
04. Carbon Based, DJ Rx & Proteus – Fleshfest [FINRG]
05. Proteus, Ephexis & Ting – Angel of Hell [UHOtrax]
06. FEN Project – Mad Man [FINRG]
07. DJ Rx – Fisheye [FINRG]
08. Morita Yuuhei – The Ghost [Thank You For The Horse]
09. Alek Szahala – Dryad Machine (Hyphen Remix) [Thank You For The Horse]
10. Nightforce & Substanced – Operation Stardust [Electronica Exposed]
11. Pain on Creation – Mortality [FINRG]
12. Twisted Freq – Syxautik [Electronica Exposed]
13. Mellow Sonic – Paradoxon [Cosmicopia Records]
14. Alek Szahala – Ascend to the Stars (Qygen Remix) [ReBuild Music}
15. Anon – Voodoo (Power Mix) [White Label]
16. DJ Eclipse – Ultra World 5 [Bonkers Records]
17. Betwixt & Between – East of Eden (Remaster) [CDR]
18. Alek Száhala – Xochitlán [FINRG]

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.

Watch live video from Shimotsukei on www.twitch.tv

Chances to hear live freeform are few and far between at the moment, and so although Shimotsukei has already posted in the forum her upcoming live set is very worth a mention here too.

The stream will start on Friday afternoon at 5pm EST, translating to 7am on Saturday JST. Signs are that it’ll be quite a long one, so I’m hopeful to be a presence in the chat for at least part of it.

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.

Sorry the year ended without a post, but the Top 3 Tracks are being gathered together as we speak and will be appearing soon, along with a couple of other delayed bits and pieces. For now, let’s start 2017 with my favourite sets of last year.

2016 was a funny one for the scene – surely more releases than we’ve seen since the golden era of FINRG and Electronica Exposed, but not many events at all (other than in the UK) and fewer recorded sets than we’re used to. Hopefully all these releases in 2016 will have given DJs the ammunition they’ll need for the next twelve months.

On to the favourites from 2016, then. Most of the best sets arrived too soon for a lot of this new material, instead showing a familarity with older tracks that lends itself to more ambitious mixing and cohesive set construction. There’s still a long way to go for the scene in general (in comparison with DJs in some other genres – a thought I’ll save for another time), but there were some more really promising steps forward in 2016.

3. Nomic – Lucky Lotus Online Electronic Music Festival 6

Nomic’s set for Lucky Lotus 6 was one of his very best, not only thanks to the combination of very old and very new, but also the subtle approach to blending tracks and carefully switching key throughout the set. Neptune into Rule Breaker is a nice example, and it does wonders for the atmosphere. That aside, it’s another masterclass of melancholy into aggression and an absolute must-listen.

2. Solvynt – Lucky Lotus Online Electronic Music Festival 6

Solvynt was on top form last year with his Lucky Lotus 5 set, so I was obviously looking forward to number 6 as soon as he was confirmed on the lineup. It doesn’t disappoint, featuring some of darkest atmospheres and interesting transitions of the year. I mentioned at the time that the set suffers a slight dip after a very (very) strong start but then quickly picks up again, which is the only reason it wasn’t my number one choice. Listen and learn from Superstition – Purple – Tendrils of Reality though, that there is how the creativity of a DJ can not only link together, but actually add something extra speacial to the hard work of the artists themselves.

1. Shimotsukei – The Techno Shark Guest Mix

There was no stopping Shimotsukei in 2016, with a pretty staggering amount of mixing across all sorts of genres and even some very promising steps into production. Her end of year Le Dos-0n/Hyphen set came very close to defeating the Techno Shark, but in the end it was hard to deny two hours of excellently mixed tracks that match the TYFTH mission statement word-for-word. The first third-or-so of NRG is as good as you’ll hear anywhere, with some superb, ambitious mixing that maintains the atmosphere brilliantly. The length of the set means that things eventually have to start switching up more abruptly, but even among the freeform tracks there are some special transitions that make the whole two hours an exciting listen. Also worth mentioning what an excellent intro to the two genres this is – if you’re ever out proselytising among the non-believers, Shimotsukei’s set would be ideal.

Honourable Mentions

GULD, Hellfury, Midas, Orphic, Shimotsukei, Shimotsukei

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.

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.