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.
Thought you knew Nomic’s back catalogue pretty well, did you? A rude awakening awaits, as Shimotsukei has gone delving into the obscure and beautiful for another must-listen of a set.
This set very wisely takes a different approach than Nomic’s own live PAs and mixes, with older, experimental tracks heavily represented alongside some classics. With such a huge selection to choose from it’s a shame the set doesn’t go for as many melodic transitions as I was hoping for*, but the tracklist is fabulous and it most definitely has its quality combination moments.
With any other freeform artist you might complain at Leijonakuningas opening things and sticking around for a good 5 minutes or so, but for Nomic it sets the tone perfectly – you know that this is going to be something out of the ordinary. The excellent edit of Human Race follows, introducing a long sequence of trademark orchestral tracks that (utterly great though they are) don’t really have the power to be heard through club PAs very often these days.
Towards halfway is where the set comes into its own, I think – the combination of Etkö ymmärrä and Guardian Spirit is a real winner, before the bpm really starts picking up for the final third. The Black Cage is a fantastic track that I haven’t even heard before, while This Is The New Shit into Painajaiskarkoittaja is as good a use of two of my favourites as you’ll find anywhere (assuming you can find anyone else playing them, that is).
The final section from Battle of Dawn is the side of Nomic we rarely hear, but is a totally fitting finish for a top class set that manages something pretty special – covering all of Nomic’s trademark sounds but steering clear of too many anthems.
* I’ve since discovered that this was an improvised set streamed live, making it even more impressive.
Qygen’s not the only one going in interesting directions with freeform this year – one of the best releases of 2016 so far has now arrived, courtesy of Exemia.
Released earlier this month, Synthform is a pitch-perfect take on synthwave-as-freeform that really does sound like something new. The best frame of reference for us is probably Byproduct, but here with a harder edge that shows Exemia’s experience in the freeform scene. The addition of a mighty impressive Hyphen remix also means that this could be another Blue Revolver-esque gateway into the wider genre for new listeners.
My favourites so far are Defend the Bass and Digital Blizzard, but the whole album is top class and more than warrants a physical release. Instead it’s available on Bandcamp for free, but Exemia’s work deserves a lot more support than that and naming your price is surely the way to go for music of this quality.
Some news aimed at the based-in-Japan crowd here – as part of my efforts to broaden the audience for In Praise of Shadows I’m very pleased to say that the album has been on sale at Shibuya’s Guhroovy for a couple of days now.
TYFTH’s online store handling payments via PayPal is a bit of a problem in Japan, as it still doesn’t have much of a presence here. This has meant that the Japan crew have been at a disadvantage up to now and I’ve been hoping to give them some other options – it explains the very healthy sales on the first day at CODEX, but now anyone who missed that has this avenue.
It’s also a biggie for another reason, as having the label’s first release on the shelves of a music store is a pretty decent milestone – the fact that it’s Guhroovy makes it even better, as it comes almost exactly 10 years after I placed an order there (from the UK) for Khaotic Dimension. How far we’ve come, eh?
On that note, if you’re outside Japan then for goodness’ sake don’t order though Guhroovy, as the stock is fairly limited and getting the album from the TYFTH store is far cheaper thanks to the (in hindsight perhaps too generous) free postage worldwide.
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.
Slightly belated notice of a new(ish) set from me and Shimotsukei that went online recently and was part of Lucky Lotus 6 back in June. We decided to make things more interesting than the usual ‘one half each’ setup and try a more aunthentic back to back, alternating every few tracks. It all came together far easier than I was expecting, and there are a fair number of rarer/unreleased tunes amongst the classics.
Big thanks of course to Lucky Lotus and Shimotsukei for such a nice opportunity to take on something different, and I hope we’ll have a chance to give this another try in the future. Tracklist is below, and the set is downloadable on the FINRG SoundCloud.
[PD] 01. Tyranoid vs Strongstream – Spice／Epice 02. Epyx & Cyrez – Game Over (Tyranoid/Strongstream Remix) 03. Epilim – Rapid Fire [Shimotsukei] 04. Carbon Based & DJ Rx – Reptile 05. Pain On Creation & Fea – Unconsciousness 06. Epyx & Cyrez vs Fea – Untitled 4 Evah (Unfinished edit) [PD] 07. Nomic – Neptune 08. Alabaster – Galaxy 09. Re-form – Cyanide [Shimotsukei] 10. Epyx & Cyrez – Neverlasting 11. Le Dos-on – Rising Sun 12. Proteus – Venla [PD] 13. DJ RX – Hellfire 14. A+D+A+M Lab4 – Psychopath 15. GULD – Hannya 2 16. VICE TEK HEAVY INDUSTRY – 3M3SIS [Shimotsukei] 17. Betwixt & Between – Matsukin (Remix) 18. Nomic – Mutantit
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.
Time for a respectful tip of the hat to Shimotsukei for one of the finest sets so far this year. As you’d expect, Shimotsukei covers all the TYFTH bases from twisted synths to melancholy, moving between Japanese and Finnish sounds with some very high quality mixing.
The set fits a huge amount into two hours, but the careful arrangement of Hase and Pain on Creation tracks was what first caught my ear – the two of them really are leagues ahead when it comes to the filters we all love. The problem then becomes how to blend their tracks with the rest, and the first third of the set does a superb job of running through NRGetic Romancer friendly NRG in as smooth a style as you’ve ever heard. I often wince when I hear promos being shoehorned into a set for reputation’s sake, but well played Shimotsukei on the use of Disintegration – that combo with Eternal Cannon is one of the moments of the set, and more than worth waiting for.
In some ways it’s a shame the set isn’t shorter/split in two for these sections to be completely self-contained, as the move into the second half features some great old and new selections but lacks some of the smoothness of the opening. Often comes with the territory when mixing freeform, but there are still some very nice moments, like an especially ferocious combination between Freeform Mercury and Silver Cube.
A look at the tracklist should be enough for most TYFTH readers, but as in all the best sets, the transitions add a lot to the atmosphere and make this far more than just a roll call of classics and promos.
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.