Top Tens

The last couple of choices have just been submitted, and so it’s now time to share the Japanese scene’s favourite tracks of the past year. As with the 2015 edition I’ve added links to as many of the tracks as possible, hopefully helping those who want to hunt down the unfamilar choices.

In an effort to keep mine unbiased I’ve ruled out any tracks that appeared on In Praise of Shadows. Although that made things tricky (had the compilation appeared on a different label all of my choices would very likely have come from there) it was good fun to dig through the rest of the year’s releases. The three I’ve gone for are still excellent tracks of course, and would have been challenging for a place in the list either way.

As always, I hope you enjoy the look back – with such a strong year of releases it’d be great to see some Horser choices in the comments, too.

GULD (NRGetic Romancer)

  1. Aryx – Aurora (GULD remix) [TYFTH]
  2. GULD – Perkele! [TYFTH]
  3. Alek Száhala – Enuma Elish [TYFTH]

Hyphen (SOLIDBOX RECORDS)

  1. Substanced – Afterlife Penance (Transcend & Cyrax remix) [FINRG]
  2. Transcend & Cyrax – Unleashed (Substanced remix)
  3. Grimsoul – Badass Geeks (Lost Faith & Spectrum remix) [ReBuild Music]

Alabaster (M&C Recordings)

  1. Synthwulf – Not Your Angel (Synthwulf bootleg) [Justice Hardcore]
  2. Alchemiist – Triple X Rated [FINRG]
  3. Morita Yuuhei – The Ghost [TYFTH]

Morita Yuuhei (Illegal Wave Records)

  1. Nomic – Caldera [TYFTH]
  2. Substanced – Rise From The Darkness [FINRG]
  3. Kokomochi feat. Setsunann – AWAKE (Hyphen remix)

Kokomochi (FutureProof Sounds)

  1. Substanced – Rise From The Darkness (Original mix) [FINRG]
  2. Alabaster – Galaxy [TYFTH]
  3. Hyphen – Hell & Heaven [FutureProof Sounds]

Raqhow (CODEX, Freeform Bros)

  1. Morita Yuuhei – Now or Never
  2. Kokomochi – Iron Sky [FutureProof Sounds]
  3. Kevin Energy & Cube::Hard – Voice of Carme (Transcend remix)

NONAKA+CHIN (SPREEMO, Freeform Bros)

  1. Alias A.K.A. – Techn8 (Qygen Remix) [ALIAS A.K.A.]
  2. Nomic – Shattered [ReBuild Music]
  3. Substanced – Into the Light (Original mix) [FINRG]

ASAHI (CODEX)

  1. Freakangel – Not A Love Song (STUDIO-X Hard Dance Remix) [Alfa Matrix]
  2. KSHMR & Marnik – Bazaar [Spinnin’ Records]
  3. Don Diablo & Khrebto – Got The Love [Spinnin’ Records]

PlasmaDancer (TYFTH, FINRG, CODEX, NRGetic Romancer)

  1. Mellow Sonic – Psychokinesis [Cosmicopia Records]
  2. Qygen & Novaturtle – Ecumenopolis (Spacechase Version) [Stellar Circle]
  3. Alchemiist – Triple X Rated [FINRG]

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

I’ve done plenty of mix listening over the past couple of months to catch up with what was an excellent year of sets in 2015. Some strong releases have kept a lot of sets fresh, but there have also been some quality older selections and an overall higher level of mix transitions than we’ve seen for a couple of years. Here, then, are my favourite three.

3. Alek Szahala – Live @ CODEX5, Tokyo 2015

This was a special set for all sorts of reasons, but even putting to one side Alek’s return to Tokyo this is a wonderful hour that showcases a lot of different styles through more than a decades’ worth of tracks. There are some surprises thanks to a few unusual connections, while the contrast between the darker and lighter sides of Alek’s sound is very nicely put together.

2. Dyzphazia – Hardcore Summer Bash 2015

Despite the new releases this year one of my favourite sets was this primer in older FINRG, delivered by Dyzphazia. Very solid mixing lets the tracks speak for themselves, and the selection of aggressive filtered tracks is nicely broken up with some classic, melancholy melodies. If you know someone who has yet to get into freeform, then pointing them towards this set would be a sensible first step.

1. Solvynt – Lucky Lotus Online Electronic Music Festival 5

Solvynt’s set is another one that lets most of the tracks play out to their full length, but the eventual transitions are often something very special indeed. The track selection is pure TYFTH, and even if the second half can’t quite maintain the levels of the first, the flow of the set is superb as it builds to the Stance – Taranis finale. Definitely my favourite set of the year, and the good news is that Solvynt is back on the Lucky Lotus lineup for this year’s event (more on that soon).

Honourable mentions:

Olly Addictive & Akumie, Shimotsukei, Orphic, Alchemiist

 

Much delayed, but it’s once again time to join the good folk of the Japanese scene for a look back at the finest tunes of last year. Big thanks as always to everyone who took part, and I hope it’s interesting to see what has been catching the ears of producers and DJs in this corner of the freeform world.

Every year I love seeing as many of these lists as possible, so if you have your own idea of a Top 3 then feel free to post it down below for us to compare and contrast. My picks were especially tough, as in all honesty In Praise of Shadows would have totally dominated had it managed to appear in December…

Oh and as there were plenty of unfamiliar (at least to me) tracks in the lists this time, I’ve tried to add a preview/tune link to help out the clueless among us.

GULD (NRGetic Romancer)

1. GULD – Spirits of Saiyan (‘F’ the Reverse)

2. Alek Száhala – Dryad Machine (GULD remix)

3. Hatsune Miku – Senbonzakura (GULD remix)

 

Alabaster (Cradle to Grave)

1. Sharkey & Rikki Arkitech – Quadraphonics (2015 Stem Remaster)

2. Div_ne Inspiration – Show You The Way (CLSM remix)

3. Tom Parr – You’re Shining I’m Dying

 

Hyphen (Splash Energy/Relentless)

1. Transcend – Truth vs Fear

2. Zman & Ted-E – Hong Kong

3. Transcend & Hardform – Deliverance

 

Morita Yuuhei (Illegal Wave)

1. Aryx – Helix

2. James Xavier – Look To The Future

3. Yuki Kajiura – Mezame (Hyphen Bootleg)

 

Raqhow (CODEX/Freeform Bros)

1. Alek Száhala – Megatherium

2. Transcend – Eons

3. Epyx & Cyrez vs Tyranoid/Strongstream – What Lies Below

 

Asahi (Karma-業-)

1. Alek Száhala – The Last of the Mohicans

2. Technikal feat. Rob Tissera – Don’t Say Goodbye

3. Transcend – Mindglow

 

NONAKA+CHIN (Spreemo/Freeform Bros)

1. Douglas – The End of FM

2. Transcend – Eternity

3. Zman & Ted-E – Hong Kong

 

PlasmaDancer (TYFTH/FINRG/NRGetic Romancer)

1. Nomic – Human Race Pt II

2. Blender – Illogical

3. Seileen – Lamento della Sirena (GULD remix)

Right then, some apologies are in order – the traditional ‘Top 3 Tracks’ is on its way, but what with one thing and another I haven’t given those involved anywhere near enough time to make their choices. It’ll be coming asap then, along with my Top 3 mixes (I have a couple I want to check out before I make my final choice).

The next apology is In Praise of Shadows related – I’m now all too understanding of the Watchtower crew and their perpetually delayed third release (out now though, of course). The design side is taking far longer than expected, and the lack of logo means 2015 won’t be ending with the triumphant ‘real announcement’ I had in mind. On the positive side, pretty much all aspects of the release are in the works or already complete, and it’ll just need a few weeks of concerted effort for the compilation to reach its final state.

In the meantime there has been a nice development on the licensing front, meaning that a bootleg track will be appearing on the mixed CD as a fully licensed tune. Wish I could say more, but there’ll be more on that and some CD1 track previews next month.

As a little expression of thanks for the support over the past year, then, I’ve decided to upload a promo set I put together last year at the request of an event in Asia. It was enough to get me a booking, but Bureaucratic Sod’s Law struck – a delayed Japanese visa renewal meant I was unable to leave the country on that very weekend.

Anyway, the set is intentionally a very short one, to show how NRG and slowed-down freeform could easily find a home at Industrial or Goth events. Among my own sets it has been one of my most-played for a while now, possibly thanks to the presence of a few tunes I don’t often get the chance to hear/use. More apologies in advance for the pitched-down Alek tracks, but personally I think they fit in quite nicely as a more demented finale (which in hindsight I could/should have used to bump up the bpm).

The tracklist looks like this:

01. Beati Mortui – Let the Funeral Begin (Proteus remix)
02. Lab 4 – Requiem (Metatron Hard mix)
03. Epyx & Cyrez – Risk Addiction (Substanced remix)
04. Hase – Brionac
05. Lab 4 – Hellboy
06. Inugami, Lunch, Betwixt & Between – Reverend Recital
07. Alek Szahala – Maruuk
08. Alek Szahala – Voices of Babylon

Finally, special thanks to everyone for the huge support this year. It’s been pretty special to see the response to the label news so far, and I think we can safely say that 2016 is going to be an exciting one for TYFTH. Happy New Year to all, and I’ll be back with a vengeance next month.

It’s been a while since a promised post arrived (just about) on schedule, but here we are with the Japanese scene’s roundup of the tracks of 2014. Although it wasn’t a massive year for releases, the biggest group of DJs and producers so far has made plenty of really interesting choices, including a few tunes that might have been overlooked by some.

Big thanks to everyone for taking part, and the commenting crew should also feel free to add their own choices down below.

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Time for today’s final post – the now-traditional look back at my favourite sets of 2014. I’ve actually checked out a lot of mixes this year (far more than you’ve seen here, in fact), but in all honesty it’s been a bit of a thin year for sets that really fit the increasingly-picky TYFTH bill.

As always, respect and thanks go to all the DJs supporting our little corner of the freeform scene. This year it has been especially nice to hear a number of well-constructed, ’emotional’ sets, a necessary counterbalance to the ferocious, melodic freeform we’ve heard a lot of in 2014.

My picks are below, but feel free to take to the comments with your own choices.

No. 3

Shimotsukei – Hardcore Summer Bash 2014 Mix

Shimotsukei’s excellent set is the place to find this year’s best transitions, with some creative selection and very original use of some oldies. Other track choices might feel a little out of place, but the overall atmosphere and progression to the high-bpm second half is top class.

No.2

Nomic – Freeformaniacs Round 14

Following his superb efforts in 2013, Nomic goes to the next level by combining his deeper recent tracks with the harsh, angry sounds of the Nu-Energy and FINRG years. The master of melancholy and aggression strikes again then, and all as solidly-mixed as we’ve come to expect.

No.1

Hellfury – Shin No Noir IX – Soul Abyss

This set is a another lesson in how to maintain an atmosphere, as Hellfury combines psy and pianos for a beautifully consistent hour of thoughtful freeform. Crucially supported by some quality track connections, this was my favourite set of the year.

Honourable mentions: Guld, Pearsall, Cuedy, Dyzphazia

Well that’s it – thanks as always to everyone for the support in 2014, it’s massively appreciated. The first post of 2015 will be a roundup of the Japanese scene’s favourite tracks, but the main event in January will definitely be the announcement of major (I repeat, major) changes to TYFTH. Have a Happy New Year then, and I’ll see you next month.

Time for the last post of 2013, then. The traditional ‘Top 3 Tracks’ post will of course arrive soon, but for now let’s look back at some of the mixes that contributed most to the scene this year.

There are plenty of talented DJs around these days who can pick the right tunes to keep a floor moving (and make no mistake, that’s our first job), but it’s far harder to find sets that go a step further. As DJs, a mix is surely our chance to carefully build upon the amazing atmospheres that the artists create, but on a scale that can’t be achieved in a single track’s 5 or 6 minutes. I wish more would take up the challenge, but here are three sets that definitely show what’s possible when a creative, skilful DJ puts his/her mind to it.

1. Cuedy – Liberate Te Ex Inferis

Freeformaniacs Round 9 – Cuedy pres. Liberate Te Ex Inferis (Save Yourself From Hell) (09/05/2013) by Freeformaniacs on Mixcloud

Cuedy’s superb effort for the Freeformaniacs show is a worthy winner, combining uplifting elements with occasional darkness and the year’s best connections. This remains my favourite Cuedy set and I’m really looking forward to hear more from him next year.

2. Nomic – Freeformaniacs Round 10

Freeformaniacs Round 10 – Nomic (Guest Mix) (20/06/2013) by Freeformaniacs on Mixcloud

Another from Freeformaniacs’ back catalogue of brilliant sets, Nomic’s showcase of his own material is a masterclass in creating a consistent atmosphere while maintaining interest for the whole hour. While the addition of Nomic’s older, angrier tracks might have made it even better, this is a beautiful hour of freeform with some perfectly-judged darker moments.

3. Dyzphazia – Freeformaniacs Round 11

Third place goes to the tireless Dyzphazia, who was very prolific this year in all sorts of genres. This was the standout set for me though, with its emphasis on darker tunes and a nice shift in atmosphere from the halfway point. Again, crucially, the vast majority of the transitions are well-considered, flow nicely, and are essential to the progression of the set’s atmosphere.

It’s only while writing this post that I realised all three sets originally appeared on the Freeformaniacs show – maximum respect and a big thank you to the FFM crew for such strong support of our corner of the scene. There were plenty of other brilliant mixes throughout the year of course, and especially honourable mentions should go to Pearsall, Tyranoid, Alchemiist and SonofSam, all of whom were close to that top 3. 

Looking back on my own sets, although I was a bit more active than usual I wasn’t really able to match last year’s Betwixt & Between tribute or 2011’s Munted! Monthly Episode 1 – as a result then, I’ve decided to practice what I preach and wait for inspiration to well and truly strike before trying the next one. It already looks like there’ll be plenty happening in 2014 though, and having met up with Guld last night it seems that we both have some ambitious plans for the next year or so.

I’ll be back posting again in the next day or two, but as always an enormous thanks to the TYFTH crew for following the site and supporting my various endeavours in 2013. What with plenty of recorded sets, a fantastic gig in the UK and appearing at CODEX, this year was a very successful one – here’s hoping that 2014’s even better. Thanks again my friends, and best wishes for a quality New Year.

The second round of the Freeform Awards is up and running, now with the first round’s highest vote-getters in each category. Many, many thanks to those who voted for me in round one, it’s an honour to be among some very high quality names in the ‘Best DJ’ category.

Head along to the survey to peruse the categories and cast your own vote – it should be open for the next week or so, but best to get them in early.

The typically farcical Hardcore Heaven awards have brought plenty of complaints from our scene, but the heroic folk at the Freeform Forum have ridden to the rescue with their own version. The open vote will run for a couple of weeks, and it’ll be fascinating to see what results it throws up – head over to the voting page to make your choices. There’s also a dedicated thread on the Freeform Forum itself which will surely be worth keeping an eye on.