Mixes

This would be another of those things that have been planned for an age, but what with 2017 being the first year without a club set since 2008 it’s probably about time to spring into action. Even if Shimotsukei levels of activity are a bit unlikely, I’ll be aiming for at least one set a month, starting in January. Part of the thinking behind it is to keep me match fit for any sets next year, but also just to get me back into the swing of planning event-style mixes more regularly.

Right now I’m away from TYFTH Towers, but once I return to Japan there’ll be some action on what are usually the end-of-year posts. January will tentatively see the twitch stream, the 2017 top mixes (and hopefully tracks), along with a couple of other things that have been delayed for a while. And while 2017 wasn’t the easiest time for all sorts of reasons, TYFTH will definitely be a bit more active come the new year.

If you’re in the market for some melodic freeform then Nonaka+Chin’s FutureProof Sounds set might be a good one to check out. I often think of Nonaka as the Midas of the Japanese scene – his mixing level, thoughtful selection and taste for the Finnish sound alongside the UK freeform means there’s always something to enjoy.

This one is excellently mixed with some nicely considered transitions, and even if there’s a lot of UK freeform that I can’t name (not laziness, there’s actually no tracklist here) the set is also a fine showcase of Japanese tracks with artists from ikaruga_nex to Hyphen, via Alabaster’s Galaxy. I found myself wishing for some darker sounds but that’s clearly not what the set is aiming for – instead this is the place for some well-selected melodic highlights of the current scene.

Obviously a must-listen, FINRG’s second podcast is a very welcome, Carbon Based-selected look back at a few of the label’s finest tracks. Plenty of these are well over a decade old but have never been bettered – it’s fitting to hear them again just before FINRG’s 16th anniversary event next year.

The mixing’s as rock-solid as you’d expect, and this might also be the first time I’ve heard other artists’ tracks used in a CB set.

Although it goes without saying that Shimotsukei’s SoundCloud (and especially the recent artist mix series) should be a regular destination for all Horsers these days, I couldn’t let this one pass by without comment. The difficulty of mixing Alek Szahala’s tracks together might be one reason for so few Alek-only sets over the years, but this two-hour epic is a mighty impressive effort.

As with many of Shimotsukei’s streamed sets this was put together with very little planning, which immediately gives it an extra dose of ‘live’ energy. The drawback of that approach is fewer standout transitions – a shame as that’s something I was really looking forward to in a set of this importance. That’s not to there aren’t any, mind, and the set’s atmosphere is shifted around very skilfully from start to finish.

Nine out of ten freeform DJs would recommend starting an Alek set with Tigris, and why not? It’s still one of the very best intros of all time, with enough darkness and melody to link nicely with a variety of other tracks. Here it’s Invitation – a solid transition to start, but it’s not until Ihme Juttu – Ziggurat that the mixing really picks up. That’s quickly followed by what might be the transition of the set, as Mermaid unexpectedly moves into Ngarnuuk in one of those high bpm mixes that Shimotsukei is so good at.

From that point it’s more about the excellent selection than anything else. There are a few wobbles here and there, as Heaven N Hell and Comet Catcher clash, while the following melodic tracks aren’t always comfortable mixing into each other. Much better is the Lagash – Chimaera combo, an effective transition that doesn’t overdo things while nicely altering the atmosphere. Things are really rock solid from that point – Last of the Mohicans into Icy Clouds is one I enjoyed, before the manic finale that you surely knew was coming.

A couple of omissions aside, this is a wonderful set that covers all era of Alek in a very different style to his own live PAs, and (as if you needed one) a great primer on Alek’s sound.

I’ll hijack the post before I go – it’s actually been in the back of my mind for a while to do a new Alek mix (my second, strictly speaking, as my first-ever recorded freeform set in 2006 was Alek-only), and this might be the kick I need to finally give one a go next year…

Who’d have thought that it would end up being difficult to keep track of new freeform releases in 2017? Electronica Exposed’s 15th anniversary is one of the biggest, and an essential buy.

Happily, this landmark for one of the most important labels of them all has as wide ranging and high quality a tracklist as you’d hope. Most of the UK freeform tracks have a nicely acidic, old school feel to them, while there are some real heavyweights on the Finnish side – remixes of Cyclone and Harder Than U Think, along with Alchemiist’s rework of Can U See Now are all unmissable.

The 2 CD release is a relatively small run, and available now, directly from Electronica Exposed.

I really wasn’t expecting this – a tribute to Buzzmasta that well and truly does justice to his varied sound, as well bringing some deserved attention to one of the most important names in the Tokyo hardcore scene. Once again we’ve got Shimotsukei to thank, which of course means impressive mixing and plenty of obscurities in the tracklist.

Those familiar with Buzz’s back catalogue will know that he covered the full hardcore spectrum in his productions, nicely reflected here in a mix that goes all the way from happy hardcore to Full Circle freeform anthems. I was expecting Shoreline as the opener, but after that almost every other track (at least in the first half) was something new to me – I always loved how Buzzmasta hardcore had far more of the 90s spirit about it than most of the UK hardcore you hear these days, and the ‘happier’ section of this set is just what I was hoping for.

One of my favourite tracks, For Action, links very nicely with Sing to Me, effectively introducing a harder final third that brings back plenty of memories of Buzzmasta and Yousuke at NRGetic Romancer. Shimotsukei pulls out all the stops on the section, finding some lovely transitions to keep things pacy – Equinox into Euphonica is especially nice. Most will know that Full Circle tracks were also Buzzmasta-produced with suggestions from Yousuke and Cogi – the hyperactive (and lengthy) filtered sequences in Gate Crasher and Halcyon are good examples, and both thanks to Cogi’s cajoling. The Full Circle material is also an impressive example of his range, then, with Alchemy perhaps my favourite track that finds a comfortable spot between the two extremes.

Even putting aside the emotional aspect this is an excellent Shimotsukei set, but as a tribute to one of the kindest, most genuinely nice guys in the Japanese scene it’s even more special. I’m sure that Buzz himself would have absolutely loved this one.

I’m ever so late with this one, but as it’s hard to keep up with Shimotsukei’s mix-posting schedule there might well be some who missed her excellent tribute to Lunch. As the founder of Tokyo Hardcore Construction it’s not overstating things to say that there wouldn’t be much of a gabber scene here without Lunch’s music and events.

Shimotsukei’s set does a fine job of representing Lunch’s sounds (and even sourcing them in the first place), running through his final tracks on Pure Existence as well as far earlier work and some big THC anthems like Oldskool Terrorist (one of my personal favourites) and Hardcore Ravers Motherfucker. The mixing is also top drawer with some interesting, longer transitions that you wouldn’t often hear at THC – such was Lunch’s (justified) confidence in his timing he would usually play the next track with both faders at max volume from the very start.

More than any other recent set, this brings back all sorts of memories of the Tokyo harder scene of years past, but even without the nostalgia element it’ll be pretty hard for newcomers to resist melodies as manic and catchy as these.

This one’s already closing in on 200 SoundCloud ‘likes’ and will probably have been on everyone’s radar for a while, but Substanced’s newest set definitely deserves a respectful shout here too. I expect most will have looked with disbelief at such a new-release heavy tracklist – if this was your only set listen of the year you’d be convinced the 2017 scene is in rude (albeit very trancy/melodic) health, with Substanced’s tracks pushing a promising style of updated FINRG sounds.

Remember me positing that Hyphen’s Dryad Machine remix would be the In Praise of Shadows track with the most cross-scene appeal? Hardly a bold prediction, but it seems to be the case, here used from the break as a really effective post-intro opening track. Substanced’s material is an absolute highlight of the set – they might be tricky to mix with really darker stuff, but my gooodness there’s some great work on the melodies, as well as yet more evidence (see that excellent Gamemaster remix) that he’s the current king of the ‘FINRG filter.’

We all know what a good fit Substanced and Transcend’s tracks are together – melodic, often uplifting and with enough nastiness to get everyone dancing, here they’re mixed in a rock solid style that’s hard not to enjoy. Alchemiist’s remix of Can U See Now might be my favourite of the new tracks though, while I was overjoyed to hear Unconsciousness towards the end – the madness of that classic breakdown is a worthy follow up to Substanced’s Cyclone remix.

The ‘I’ in the mix suggests a follow up, and as welcome as that’d be it seems that this set alone has been enough for a fair few FINRG fans to revisit the scene. With the label taking submissions again we could be on the way up again after the recent quiet spell.

Great to see some DJing names returning to the fold lately, including our old friend Alderz with a quality, nostalgic tribute to Carbon Based.

If I had the choice of their whole back catalogue, my final tracklist would probably end up very similar to this one – Alderz has done a fine job of representing CB’s trademark sound along with some relatively newer tracks, promos and less played classics. Dark Side is a typical starting point, but that switch into Underworld Species is by far the best transition into freeform I’ve heard.

The majority of the set after after that progresses through some of the most satisying examples of FINRG filtering you’re likely to hear, interspersed with melodies to keep the interest up. Anthem is a great choice for the halfway point, and going the melancholy direction for the last three tracks works nicely. The transitions to/from Psychotherapy work especially well.

Cyclone arrives a bit awkwardly, but the tribute certainly wouldn’t have been complete without it. Alderz has done a top job with this one, showing an appreciation for the CB/FINRG atmosphere that veterans and newer arrivals to the scene would do well to check out.

That Solvynt’s was the first Lucky Lotus set I checked out after the event will come as no surprise to those who’ve been listening to his work over the past few years. This one may well feature one of his strongest tracklists so far, even if the tradeoff turns out to be fewer show-stopping transitions.

Starting with Tigris sets the tone – this set is heavy on NRG but at freeform speeds, leading to some really nice connections I never would have considered. The early combo of Desolated Dreams and Prelude works well, while the long combination of Inquisition and Get Fire! has its moments without quite coming together as hoped. Perkele! into Shine is transition of the set though, one of those moments when the line between DJ and creator blurs slightly . Excellent, excellent stuff, followed by a really effective introduction of Brionac via Full Metal Jacket.

Matter of Fact arrives in slightly uncomfortable style, but The Brain Controls Pain transitions far more smoothly, introducing a final third of melodic classics. Skybreak is a great choice, and I love the use of Celestea’s final filters with Gravity’s Rainbow.

Another quality set then, and the nit-picking over a couple of moments is just that – only because Solvynt continues to be one of the few freeform DJs prepared to experiment with such ambitious track combinations. Inspirational stuff that should be required listening, especially if you’re planning a mix yourself.