Thought I’d make the most of this quiet spell for new sets by posting up another favourite from the Golden Age. This time it’s the very beginning – Alek Száhala playing at Säde, almost 14 years ago. That a good few of the tracks would still be in my all-time top ten says it a lot for Alek’s production, but this set is extra special for the live edits and interesting transitions that we don’t see much of from Live PA artists these days. Imagine hearing Invitation suddenly leaping into this set, back in 2003, or the atmosphere during the Afternoon Owl – Man Eaten mix.
Time for the traditional ‘look back at a CODEX from months ago’ post – as the only Japanese freeform event of 2016, CODEX7 definitely deserves a proper recap. With guest cancellations and a last-minute change of lineup there was potential for calamity, but Raqhow and the rest of the crew managed to put on one of the best events of recent years. There was also the small matter of In Praise of Shadows’ release, and it was on sale at the event alongside the CODEX EP, Alias A.K.A.’s Freeform Remixes, and the new Tesla Tracks compilation.
Not much to add to the title really – while looking into any sets that I might have missed this year I discovered a doujinstyle archive of all four days of Lucky Lotus 6. Plenty of these mixes haven’t appeared anywhere else since the event, so this should be the first place to check if you missed out at the time.
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.
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.
Following on from the release of Galaxy comes a new uploaded set from Alabaster, and actually (as Shimotsukei pointed out the other day) his first ever downloadable set. This one takes the form of a Live PA, something he has only done a couple of times at CODEX, showing off what a quality back catalogue he has built up over the years.
The set goes back as far as a release on Druggy’s Acid Rack and finishes in 2016 with Galaxy, including a few of my all-time favourites. Acid Maker, Oxyale, Iolite and both Rebuild tracks are all in here, as well as Void, a track I played at my very first Hell’s Gate. There’s a nice flow to the set as it heads towards the newer Rebuild/TYFTH releases, and it covers the full range of those distinctive Alabaster melodies – just staying the right side of ‘too uplifting’ and often heading into properly melancholy territory.
The other day I stumbled on this YouTube upload of a classic Carbon Based live set, unaware or forgetful that it has been on the FINRG SoundCloud for the past six years. It’s a great one though, so even if old news for you it’s certainly worth a revisit.
The lack of tracklist is a shame, what with the inclusion of a couple of still-unreleased tunes, but regardless it’s nice to have the chance to enjoy a full set of Carbon Based. There are some lovely tempo switches throughout, while the final combo of Anger Ball into Psychotherapy still does the business today.
edit: Thanks to Jambato for starting us off with a tracklist in the comments – I’ll add it here in case anyone can make some additions:
02. CB – Fairy Play @ 2:50
03. ? @ 7:40
04. CB – Dark Side (remix?) @ 14:05
05. CB – Ultimate Protection (Intro mix?) @ 20:50
06. Proteus & Carbon Based – Heavy Fusion @ 24:23
07. CB – Ultimate Protection @ 31:06
08. ? @ 37:00
09. CB – Underworld Species @ 43:19
10. CB – Anger Ball @ 48:43
11. CB – Psychotherapy @ 54:30
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.
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.
There aren’t as many Alek Szahala-only sets kicking around as you’d expect, so this 80 minute mix from Midas was a very pleasant surprise. The tracklist is an especially interesting one that sets off from an unusual starting point, runs through some darker classics, and ends on some faster darker classics.
You could hardly ask for better, and that unusual opening (starting with Lagash 2012) features some really brilliant transitions – Astraia and Avalanche were made for each other at this bpm, and Heaven & Hell is a great choice. Very nice to see Noitavasara in there (a tune I’ve been trying to use for the past year or so), while Hydra is yet another excellent, surprising selection. After the bpm has crept up this high, then why not finish with the traditional Xochitlan?
This set came to soon for any chance of Enuma Elish, but that aside, a quality tracklist and rock-solid mixing in typical Midas style make it very highly recommended.