Japanese

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.

Later this month sees the sudden, surprise release of an very promising remix album, courtesy of Kokomochi. This is actually another freeform take on ZUN’s inspired soundtracks for the Touhou series – the emotional melodies are made for freeforming, as we’ve seen in goodness knows how many past compilations.

Kokomochi looks to have done a spot-on job of adding some aggression to the tracks, thankfully sidestepping the jolly style of some hardcore remixes I’ve heard in the past. Instead there’s plenty of melancholy here (see my first-impressions favourite, White Heron), along with some quality track progression and an impressive level of production. The tone overall strikes the sweet spot between freeform’s various camps, with some UK-style fills and effects combining nicely with nastier Finnish filtering.

As things stand the release is only announced for this month’s M3 event, but I’ll update as and when any other release info turns up.

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.

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.

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.

Satoshi Honjo will be a name familiar to many, even if only for his Hannya schranz remix back in the day. He’s still very active though, both with Adrenaline and surprise appearances at darker Tokyo events like Dark Dimension. He and the Adrenaline crew look to be starting a video mix series, and while his set is a lot lighter than anything you’d expect at DD the second (nicely mixed) episode featuring K-Hole goes in a harder direction.

I took the chance to upload a few more NRGetic Romancer sets today, including a rare Proteus recording and the original Betwixt set that got me into freeform in the first place. Bringing up the rear is my old set from 2009 – all three confirm once again that Romancer’s atmosphere just couldn’t be beaten, and putting audio quality complaints to one side for now, I love reminiscing while hearing the crowd madness of these mic recordings.

The Proteus set is probably of most interest to many, recorded in 2007 at NRGetic Romancer’s 3rd anniversary. Although I don’t seem to have the other headlining sets from Guld and ADAM Lab 4, this one is a pretty special hour and a quarter that really shows what Proteus was all about at the time. Featuring plenty of the tracks on his then-upcoming The Nature of the Beast, the set also includes some excellent older NRG. I haven’t given a tracklist a try yet, but I’d love to know who’s responsible for the Manson remix around 16.17.

The Romancer playlist is pretty impressive already, but there might well be more to come…

BRK’s keeping himself very busy these days, single-handedly propping up the NRG scene while we wait for some more releases. His latest is Brothers Never Die, a really nice collab with GULD that appeared on Ominous Digital at the end of last month.

The track is definitely BRK’s with GULD influence, but with BRK’s production coming on leaps and bounds by the month that’s no bad thing at all. It happily leans in the harder direction of tracks like Rhythm is a Dancer, while the breakdown really is quality – more emotion than we’re used to hearing from either artist, it surely goes into the ‘very best’ category of BRK’s growing back catalogue.

There’s a lot more to come from him this year, including on TYFTH when time allows.