It’s looking likely that my next ‘studio’ set will include a U-F SEQUENCER track, so this caught my eye right away. As a free release you’ve got nothing to lose either way, making Thunderbolt a strong choice if you’re experimenting with Japanese sounds in your melodic freeform sets.
I’ve often thought that U-F SEQUENCER has quite a lot in common with Betwixt in his more conventional freeform moments, as there’s a peculiar style to their melodies that you don’t very often hear anywhere else (ikaruga_nex might be another?). SEQUENCER’s tracks don’t tend to go to that next (Betwixt) level, but there’s a lot to like here and I’m going to try working with Thunderbolt when I find some other contenders in this style.
Make sure to look through SEQUENCER’s bandcamp if you haven’t before, there’s so much good work there that deserves to get some play, both on the freeform and hardcore sides.
Bad news first – there’s no freeform here, or the high bpm psy/goa influenced stormers we’ve heard before from Synesthesics’ alias, Mellow Sonic. Instead Transcending Consciousness is a phenomenal album of atmospherics that draws on some similar elements, and should have at least something of interest for many Horsers.
Starting with the clearest Psychokinesis influences, then, Celestial is my favourite of the goa/psy-styled tracks. Somewhere around 150bpm, it’s a lovely, deep acid track that inevitably had me wishing for more of the freeform that I fell in love with last time around. These are great tracks though, living up to their sci-fi styling to such a degree that they’d probably be tough to mix with the majority of goa. Adding some depth to a psytrance set could be where they’d shine, but what would I know about that?
The album’s title track could well be my favourite, some superb breaks that easily match Alek Szahala’s experiments along these lines. One of those genres I’d like to get more into, but it would have to be up to this quality for me to take interest. Proper melancholy cyberpunk atmospheres here, I think it’s fantastic.
The second half of the album is the highest standard of drum and bass production I’ve yet heard from Synesthesics, and even if it’s not my preferred genre some similar atmospheres are continued here. I’m no expert on more sci-fi styled drum and bass, but this is excellent stuff that gave me older Black Sun Empire feelings in places.
The wait continues for more Mellow Sonic freeform, but this is an inspiring mix of styles to enjoy in the meantime, and comes highly recommended.
Anyone following Shimotsukei’s SoundCloud will have noticed a recent burst of incredible mashups, mostly featuring Betwixt & Between – but for everyone else, it’s about time I pointed out a couple of favourites.
So far, of the uploaded versions, I’m probably the biggest fan of Phaedra’s Hypnodisc, a lovely, aggressive mashup that somehow balances the odd atmospheres of both tracks to come up with something new. Both have detuned sounds all over the place that make ‘normal’ mixing difficult enough, but this mashup impresses as it keeps it all together. The extra weight at the lower ends also benefits both, making them a lot more playable in more modern sets. A really incredible effort and the best (online) example so far of what Shimotsukei’s been working on.
Check it out at Shimotsukei’s SoundCloud along with the ambitous Tindaros Invasion, another highlight. You Are Surging, meanwhile, is a quality mashup but still not enough to make me listen to Betwixt’s remix of You Are, something I’ve never been able to play all the way through thanks to some truly painful vocals.
Now’s probably also a good time to mention Shimo’s superb Megabyrgium, a mashup that deserved its own post a couple of years ago and still holds up brilliantly. Still no download, but an absolute must-listen.
Not having been able to properly keep up with things in the scene has meant that I missed the massive leap B.R.K. has taken into the top tier of NRG artists over the past year or so. Better late than never, then, here’s his first Fatal Energy Records release as supporting evidence for that bold claim.
Granted, LOE, FIH is on the slower end of the scale and fits more into the hard trance/dance categories, but just listen to the production levels and complexity going on here. The fills and acid lines put even the pre-break section a step above B.R.K.’s older tracks, while the main melody doesn’t overdo it – simple and catchy’s all that’s needed in amongst the rest of the sounds. A crucial element there is the excellent mastering job of course, another night-and-day improvement.
If this is too sedate to fit into your own sets or listening tastes then I can say with authority that you still have to watch out for B.R.K.’s upcoming material. What I’ve heard so far easily keeps up this standard (but well into the bpms we’re more used to) and will surely be signed up to labels in the very near future.
That’s the TYFTH definition of ‘new,’ of course, so there’ll probably be plenty here you’ve seen before. Either way, I had a lot of catching up to do after summer and these are some of the tracks that have caught my eye since.
Last start with an obvious one – Risa & polaritia’s Raise Your Hands. Great to see it appearing on FINRG, this is a lovely NRG track with a little something different added by polaritia. Really nice sounds in this one, but be aware that it’s very much at NRG bpm. The full version can be found on beatport.
Risa and polaritia also appear on Genkai Records 15, another ambitious multi-genre compilation. Must admit I’m dubious how many people will be keen enough on every genre to go for the entire release, but praise be for the bandcamp option of picking up individual tracks. Risa’s S.O.S. is as solid an NRG track as you’d expect, while Multiverse Glitch is a superb freeform effort that’s up there with my favourites from polaritia. On the downside I’m really not a fan of the mastering on the track, as there are some pretty piercing highs and an overall treatment that doesn’t work well with the grittier oldies or the unbelievably clean job done on many new freeform tunes.
Next up isn’t a release, strictly speaking, as exemia’s CultistKiller is one of a group of tracks that might appear on a future album. Partly made with a Gameboy DMG, this is an absolutely brilliant track and one of my favourites of the whole year. Expect loud announcements of any release here, as and when.
Finally for now is a quality step off the beaten path for Transcend in the first release on his new label, Glowmind. This collab with Freedom almost sounds like something that could have appeared on Kreatrix back in the day, and also reminds me of classics like Kinky. Although early mixing practice with this one has been pretty challenging thanks to the oddly feeble kick and bass in the first half, I’m sure this would sound fantastic in the right set. The full release is on the Glowmind bandcamp.
Not much to add to the title, but an extra apology for the delay as I know some have been waiting for the store page to wake up again. I’ve restocked on packaging and will be able to send out any orders pretty soon after they arrive – it’ll be the same setup as last time, with me aiming to send any out within 3 days. If it ends up being longer for whatever reason then I’ll drop you a message via email to let you know. There’s no tracking on the deliveries, but if you’ve placed an order and would like to know exactly when I sent it out, chase me up via email and I’ll be happy to check.
Those still pining for the sound of Epyx & Cyrez are in luck, as Cyrez has a new remix of his Engrams of Cyrez track, Uni Impulse, ready for imminent release. More than just a welcome echo of the duo’s old style, this stands up to the best of their 170+ bpm output and combines it nicely with Cyrez’s recent experiments. The surprising shifts in the break and main melody approach the madness of When Left Alone at times, along with some lovely, Code of Silence-esque filtering.
This shows how out of the loop I’ve been, but V.P.N is a worthy track to end the year on. Released in October on Ominous Digital, this collaboration between Yuuhei Morita and Neoform is a very, very welcome revival of freeform’s more aggressive side, with no endless, trancy breakdowns to be found anywhere.
The intro and melodic sections show all the signs of Morita’s influence, while the nastier sections really benefit from Neoform letting rip with the hardcore influences over some very solid freeform filters. It’s refreshing to hear a track that remembers how brutal freeform can be, as well as how important it is to keep the pace up in tracks like this, even into the breakdown. No fizzling out of the atmosphere with an interminable break here, just the occasional return of the melodies and the lovely use of different kicks to control the track’s pace.
Easily one of my tracks of the year, it’s available digitally here and here.
There are quite a few recent releases that I’d like to give a shout out to, starting with Substanced’s Science Fiction EP. I really like the approach to these FINRG releases at the moment, with Substanced repping the modern UK/Finnish fusion that he’s perfected, combined with something rougher from Alchemiist. It’s the same pattern this time, and even if Alchemiist’s Legend remix keeps things pushed further along the melodic end of the spectrum than I was expecting it’s a very fine track.
My standout on the EP though is Blue Remembered Earth, which slows things down for a long breakdown before one of the most beautiful drops and main melodies that we’ve heard on FINRG for a long time. Take away the preposterous production levels and I’d think we’re back in 2008 again – this is a modern FINRG sound that I can completely get behind.
Let’s call this post a public service announcement for anyone who missed the August digital appearance of one of the finest albums so far this year. I was late to this release myself, but having finally given Khaosnet Civilization a proper listen I’m very impressed indeed by the variety and the quality levels throughout. The combination of relative rookies to the genre and veterans like Hyphen means that overall there’s probably something for every freeform listener to enjoy here.
For that Finnish/UK cross-influence you can’t do much better these days than Hyphen and Kokomochi, while polaritia’s Lifeless but Soulful is one of his strongest tracks to date. Even if a couple of the others prove the old freeform adage that it’s a lot easier to put together a nasty intro and outro than the melodic sections of a track, there’s a lot of originality to make up for it. ikaruga_nex’s Deadcode didn’t grab me at first, but maybe the deep atmosphere is a slow burner – I can imagine this working well in a number of different sets. Morita’s (take your pick where the Yuuhei fits in) gritty sound is still my favourite aspect of the current Japanese scene, and while Unleash lingers over the breakdown for a lot longer than I’d like, it’s probably another that would really take off in combination with the right tracks. Rounding out the release is a promising first (?) freeform track by Risa, along with some strong melodies from Gil and NA7, who I’m perhaps hearing for the first time.
Given the lack of events and general community for the Japanese crew at the moment this is an incredibly strong release, and Kokomochi deserves a lot of credit for supporting the scene when it needs it the most. The promising addition of ‘1’ in the title suggests the start of the series, with the prospect of a follow-up likely reliant on how wide an audience this one can reach.