Releases

One of my side quests over the past year or so has been to round up enough darker goa for a full set, but I’ve been struggling to find more than a few tunes that really hit the right spot. It turns out that for modern goa it’s a narrow target, as diddle with the basslines and melodies a little too much and things quickly head into psytrance, tech trance, or dark psy territory.

With my set stalled at around the 20min mark I was about ready to give up, but a few months ago I discovered The Mystery of Crystal Worlds, a 2015 compilation from Russian label Global Sect that’s the best goa release I’ve seen for quite some time.

Psy-H Project became one of my favourite goa artists after the release of Dance of Distant Worlds, one heck of an album that ranks up there with E-Mantra’s Arcana for goa with a darker edge, and he’s a constant presence here. The compilation shifts all over the place though, with the music one part of a massively ambitious project – a psychedelic poem (!) gives some alternate rhyming context to the tracklist, while the imagery and presentation of the 3 CD physical version is utterly beautiful.

In truth most of the tracklist is lighter than my WIP set requires, but some excellent material from Artifact303 is a highlight (including a superb downtempo finale in Family of Light), as well as an interesting collab between Nova Fractal, OXI, and E-Mantra. Alienapia and Khetzal’s Endless Glade doesn’t quite live up to expectations, but is another quality effort.

This one comes highly recommended then, but does anyone have other suggestions for modern dark/acidic goa in the Arcana or Dance of Distant Worlds mould?

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.

The last of the previews went online recently, but keep an eye on the Alias A.K.A. SoundCloud or Facebook page for more info on the release.

Sharp-eared SoundCloud lurkers might remember that Qygen’s Supersonic Speed received a very smooth drum and bass remixing last year from Mellow Sonic. I listened to it at the time, but foolishly put off checking many of his other productions until now – thanks (as usual) go to Shimotsukei for giving me the necessary kick in the right direction.

It turns out that I’ve seen the light at just the right time, as three months ago Mellow Sonic’s Psychokinesis was released. No doubt about it, this is one of the most important albums of the year – and I know, in 2016 that’s saying a lot.

This isn’t a freeform-only release, mind, but it’s the way the freeform slots into this cyber-psychedelic, atmospheric collection of downtempo ambient, goa and psy that really made me pay attention. Even if it was just giving us a look at another potential-filled direction for freeform it would be a must-listen, but there are some blinding tunes in here that stand with the best of recent months.

Paradoxon is a very solid track with some nice, approachable melodies that benefit massively from the grindy leads and filtering, as well as the dark goa feel. Drum and bass breakdowns aren’t usually my favourites, but Mellow Sonic at least has the advantage of being an established dnb producer and it definitely doesn’t outstay its welcome.

Shifting Reality keeps the quality and tempo high, with a lovely structure and the best screaming leads since Pink Magic, while Blackout does all sorts of genre splicing tricks to excellent effect – I was expecting a fairly standard dnb-influenced semi-breakcore freeform track from the opening, but some goa-style sounds and deep breakdowns take it in really nice directions.

Psychokinesis, though, is where things get serious. A strong, freeform-styled intro leads into some glorious pads, and then the break. Featuring the depth of a drum and bass breakdown along with the earlier freeform elements, it somehow ends up sounding like something very new. Post-drop, the main melody is a winner – deceptively simple, it echoes some of the best emotional efforts of the FINRG classics, but surrounded by this new atmosphere it sends the track further into uncharted territory. This is what ‘deep’ freeform can (and should) sound like.

The intro and outro tracks are both downtempo, with Conspiracy in particular showing some E-Mantra-esque touches that I really enjoyed – as does Slipstream, even if the goa-influenced tracks don’t quite match the darkness and emotion of the rest of the album.

Whether or not Mellow Sonic was inspired by Qygen to take steps into freeform, Psychokinesis shows that in time he could make just as big, and unique, an impact. Let’s hope there’s more to come, but for now Psychokinesis is available on Mellow Sonic’s Bandcamp.

Yesterday saw the release of Byproduct’s New Game+, a huge album of old and new that features many of his very best tracks from recent sets. The 14-track album is freely downloadable from Byproduct’s SoundCloud (at 160kbps, note), but things get really special if you do the right thing with a bandcamp purchase – the quality goes up to FLAC/wav levels and an extra 14 tracks are included, many of them classic remixes.

If you’re a freeform-only kind of soul, then the Concorde remix should be of interest, as well as Robotics, an excellent collaboration with Paokala/Alek Száhala. Anyone else will need little convincing – Byproduct’s trademark melodies are sounding better than ever in a lot of the newer productions, and I’d say 28 tracks from one of the most unique artists around is an absolute must-buy.

ReBuild is back once again with a hefty 3 CD release, of most interest to me (and many Horsers, I expect) for the inclusion of Nomic’s Shattered. A new Nomic track is always an event, and this is another of those mid-set, atmospheric pieces of freeform that he has really made his own.

Sadly the rest of the album is aimed firmly in the UK hardcore direction – possibly a tough sell if you only have eyes for Shattered, but orders can be placed here.

Something else I’ve been meaning to mention for a while is Psychic Formers, a new psy/freeform compilation, featuring the ever-present Hyphen and a lovely comeback track from ikaruga_nex.

Variety looks to be the goal here, and while there are also quality, high bpm tunes from Ata and polysha, the rest of the album takes a gentler stroll through some slow paced, melodic psy. This could be another chance for new listeners to join the scene, then, though the release is currently only announced for this year’s M3 event, taking place in Tokyo on Sunday.

Qygen’s not the only one going in interesting directions with freeform this year – one of the best releases of 2016 so far has now arrived, courtesy of Exemia.

Released earlier this month, Synthform is a pitch-perfect take on synthwave-as-freeform that really does sound like something new. The best frame of reference for us is probably Byproduct, but here with a harder edge that shows Exemia’s experience in the freeform scene. The addition of a mighty impressive Hyphen remix also means that this could be another Blue Revolver-esque gateway into the wider genre for new listeners.

My favourites so far are Defend the Bass and Digital Blizzard, but the whole album is top class and more than warrants a physical release. Instead it’s available on Bandcamp for free, but Exemia’s work deserves a lot more support than that and naming your price is surely the way to go for music of this quality.

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.

I’ve been meaning to get this post online for a week or so, but now it’s especially timely – Cave/Raizing-inspired shmup Blue Revolver was released today (JST) on Steam, and is essential if you’ve even the slightest interest in the genre.

What should be of interest to all Horsers is the soundtrack, composed by Qygen and featuring remixes from the likes of Hyphen, Exemia and Blue Phoenix. In Praise of Shadows aside, Qygen’s work here is far and away the best freeform I’ve heard this year, and it’s really exciting to consider how many people could be exposed to his sound if this release does as well as it deserves to.

The top of this post is a recent episode of STG Weekly, featuring Blue Revolver and its developers. Although my shmupping has lapsed a bit over the past year, I’ve been back at Guwange and Crimson Clover recently and can’t wait to give BR a proper go.

I mentioned this here and there last week, but I’d like to give Gabriel Wigren’s work another hat tip on TYFTH itself. He’s of course the artist behind In Praise of Shadows’ cover art, which should be reason enough for you to check out the rest of his portfolio posthaste.

The end result speaks for itself, but regardless lets do some speaking – the whole process was never less than incredibly professional, and with only my concept for the album and a few representative tracks (this was back in 2014, so before any of the In Praise of Shadows tracks were ready) Gabriel did an unbelievable job of visualising it all.

Whether you’re in the market for a commission yourself or just want to enjoy some dark, beautiful atmospheres, Gabriel’s devianart is very special indeed, and couldn’t come more highly recommended.