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.

Now this here is an overdue post – and yet it now turns out to be something of a hopeful preview of things to come. Sherkel’s no stranger to any visitor to TYFTH, but after gophering away for years on his own productions it’s surely time for a post to help them be heard more widely.

Since the upload a year or so ago of Night Falls, a full mixed set(!) of NRG and freeform experiments that had some very promising moments, Sherkel has hit on a incredibly distinctive style that takes his melodies in a (slightly) more conventional direction and pairs them with an unbelievably accurate take on elements of Einhander’s sound. That second bit really is something, somehow nailing not only the trademark Einhander lead sounds but also his filtering techniques. For good measure a number of Sherkel’s tracks also emulate Einhander’s percussion style, as heard in Yarai, my choice to headline the post.

Yarai‘s melody is a rework of a Pokemon OST but still has the distinctive Sherkel style – I can’t stress enough how impressed I am to be describing such a new artist’s productions (or pretty new to NRG, at any rate) in those terms. That incredible filtering gets a run out here, and the track is a fine example of Sherkel’s work post-Night Falls. You might also notice that Yarai is already nine months old, but happily there has been plenty of progress since. edit: The version at the top of the post is now the updated, full length track from January. More recent tracks have definitely upped the level once more, giving me hope that at least some will be completed and online before too long. A Night Falls 2 would already be an impressive set.

I should really have mentioned by now that FINRG’s latest EP has been online since last week, as I suspect you’re going to have to search hard to find a better freeform and NRG release anywhere this year. The ever-reliable combo of Alchemiist and Substanced has done it again with Dead Silence and its freeform remix, two tracks that definitely play to the strengths of their genres.

This might in fact be the darkest release since a certain compilation and I’m really looking forward to trying them out in a set. Both are available now from Beatport.

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.

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.

A couple of recent EP releases here that most will have seen, but both are encouraging signs that the big names haven’t given up on freeform just yet. From The Shadows is a very welcome return for FINRG, though this is obviously more of a UK freeform showcase and style-wise is only nominally in the same ballpark as previous Finnish releases. My favourite is Transcend and Hedonistik Ritual’s Scorched, with its trademark Transcend production and some nice filtering on the leads.

The release is also notable as a step away from SoundCloud free releases, appearing instead on Beatport and Juno Download. I know from TYFTH research and my days helping out with Hybridize that sales from digital download sites have to be pretty healthy to make it a worthwhile exercise, so be sure to show some support if your listening/mixing tastes line up with this one.

Next is an EP from one of the UK scene’s strongest producers, Eryk Orpheus. Doofs, Squeaks and Bleeps is an interesting mix of styles that has been a long time in the making – my favourite track in the release, Benodihydrochloridebenzylex, has been floating around for years. It’s another great example of how dark psy/goa can be incorporated into freeform even if things here don’t quite go to Qygen-like next levels. The EP is available for a mere £1.50 via the Intelli-Trance site.

I’m obviously never averse to a trip down memory lane, and the other day I was thinking fondly back to how many ‘amateur’ Finnish producers used to come up with some wonderful stuff, promoted via the FINRG forums (often by way of mikseri).

Jimhe’s Iku-Turso is a decade too late to join Cyber Genetics, Beliar, and the rest, but thanks to SoundCloud there’s still a chance this excellent track will get the exposure it deserves. From the moment the first acid lines and melodies kick in it’s clear that this is freeform in the finest Finnish tradition (both musically and otherwise) that manages the energetic/melancholy balance impressively. Throw in a beautiful, creative pre-break, weighty drop, and some Aryx-esque leads, and you have a quality piece of work.

That I was easily imagining this playing alongside some of Grimsoul’s mikseri back catalogue should say it all, as his rough and readier older tracks sometimes hit atmospheres that weren’t matched by the later versions (see Painajainen and Bleed as an example). I hope to goodness that after an introduction like this Jimhe has plenty more on the way.

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.

There have been rumours of a Carbon Based return this year, and here it is – unpredictable as ever, the comeback track is a pretty glorious rework of Korpiklaani’s folk metal.

It’s not quite freeform, mind, as the Toni and Teemu CB influence has led this one down the breaks path. Even so, the sound is unmistakably recent-era Carbon Based, especially those beautiful breakdowns and leads. I must admit to expecting/hoping for a 4/4 kick and some FINRG filters to burst in at some stage, but things have been reined in this time, alas.

Indeed, the atmosphere on the whole is far lighter than the dark, folky melancholy of the original, which also got me thinking about how great a range of FINRG remixes would have been. Imagine a freeform edit, or if Proteus, Nomic, or Horzi could get their hands on this?

This track is still a fine piece of work at a possibly useful 160-ish bpm, and (amazingly) suggests that if anything the Carbon Based production levels are still improving. It’s available in mp3/FLAC formats here.