Presumably we’re all familiar with Blue Revolver, 2016’s fondest of fond tributes to the modern(ish) shmup? I usually manage to restrain myself from too many game-related posts here, but BR sneaked through thanks to Wyrm’s sound design and a pretty remarkable OST from Qygen. Plus of course there was the excellent collection of remixes, including the return of ikaruga_nex and some lovely stuff from Hyphen – the game itself’s a must-purchase if you’re even slightly into the genre, but at the very least you need the soundtrack, which was comfortably one of the best freeform releases of the year.
Black Label is a CAVE style rebalance/update of the mechanics and frontend, with a genuinely interesting list of new additions. What’s bolder though is an arranged version of the soundtrack, wisely deciding not to try out-freeforming Qygen and instead taking things in a more conventional soundtrack direction. Exemia and Hagane are nice choices for remix duties (especially after Exemia’s quality work with Aerolith Aurorablast), and Hagane’s lush, breakbeaty take on Qygen’s tracks is sounding very successful so far. Black Label will be appearing in January next year.
PID has been near the top of the now-lengthy ‘promising newcomer’ list for a while, so it’s good to see him making some even bigger strides this year. We Are Finally Here is a contender for his strongest track so far, with one of the best structures I’ve seen for a while.
Give it a listen all the way though and if you’re anything like me you’ll be more impressed the longer the track plays, particularly post-halfway. The Nomic influence is there from the start, along with plenty of other touches that point towards various flavours of FINRG. Filters and a strong opening melody are all well and good, but when the breakdown first appeared with some percussion to add interest I was afraid that was where things might start to tail off. Not a bit of it – instead a lovely distorted lead goes straight into a Carbon Based-esque filters-and-kick drop, followed by a new spin on the main melody that has the track flirting with very high level territory.
The production isn’t at those same levels just yet, but this is still an excellent track that bodes well for the future, especially now that PID seems to be thinking about putting together an album of his own material.
Although a heroic effort at turning NRG into an acronym was the first thing I noticed here, Japanese label Masamune’s Neologism Raving Generator might actually be one of the most important freeform albums of the year. It’s also another one that should have decent appeal across the whole scene.
Most encouraging is the sight of some new artists stepping up with some very high quality production – Nizikawa’s Ebrietas might be the track that finds the firmest middle ground between uplifting melodies and the more aggressive stuff. The majority of the tracks have most in common with the sound of the UK scene, though there’s a definite J-Core influence to some of the melodies that comes out especially in a couple of polysha’s collab tracks, Omniverse especially.
Sanaas’ PALLADION sounds like a really impressive uplifting track, while Hyphen’s Meaningless C.O.D.E. is one of his strongest for a while, at least to my ears. Unsurprisingly it’s Morita Yuuhei’s Redemption Song that’s my early favourite – the moment I heard the preview I started running through set ideas. I shall definitely be using that one.
Neologism Raving Generator was released at last weekend’s M3, but it’ll likely follow the lead of Psychic Formers and eventually be available online.
update: The CD is now available via Diverse Direct and the Tano*C Store. I’d recommend the former – just after placing an order I noticed the ‘For Oversea’ section with an unusually clear guide in English. Postage abroad seems pretty steep if you’re only ordering a single CD, mind, so it might be a thought to add a couple more to the basket.
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.
Remember encode/decode, the album that included ikaruga_nex’s Barbatos? That and other datfile records releases have been available for a while now in digital format – but sound quality sticklers will have to weigh convenience against the fact that the files are 320kbps mp3s only.
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.