Drum & Bass

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.

Thanks again to everyone who stopped by for the last stream – seems like this one caught some interest and there was a decent-sized group listening live, especially given the last-minute promotion. Listening back I’m pleasantly surprised by how well the set works, so this one has also gone up on the TYFTH SoundCloud. There’s a much bigger audience over there, for what turned out to be a nice ‘beginner’s set’ with plenty of newer tracks.

The initial idea was to build the whole thing around more melodic freeform, but it also ended up feeling a lot like one of my old school sets. They tended to mix up melodies and nastier tracks a lot more than I do these days, and it was quite refreshing to rattle through a new generation of tracks in that style. The Exit 133 – No Choice At All transition is one I’ve been sitting on for a while, tweaked a bit here but still a very welcoming combination that leads into the faster-feeling modern tracks. polaritia’s tracks were my go-to when I realised that I didn’t want things to head into ‘happy freeform’ territory – maybe it was mixing muscle memory that transformed the set into something I might have played at Hell’s Gate all those years ago.

Cannibal Girl was as fun to use as expected, and I have a feeling that it could become the Hellfire of the current era – very flexible and able to switch up the atmosphere of almost any set. Less planned was the choice of Rise From The Darkness, as I actually bought the track an hour before the start of the stream. I’d been scrambling for something to link with Facemelt, so that along with the breakdown’s nod back to Cannibal Girl made it a good choice.

The set was supposed to end with Zafkiel, but I was having such a good time I thought to carry on a little longer. SIBYL was a nod to Kokomochi in the stream chat, as it’s by far my favourite of his tracks, followed by Substanced’s remix of Cyclone. I’m yet to find a really good transition for it, which meant I didn’t feel quite so bad shoehorning it into the ‘encore’ slot.

There are still a fair few tracks on the more melodic side that I’d like to play, so it might not be a bad idea to switch things up with another set in this style before too long.

 

Believe it or not, this post is in response to a few requests I had, many years ago, to talk a little about how I put my sets together. Back then I felt I had a lot to work on, and either way wasn’t really confident enough to articulate what I’d learned so far. Although there’s still plenty to improve, the combination of more regularly hitting what I feel is the ‘TYFTH style’ and the collected notes made during a decade of mixing mean that now might be the right time to give an explanation a try.

With as many mixing styles as there are DJs, it should really go without saying (despite the occasional imperative mood) that I’m in no way prescribing this as the way to put a freeform set together. Taking set construction so seriously has always been massively rewarding for me though, so the hope is that this will be an interesting look behind the scenes for those who enjoy TYFTH’s mixes.

These thoughts (they’re far too meandering to be called a guide) are roughly divided into three sections, covering the main steps in my mixing process. Particularly important points are noted along the way, and to help with the explanations a few PD sets (or even transitions within them) are used as examples, as well as occasional mentions of non-freeform sets that have inspired me over the years.

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I’m slow (of course) to mention the most recent FINRG podcasts, but even if you’ve heard them before they’re well worth a revisit as DJ case studies.

Listening to these sets you can hear right away what freeform means to each DJ, with both featuring some similar tracks as part of two very different atmospheres. JNKS’ 64 minutes goes from happy/UK hardcore to some solid gold FINRG and back again, while Alchemiist plays some surprisingly melodic freeform, connected to neurofunk and hardcore by a few darker oldies.

JNKS’ selection is spot on, with a huge number of later-era happy anthems (including remixes to keep veterans of the early 90s happy), while the potentially hazardous transition into the FINRG section is very nicely handled. You really can’t beat the gritty sound of tracks like Killer Instinct and Illuminate, and of course it’s nice to see the obligatory Alek appearance.

Alchemiist’s steady progression into the non-freeform final third is just as well handled, but the standout section of the set was a more conventional one. I might prefer the original PVC, but the transition from Ghost of Jupiter into Lost Soul’s remix is still top class and a worthy centrepiece to the set. Absolutely lovely stuff.

Both essential listens then, as is the entire podcast series so far.

If you’re in the market for some melodic freeform then Nonaka+Chin’s FutureProof Sounds set might be a good one to check out. I often think of Nonaka as the Midas of the Japanese scene – his mixing level, thoughtful selection and taste for the Finnish sound alongside the UK freeform means there’s always something to enjoy.

This one is excellently mixed with some nicely considered transitions, and even if there’s a lot of UK freeform that I can’t name (not laziness, there’s actually no tracklist here) the set is also a fine showcase of Japanese tracks with artists from ikaruga_nex to Hyphen, via Alabaster’s Galaxy. I found myself wishing for some darker sounds but that’s clearly not what the set is aiming for – instead this is the place for some well-selected melodic highlights of the current scene.

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.

Apologies to the Lucky Lotus chat crew who have been expecting this for almost a week, but hopefully late is better than never – best we take a look at this one before we work through some other very promising sets from last weekend.

You might remember that we were both originally on the lineup to play individual sets, but what with one thing and another it worked out easiest for us both to go for another collab. Not that I’m complaining – last year was really good fun, while this one was a great way to get over a slight lack of recent freeform inspiration on my part. I have a darker set in the very early works, but last year’s In Praise of Shadows mix worked out so well I’m having trouble matching that for the time being.

Instead I thought a slightly more melodic approach might be interesting this time, including some of the freeform side of IPoS. Shimotsukei had her own ideas of course, and the set somehow worked out very nicely with minimal rejigging of the tracklist. My toughest job was to come up with pre-Fleshfest sequence which led me to settle on Some More. Years of diddling around with the track has still left me with no decent transitions, and so after spending time on all sorts of bizarre combos I gave up and went for a Grimsoul-only opening. We don’t hear his tracks often enough these days (Sentimental Pain aside), plus it was my first time to use any of the three in a set.

Shimotsukei’s sequences are all fantastic, from the standout NRG of Fleshfest Mad Man to the so-mad-it-might-just-work finale of Voodoo to Xochitlan. Each sequence is made all the more impressive by the fact that Shimotsukei was mostly working with my completed sections of the set, once I had cheerily passed them on for her to struggle with.

My own favourite section is Syxautik to Ascend to the Stars, even if it’s the most roughly mixed (with some suspect levels that definitely didn’t seem as bad while mixing). I was trying a dark, deeper atmosphere there, with some more emotional sounds coming in as it progressed – I think it’s pretty successful, and a bit of a preview of the kind of thing I’d like from the next solo set.

It was very nice to see the positive reaction to the set in the LL chat, as well as exchange a few words with Horsers for the first time in far too long. Big thanks of course to LL for the invitation, and especially to Shimotsukei for all the hard work to get the set ready in time. I hope we’ve still got a few more collabs ahead of us, they’re going well so far.

I haven’t given up thoughts of the occasional live set stream (on chew, twitch, or somewhere else) and will keep you all posted, but I do at least have a new mix approaching completion – not the usual thing at all, but hopefully it’ll be the kick needed for a more productive second half of the year.

01. Grimsoul – Escape Forever [Electronica Exposed]
02. Grimsoul – Pahus [Electronica Exposed]
03. Grimsoul – Some More [Electronica Exposed]
04. Carbon Based, DJ Rx & Proteus – Fleshfest [FINRG]
05. Proteus, Ephexis & Ting – Angel of Hell [UHOtrax]
06. FEN Project – Mad Man [FINRG]
07. DJ Rx – Fisheye [FINRG]
08. Morita Yuuhei – The Ghost [Thank You For The Horse]
09. Alek Szahala – Dryad Machine (Hyphen Remix) [Thank You For The Horse]
10. Nightforce & Substanced – Operation Stardust [Electronica Exposed]
11. Pain on Creation – Mortality [FINRG]
12. Twisted Freq – Syxautik [Electronica Exposed]
13. Mellow Sonic – Paradoxon [Cosmicopia Records]
14. Alek Szahala – Ascend to the Stars (Qygen Remix) [ReBuild Music}
15. Anon – Voodoo (Power Mix) [White Label]
16. DJ Eclipse – Ultra World 5 [Bonkers Records]
17. Betwixt & Between – East of Eden (Remaster) [CDR]
18. Alek Száhala – Xochitlán [FINRG]

I dread to think when the last post was – Life Stuff has meant some schedule juggling to fit everything in, and TYFTH has been suffering a bit as a result. Finally getting around to a few posts though, starting with the grand launch of Lucky Lotus’ CD compilation, Summertime Dreams.

The most significant news so far for freeform in 2017, this compilation has some very big names on board – Nomic, Qygen and Morita Yuuhei top the bill, with a very nicely produced contribution from Erkenfresh and Archari and Shimotsukei’s Dagor Dagorath adding some up-and-comers to the tracklist. With Shimotsukei in charge of things the rest of the release is about as eclectic as you’d expect, giving us a taste of everything from funkot to downtempo chillout, via Lab4’s excellent, roll-back-the-years NRG track, Moving To The Beat.

edit: I’ll blame posting rustiness for not mentioning something so important yesterday, but LL has announced that Qygen’s Crystal Cave will be his last freeform track. Talk about another huge loss to the scene, though the signs are that he’ll make a return to music of a different sort in the future.

Not really a release you can afford to miss, I’d say – it’s set for the end of June, but preorders are open already on the Lucky Lotus bandcamp and bigcartel sites.

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.

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.