Drum & Bass

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.

If you’ve ever wondered what freeform jungle produced by Transcend would sound like, then this post combined with the previous one might get you somewhere close – another sample pack, but this time free and featuring a huge range of classic jungle/drum and bass samples from 1989-1999. It was compiled by veteran intelligent junglists Blu Mar Ten, and while it might only be Qygen who has effectively incorporated 90s jungle into freeform so far, there’s more than enough here to get anyone’s inspiration going.

Heading the post is fine example of BMT’s work in the 90s – the quality drum edits and beautiful atmosphere of Lunar.

It’s a bit of an injustice that Midas hasn’t had more mentions on TYFTH, as he’s been doing a brilliant job over the years of sneaking Finnish and Japanese sounds into his sets, both online and around the UK. In fact I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some of the UK freeform crew have Midas to thank for their first exposure to FINRG.

You won’t often hear Wizbit and Alek Szahala in the same mix, but Midas was on top form for his recent-ish Freeformaniacs set, deftly negotiating his way from nutty breakbeat hardcore to some classics of the darker side. I’ve been known to dabble in breakbeat hardcore myself, and it’s hard to resist some of these throwbacks to the amen-heavy mid-nineties, especially when mixed this well. Some teeth-gritting might be needed through the tracks that start sounding a bit too nu-skool, but we’re soon into some of the best of current UK freeform, including Transcend’s excellent Candyman remix.

Midas has often pushed the Hybridize era nasty-but-melodic sound, and here it works as a nice bridge into the darker final section. Morokai, Fluorite, Icy Clouds, Alchemiist’s Pain remix – you really couldn’t ask for a much better selection if you’re looking to introduce folk to our side of things. Quite the journey of a set, and one that’d easily grace the peak time of many a UK event, I reckon.

Let’s go non-freeform for the next in the long list of sets I’ve been checking out recently – Alias A.K.A.’s mammoth look back at late-90s intelligent drum and bass.

That 1997-1999 era was when the intelligent sound started heading along the road to oblivion though, and by 2000 the melancholy and deeper melodies had mostly been abandoned in favour of faster, less complex drums and endless sweeping pads. I felt at the time that this was a real last hurrah for the subgenre, and Alias has picked out every single one of my favourites in an excellently mixed set.

Coincidentally the other day I listened again to one of Bukem’s finest mixes from this era (Progression Sessions), which obviously had an influence on Alias’ tracklist, but there are also plenty of well selected jazzy tracks amongst the spacey tunes. The opening combo of The Rhyme Goes On and Do What You Gotta Do sets the standard, and the rest of the set does a fine job of living up to it. Occasional clashing pads aside, there are some brilliant connections in here –  Mind Games followed by Planetary Funk Alert is a worthy centrepiece for the set.

A lot of the freeform crew might already have been listening to early NRG and trancecore by this stage, but this is essential listening for anyone with an interest in deeper dance music, especially if you missed these tunes at the time.

Watchtower Vo. 3 is finally emerging Rip Van Winkle-like from schedule stasis, with two CDs of high quality freeform and NRG. For TYFTH purposes the best news is the appearance of two brilliant Japanese tracks in Guld’s remix of Hatral and Le Dos-on’s Chemical Wash, but there’s also a very strong Finnish showing from Alek Szahala, Alchemiist, Grimsoul, Substanced, and Epyx & Cyrez / Tyranoid & Strongstream. Throw in some great tracks from Qygen and Aryx, and there’s a lot of material here for our side of the freeform spectrum, plus the expected new releases from Transcend, Lost Soul et al. A must buy, then, and preorders are already open on the Watchtower site, with the release a few days away.