Drum & Bass

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.

Far and away the best set I’ve heard this year isn’t actually freeform, but a masterclass in jungle selection from Pearsall that you simply have to check out. Harking back to the early-to-mid-nineties golden age of Dreamscape and Helter Skelter, Ellis Dee and Grooverider, this 94 minute set is Pearsall on top, top form.

It’s one thing to put together a tracklist of massive classics and lesser-known tunes, and then quite another to blend them this well – the best jungle sets always give me the impression of knife-edge, organised chaos, and what a good demonstration this is. Props to Pearsall for some top-drawer mixing, but also the set’s progression, moving from some of my favourite chopped up breaks to the amen-focused main section of the set. The climax also has some inspired selections, Music Takes Me and a glorious remake of Tango and Fallout’s Revelations ending the mix in ecstatic style.

Pearsall’s typically thoughtful Sonicrampage post confirms my first impressions, that such a complex set must have taken a heck of a lot of practice and pre-planning, and after a couple of weeks on constant rotation I can confirm it more than stands up to multiple listens. Highly, highly recommended.

This upcoming (29th December) collaboration release between Lucky Lotus and Touitsu Recordings is going all-out for variety, with everything from goa to dubstep, via twee Japanese vocals and gabber. Freeform’s what we’re here for though, and across the three releases  (‘Day One’ is up above) there are top quality tracks from Nomic, Evolutionize and an interesting effort from Harrs.

I can already hear the cries of ‘Get back to freeform, you charlatan’, but I promise this’ll be the last mention of my recent-ish jungle/drum and bass set. It’s now up on SoundCloud, so anyone who enjoyed it back in August can finally download via the TYFTH page.

As for other stuff…I recently received a pretty exciting booking, and put together a little promo mix in anticipation of the event. Sadly the gig has been postponed, and so I might keep the mix under wraps until then. It’ll be going online eventually though, as well as some other bits and pieces.

I’ve also got enough freeform-related items for a few posts, so expect them sometime, as well as an essay of sorts that has been in the works for goodness knows how long. Once the freeform dries up again (it’s been that sort of year, let’s be honest) there might even be a couple of other topics to keep the site sailing towards the end of the year.

Apropos to nothing in particular, this is one of the tunes getting me through my commute this week, and so why not share it with TYFTH? The Long Dark Remix of VotS was the best version by far, adding some extra chops to the drums and a much improved bassline. Definitely blows away the 1996 version…

I feel another non-freeform YouTube roundup coming on, but hope you enjoy this one for now.

Still a few sets I’ve been meaning to mention, starting with a psy-influenced hour from Australia’s Inoxia. There’s no faulting the ambition in this one, and the effort to take the listener on a trippy journey into psy and freeform really impressed me.

That said, there were a few missed opportunities after the fabulous intro and the Jesus Raves section – with such a demented (and nicely mixed) opening, the set seemed to be crying out for some Qygen, older Alek Szahala or Betwixt & Between. Instead there’s the slightly disappointing choice of Power of Universe, before getting back into the mood with some nice ikaruga and Vyral XIII selections. The set has lost some of the unique atmosphere by that stage though, and it’s more about enjoying the tunes on their own merits.

The final section (maybe beginning with Evolutionize’s Tandoku) heads into more typical, energetic territory, and ends things on a classic note. Plenty of interesting ideas here then, and lots of potential for future Inoxia sets.

A quick look at the tracklist for Hellfury’s latest set made me wonder if it was quite my cup of tea, but after his fantastic Shin No Noir IX I was more than willing to give it a go. As expected there are fewer tracks that I really enjoy, but the quality is still very high – this time the unifying sounds are Le Dos-on’s trademark melodies and a more understated psy influence than in SNNIX. Look out for some ambitious mixes, one of my favourite Qygen tracks (Birth Within the Cosmic Storm) and a enjoyably ferocious finale.

I really like 7Sins’ taste in tracks, and here again we have a very solid, no-nonsense selection of melodic and filtery tunes. It’s fair to say that the set is more about the tracklist than the transitions, but the Hatral – Tormenting Flames connection is truly glorious and I’d love to hear more of the same in future mixes.