Drum & Bass

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.

This was supposed to be The Week Of Mixes, as recently I’ve been really trying to catch up on sets in preparation for giving a few more recommendations. I’m already behind schedule though, so I’ll try to add one a day for the rest of the week.

We’ll start with a Cuedy set that’s now almost a year old, but I’ve only now managed to dig it out from Freeformaniacs’ mountainous back catalogue. Apologies to Cuedy, as this is another superb hour of music that does all sorts of things right, and really deserves to have been mentioned at the time.

The first thing you’ll notice is the excellent first 20 minutes or so, nicely rationing the lighter tunes before the sounds deepen up with tracks from Nomic and Re-form. That Silver Cube Human Race connection is excellent, while the introduction of Fluorite midway through the section does a fine job of linking the two atmospheres.

The middle section of the set is also impressively mixed, but in the trancey UK freeform style that never sits that comfortably alongside Finnish equivalents like Frozen Flame. Just my opinion, mind, and even if Frankenstein isn’t my kind of tune, Cuedy’s blend into Unohdetut is one of those standout connections you’ll be looking forward to on a second listen. Full marks for ambition with the next mix into Scout, but the keys really have to be rock solid for this to work, and after listening on a couple of different headphones I think this one could have benefitted from a bit more tweaking – maybe there’s a ‘sweeter spot’ at a nearby bpm?

Dodomeki and the Lush remix are an excellent combo, and end the set on a very high note. There’s something for most of us here, and if you’re a fellow beard-stroking transition nerd then you’ll surely enjoy this hour from one of the scene’s finest DJs.

01. XIO – White Out (Le Dos-on Remix) [Asgard \ Japan With Force]
02. Horzi vs Amini – Don’t say a thing [fc. Return of the Jeb Eye \ Smiling Corpse]
03. Alabaster – Flourite [Worldwide Heavyweight Freeform \ Rebuild Music]
04. Re-form – Silver Cube (Extended Edit) [Free Release \ FiNRG]
05. Nomic – Human Race pt.II [fc. Return of the Jeb Eye \ Smiling Corpse]
06. DJ Rx – Frozen Flame [Free Release \ FiNRG]
07. Transcend – Spirit Of Hades [STMSLM008 \ Stamina Slam]
08. jD-KiD & Javi Dj – Purnima [BFB010 \ B-FormBeats]
09. Qygen – Supersonic Speed 2013 [fc. Freeformatted Vol 2 \ Ruffbeats & Freeformaniacs]
10. Transcend – Frankenstein [Free Release \ Facebook Fan Page]
11. Epyx & Cyrez – Unohdetut 2011 [Freeform Exposed \ Electrode]
12. Grimsoul – Scout [Melancholy Overdose \ Electronica Exposed]
13. Ikaruga_Nex – Dodomeki [fc. Return of the Jeb Eye \ Smiling Corpse]
14. Pain on Creation – Lush (Epyx & Cyrez Remix) [Free Release \ FiNRG]

PlasmaDancer – Together by Plasmadancer on Mixcloud

Seems like most of the posts that come to mind right now will take a while to write, and as there’s all sorts of other stuff I should be doing (Freeformaniacs next week, remember) things might be a bit quiet here.

For now here’s that intelligent drum and bass set I’ve been talking about – very similar to the ustream version, but with a few tweaks and now finally online at mixcloud. This was obviously something of a labour of love (my first ever full-length dnb mix, in fact), and while it has its problems I’m quite pleased with how it turned out. Humour me, then, while I run through a few of the tracks and the thinking behind the set.

So Long happens to be one of my all time favourite tunes, but has always struck me as a hard one to mix. As a challenge I decided to use it first, but opening with those ever-wonderful melodies and amens gave me the perfect atmospheric, bitter-sweet base to work from. You’ll notice a couple of Future Loop Foundation tracks in the first half – I’d say he’s one of the most underrated artists in intelligent dnb, and is actually responsible for another big, big favourite, Discovery. I couldn’t fit it into this set, but I Want to Believe and Spirit Catcher both feature that deep, melodic FLF style that echoes some of the more thoughtful 1992-1994 hardcore and jungle.

That connection from Sensory Elements was one of the toughest in the set, as I’d decided early on that I wanted to ‘deepen up’ SE with some pads in the final section. Anyone who’s mixed this stuff knows that finding tunes in the same key is a rare thing indeed, but after plenty of work I was very satisfied with my choice of Spirit Catcher. Incidentally, it’s worth mentioning that the sparseness of Sensory Elements arrives sooner in the set than I had planned – there was originally one more ‘pads and atmosphere’ track after IWtB, but it was just out of key enough for me to scrap it. Frankly I couldn’t face however long it was going to take to find a replacement, and lazily shunted everything else ‘up’ one place instead.

From halfway the problems with the stucture are a bit more obvious as the set meanders from one style to another, but I was glad to get in at least one PFM classic in The Mystics. Language of Love would have been the only ‘filler’ tune in the set, but I dispensed with the incredibly dull central section and just used the final third (which, helpfully, is pretty easy to mix). After things got a little too ‘realistic’ with LoL and Passage to India I wanted to get back to the spirit of the intelligent sound with the final four tracks. I think they work well, tied together by Shogun’s tracks and a very long transition between the In Too Deep remix and Jonny L’s beautiful Underwater Communication. As for Shogun himself, he was surely one of the finest producers of the time – Together brings back all sorts of memories while Nautilus is my final tribute to LTJ Bukem’s The Rebirth, the set that first inspired me to DJ.

Together is such a special track for me that I decided to fade out at that point. It’s a nice feeling to have finished my first set, 20 years after hearing these tunes – and after plenty of discogs trawling I now have more than enough material (including some rarer tracks) for another mix. That might happen eventually, but for now it’s back to 2014 and some more freeform set preparation.