The recent M3 event in Tokyo was a big one for freeform, with a cluster of albums and EPs released. Until the last minute I was supposed be there too, but thankfully everything I had my eye on has since become available online/digitally. Although last weekend’s TYFTH Live featured a few of the new tracks (more on that soon), it didn’t end up including anything from the most TYFTH-friendly album of them all – Khaosnet Civilization Vol.4.

Impressively from a lineup heavy on newer artists (and even the more experienced here haven’t been around for that long) the track selection gave me some In Praise of Shadows-esque first impressions. Granted there’re some uplifting sounds here and there, but the album as a whole sounds like it’s taking on the darker and deeper sounds that IPoS was trying to resurrect. No NRG here though – it’s freeform all the way with some of the bpms really getting up there.

Picking a track of the album is tough, but I’ll go for Elfen lied – instantly my all-time favourite Kokomochi track, the first five minutes or so is some of the best dark freeform you’ll hear all year (in a year when there’s actually some competition). Add in some Guld-esque filtered melodies and you have one heck of a track, which is already on the to-play list for my darker FINRG set.

Other highlights for me are Ri-nergy’s Empty Dream, Samiyama’s Azelf, and polaritia’s Strange Dream, but truth be told the quality level is very high throughout. Even Kannami’s Lose Control, a track that seems to have more of a Transcend/UK freeform influence, adds more darkness than you’d expect with some weighty filters.

Compilation of the year, then? It’s in the lead for now, I’d say. Congrats to Kokomochi on this release – another sign of hope in a scene that really seems to be waking up again.

Some will have heard this pretty spectacular acid freeform track when it appeared on Nirotiy’s SoundCloud recently. Following up one of the best ever remixes of an Alek track isn’t easy, but Ray of Oblivion makes a fine job of it, keeping the Alek influence but sounding much more experimental than Iron Squid.

What you might not have noticed was its release on the huge compilation of harder Chinese sounds The Silent Xosmos -United and Unbound –. While the compilation itself is far too all over the place to get a TYFTH gold star, Irish Kappa’s Fabulous Action and Valtrax’s Recall are two quality freeform tracks on the melodic side. Have a browse through the rest of the album for everything from hardstyle to makina – if you have a Shimo-level range of listening/mixing tastes then this could be the album for you.

It’s no secret that getting the psychedelic/goa influence back into freeform is one of my goals these days, but interestingly this lovely album is coming at things from the opposite direction. Clearly from a psy/goa background (or at least with more experience in that area), Yogga* shows a good ear for when and how to introduce NRG/freeform sounds to all seven of the tracks here.

It’s probably the kick and bass that most betray the lack of freeform experience (and the occasional happy hardcore-esque combined kick and clap definitely takes some getting used to), but get past that and you’re in for an excellent listen. If anything, the opening track (Seratonin) is the least freeform of them all, sounding more like a pacy, acoustic goa set-ender. Still a lovely track, mind, nicely setting up the atmosphere for the rest of the album.

Oxytocin is one I can definitely imagine fitting into a freeform set, with some excellent goa acid and filtered synths leading into a quality breakdown. Unfortunately it is on the shorter side – the album is seemingly put together to be listened to in its entirety, which means DJs might have trouble with a couple of the tracks (the excellent Dopamin, especially). Saying that, they’re in a pretty consistent key and it wouldn’t be difficult to mix a few of them back to back – the beautiful Endorphine and Melatonin are two of the most emotional, psychedelic tracks and would be an especially nice combo, I suspect.

What a unique, enjoyable album this is, then. Fitting some of these into a set could be perfect way to introduce some new atmospheres – I’ll be having a practice with them very soon.

Here’s a surprise older set from the archives – a surprise for me too, as I was actually hunting for a different one. Finding a rare Alabaster CODEX set recording is a pretty great silver lining though, so it’s gone up on YouTube right away. It’s a mix of UK hardcore/trancecore with some more aggressive freeform towards the end, seemingly setting up the next DJ on the lineup.

I’ve made a start on the tracklist but it’s missing a few, so I’m posting it here in case any Horsers would like to weigh in with ideas. I’m away again for a while from today (which, as I mentioned on mastodon, will delay the next stream a little), but I’ll update as and when I can.

It’s highly likely that I missed an announcement about this at the time (especially now that I’ve escaped the clutches of most social media), but either way this is a first TYFTH mention of Carbon Based’s ridiculously good Kraateri EP. Apparently it sneaked out in the middle of last year, making it one of the best releases of 2023.

The first track is what you’d expect, a remastered version of the original that still stands up to anything in that bpm range of twisty-melodic NRG. It’s with Reincarnation that things really get interesting though, as this is a superb new version that takes the atmosphere to another level. Crucially it still sounds nice and gritty in the NRG filtering, but the goa influence that was always there in founding FINRG releases has more depth and clarity than you’d typically have heard in the early years.

This is one of FINRG’s strongest releases for quite a while, and deserves all the support if you’re like me and missed it the first time around. All the digital stores have their problems but I’m linking beatport here – it’s likely available elsewhere too.

If you’re missing NRG after all the freeform releases lately, take a look at this superb EP by B.R.K, released on Eryk Orpheus’ Intelli-trance label earlier this month.

It goes without saying that B.R.K’s composition has been top drawer from the very early days, and the production levels have steadily improved with each album release. Here though some mastering wizardry from Eryk Orpheus has definitely taken things up a step, with the whole release sounding like the cleanest of Lab4 productions.

It’s more NRG than hard trance, as you’d expect, but on the uplifting side when the melodies kick in. My favourite though is Rome Will Burn Down with its guitar-led breakdown (played by the man himself, I expect), bringing some deeper atmospheres to the usual B.R.K. formula.

Listening through the whole release makes you release how long it’s been since we’ve had something similar – make sure to show some support for this one.

Unprecedented scenes here, as a second TYFTH set goes online within a month (or so) of the last stream. I’ll soon be away again for a week, but signs are that there’ll be at least one more in March. Enormous thanks once again to everyone who joined the stream, it’s a genuine pleasure to share these tunes and catch up in the chat.

Special mention to Butterfly Effect,  sneaking its way into the set to become the first UK freeform track I’ve used for many years. The goa-style acid in the second half made it a contender for the stream’s psychedelic theme, and layering it above and below Man Eaten and Ancient Universe made for a good intro (and covered up some elements I wasn’t so keen on).

I was quite happy with the rest of the set considering how quickly I put it together – the Qygen section at the start is overly long because there were originally some other tracks in there that were cut at the last moment (plus they’re two of Qygen’s more enormous tracks, of course). Otherwise I’m pretty happy with how the set meanders around some freeform-adjacent genres but gets back on track for the final third.

One of the not-exactly-freeform tracks was Zoonoodle’s 国, which jambt0 corrected to during the stream. edit: Thanks to some Sherkel sleuthing it seem that 掴 is the right choice after all. Apologies to jmbt0! Isn’t it a great track, by the way? It’s long been in the running for the next FINRG set (and might still be), as it’s minimal enough to use with just about anything while having a dark atmosphere of its own.

Next time might be the hard techno set I’ve mentioned before, as I’m banking on that being easier to put together in haste. Nothing definite yet though – let’s see what time allows.

Isn’t it nice to see all these new mixed sets alongside the newer track releases? Here’s another from the growing Chinese scene, and once again the focus is on oldies – which totally makes sense, what with many discovering the genre for the first time. RebalLance describes this set as a practice, and while it probably shouldn’t be top of your to-listen pile if you’re overly familiar with the tracks, the middle section in particular has some fantastic moments.

A shame, then, that the weakest transition of the whole set is right at the start, with the interesting combo of Absence and Why not really working out. The lopsided use of the tracks also hurts the opening, as Why plays out for a full 5 minutes or so after the quick transition. Stick with it though, to be rewarded with a lovely sequence through Tankobu and Extremely Dangerous, and a nice navigation into Fairytale. From there it’s into the strongest section of the set, the next four or five tracks linking excellently.

Although I’m not totally convinced by Iron Bottom Sound as a follow up to Cyclone, the transition into the Lush reveals the thinking behind that one. After that there’s a ferocious finale of anthems – al Megiddo into Nue Messiah takes me way back, while Man Eaten into Mohicans is a superb way to finish things.

Give this one a try then, is my advice – a couple of surprise selections and that brilliant main sequence make it well worth a listen.

We’ve already talked plenty about Blood from the Sky, Alek’s superb new dark freeform track, but surprisingly it isn’t releasing on FINRG after all. Instead it’s available for free on Alek’s own SoundCloud, which as a track of the year contender makes this a massive treat. If you haven’t already, support Alek instead by picking up 5396 miles and/or Ten Thousand Homeworlds from his bandcamp. Maybe even with a little extra added to cover Blood from the Sky?

It would be slightly odd if you’re here and haven’t heard anything about last weekend’s TYFTH Live, but here’s one last mention for completeness. I mastodonned during planning about how much fun I was having putting this one together – I’m holding back a lot of tracks for an upcoming FINRG set, and the restrictions made for a few unusual selections and new combinations.

I won’t give one of my long mix-constructing rambles this time, but Ordeal into Killer Loop would probably be somewhere in my all-time top 10 transitions, I’m immensely proud of it. The Aquanox melody with Ordeal’s bass and pads absolutely sounds like something new – I knew I was onto something when it gave me goosebumps the first time mixing it.

Other than that the set’ll probably get some listens for the Hellfire remix, which I found on an old hard drive about a month ago. I enjoy the sequence from there to the end, as things get darker and there are some other nice combos I haven’t tried before.

Now’s also a nice time to say another big thanks to everyone who showed up to listen, from the hardcore Horsers to the new listeners via Shimo’s raid. In big part thanks to the good response, I was hit by some inspiration and almost managed to put together another streamable freeform set for this weekend(!), but it’s not quite there and will have to wait for next month instead. Stay tuned, as (unusually) there’s plenty in the works at the moment.