I’d say not to get too excited about this (it is a 7 year old album, after all), but In Praise of Shadows finally being available on a platform where you don’t need PayPal could be a big deal for some. Especially so for the Japan crew, which is who this is really aimed at. Since setting up the Booth shop I’ve opened it to non-Japanese orders too, so give it a look if the PayPal thing was what held you back in the past.
I was listening through the soundcloud previews again while I did all the intial Booth admin and (as biased as I am) it really is one of the all-time best compilations, isn’t it? Anyway, check out the Booth shop if you couldn’t support the release the first time around.
Over the past year or so I’ve (as usual, to be honest) been listening to my own mixes if I’m in the mood for some NRG or freeform, and three in particular have had the most play – the FINRG Podcast set, my tribute to Exemia, and the last twitch stream from the start of last year. I took elements from each of these with the goal to raise Dark NRG a level or two above the pretty good Hardcore for Life , an NRG set I’m quite happy with, but don’t listen to often.
The other inspiration was Proteus’ old NRG sets, so I aimed for a dark, industrial atmosphere in this one that looked to other genres for some of the tracks. Originally that meant me tinkering with tracks like Waldhaus’ Blood on Fire remix, but the challenge was finding something that matched the NRG atmosphere and added some heaviness at the right moments. That’s where the FINRG Podcast influence also comes in, as the second half of that set is still the blueprint for what my sets should sound like – dark, strange, and with some deeper psychedelic elements to them. With all those things in mind the set ended up using plenty of Proteus’ own tracks, with one hard techno track as a transition and the deeper finale of Louhi and Synchronicity. I’m especially happy with the progression from the weighty opening Proteus sounds to the increase in pace with the NRG and then into the section that’s probably got most of a freeform feel – more on that in a minute.
I still listen to the Exemia set often – it’s definitely one of my most inspired, with some of the best transitions I’ve ever managed. Here I tried to recreate the drive of the set, particularly in the way that transitions would avoid the ‘stop-start’ style of introducing new tracks with a breakdown. It’s something I used to do too much but have tried to improve recently and am very happy with how it went for Dark NRG. Gangstah into Knock Out is one of my favourite examples, and it gets bonus points for smoothly using two tracks in different keys. The vocal samples work well together, and the extra power of Knock Out increases the pace and leads nicely into the freeformy-NRG part of the set. Another good one is Rock N Rave into Heavy Fusion, the final step into the freeformy-NRG section.
Cyrez’ recently released Malicious was a late addition, matching up perfectly with the tricky Heavy Fusion. The Resurrection remix had been floating around the same part of the tracklist during planning, so it made sense to add it here. Tears Are Not Obedient was another late selection – I had found another in-key escape route from Resurrection, but it took the atmosphere in a direction I didn’t like. I left the set alone for a while to think about it, and eventually came up with the simple-but-effective Gus and Jorg track as the answer. Truth be told I was running out of enthusiasm for the set by then, and repurposed an In Praise of Shadows mix to follow up. There could well be some better options out there, and it’s probably weakest part of the set to my ears. Get Fire! and Louhi really work well together though, so maybe it’ll grow on me.
So that’s the set – very pleased with it even if it didn’t justify a full year(!) of planning. It has some strong moments that I like going back to, and there were lots of unused transitions that’ll be appearing in the freeform-only mix that’s in the works these days.
Quite literally one from the archives here – thanks to Shihen I was reminded of this classic Beezee and Alderz set from 11 years ago and realised that some newer Horsers might never have heard it before. Unsurprisingly I was all over it at the time but the set is no longer on soundcloud. Thankfully Beezee has kept it archived (along with some other quality mixes) on hearthis – I can’t see a way to embed stuff from there, mind, so head this way to check out the set instead.
My thoughts at the time still stand, but listening in 2023 it really feels like an ‘end of an era’ kind of set, when the original Finnish/Japanese atmospheres were getting harder and harder to find. Much later than this and sets would often lose it completely, but Beezee and Alderz have hit the sweet spot here of newer (for the time) tracks that still have enough of the older spirit to sit alongside the anthems.
Big thanks again to Shihen for the reminder, and to Alderz for help in tracking the set down.
Father Time gave me another slap in the face recently when I realised Melancholia’s last soundcloud set was eight(!) years ago. Almost as surprising is that nobody else has since come close to his hyperactive, genre-mashing brand of freeform/hardcore mixing, so it’s a genuine treat to hear him back at it. There’s no real point of comparison, but those who enjoy Shimo’s current mixing style are at least headed in the right direction. In short, it’s best not to worry too much about the tracklist – tracks appear so briefly and/or mashed up with others that you’ll likely be readjusting to a new tune before you realise it.
Saying that, the opening ticks all the TYFTH boxes with a very strong Betwixt/Guld start. It’s fitting that Aryx and Alek Szahala’s Byrgius is the centrepiece for one of the smoothest segments of the set (just listen to that inspired mix into Stargazer), but another of Melancholia’s strengths is knowing when to get through a transition without mixing in key when the flow of the set needs it. He balances the two approaches almost perfectly, meaning you never know quite what to expect from one section to another. This set also keeps up the tradition of throwing plenty of extra samples into the mix – some of the UK freeform-esque monologues in the longer breakdowns are very similar to past sets and do a fine job of giving the set even more of a distinctive identity, but you might be caught off guard by the extremely wholesome appearances here and there of Melancholia himself.
There’s plenty more that could be said, but I’m sure you get the idea. Whether you’re more of a listener or DJ, this is another inspired, superbly mixed celebration of hardcore by Melancholia, and comes as highly recommended as any set this year.
Jumping to the front of the TYFTH posting queue is this EP of unreleased, remastered Cyrez tracks from around 2005. Hope is the only one (I think) I’ve heard before, and while it’s firmly on the hard trance side of Cyrez’s style the other two are the kind of aggressive NRG that he’s always been so good at. Malicious in particular is absolutely fantastic, sounding like an Epyx & Cyrez track if early 2000s Proteus joined in for a collaboration. The tracks all more than hold their own when mixed with more recent productions, and the remaining grittier, older sounds are for me what make them so good. They’re available on Cyrez’s Engrams of Cyrez bandcamp, so make sure to show all the support to one of the best releases of the year so far.
Long-time Horsers might spot the influences in Decion’s Louhi, but it stands on its own as one of the strongest NRG tracks I’ve heard for a long time. This one manages the tricky feat of sounding rough and gritty despite the super-clean production, and that atmospheric breakdown is doing all the right things. Bonus atmosphere points for the mythological theme – this version on Decion’s SoundCloud has some useful info that makes the track a more rewarding listen (and has given me the kick I needed to revisit the Kalevala). Anyway, keep this one favourited, so as not to miss the summer release date.
I discovered them late, but even so it’s long overdue to give woof’s series of twitch events a mention. Titled WOOFYPARTY, they were streamed every month or so last year, and the sixth edition featured an excellent comeback set from Raqhow. Talk about tailoring your set to the audience – think of a freeform track with an anime or game connection and it probably appears at some stage. From Operation Stardust to Mezame, they’re all here and brilliantly mixed. I never would have thought that they could work back to back in this way, and as the final (and only freeform) set of the event it was perfectly judged.
The rest of the event covered all kinds of genres in woofyparty style, including a great Byproduct set that I’d also recommend. Keep an eye on woof’s Twitch channel in case of another event though, as the chat was very lively in the last recording and joining the live version would be a fun time.
The fresh take on the classics that we’re getting from the newer DJs has definitely been one of the highlights of the last year or so, chiefly from Asukarai Matsuri. This Alek tribute is as good as you’d expect and if (like me) it’s been a while since you heard a full set of his tracks it’ll be just the dose of inspiration you need to finish off the year.
Asukarai Matsuri does a fine job here of deciding when to keep things in key and when to work out another way through a transition, with the first three or four tracks being a good example. Dryad Machine is the (slightly abrupt?) cue for things to head in more melodic direction, with some excellent selection choices. The Lagash – Mohicans transition is superb, but the later Superstition – Man Eaten is even better and probably one of the best Alek combinations I’ve ever heard. Although I would have moved Caballo to earlier in the set to keep things as dark as possible, that’s really nitpicking what’s a high quality tracklist. The finale of Firecloud into Xochitlan is such a good combination of ferocity and depth, plus a last airing of the all-important sample, of course.
I’d rank this as the best Alek-only set I’ve heard so far (his own live PAs are in a different category, for me) and the thoughtful mixing makes it a must listen for veterans as much as newcomers.
What’s this, another recent set to check out? Hedonistik Ritual is now settling into a schedule with his Hard Tranceformers podcast, a hugely impressive two-hour session of trance up to freeform. I’m biased this time, but even as someone who doesn’t care much for (non Goa) trance or hard trance these sets are excellent. Enough variety to keep anyone interested, and some quality track introductions and other info from Hedonistik while he plays.
This time it’s Cyhyraeth that made an appearance in a set – superbly mixed in after Powers Beyond(!) and followed by Drug Abuse, something I never would have imagined. Aside from being played at an in-person event I can’t imagine there are many better feelings than hearing another DJ do something creative with one of your tracks, so this was a real treat. Special thanks to Hedonistik for the kind words while introing the tune, and extra kudos for nailing the cyhyraeth pronunciation.
Early impressions are that these podcasts are (unsurprisingly) getting a wider listening audience than the usual freeform veterans, making them a fine entry into our reawakening scene for trance/hard trance fans.
Time for a belated look at another Asukarai Matsuri set, again a pretty fascinating look at how a talented newcomer to the scene approaches the NRG and freeform back catalogues. This is a great hour of freeform, and very recommended even if you’ve heard most of the tracks a million times before.
The track selection definitely reminds me of my own early days, with some of the all-time classic melodic tracks alongside more aggressive sections. Global Killer – Tuonela is a fine start, but it’s probably the next section where things step up a level. A darker atmosphere moves smoothly into Voices of Babylon, followed by a very impressive stretch of filtery melodic tracks. It obviously made my day to hear Hell’s Gate, especially as the transition into Morokai is one of the very best of the set. The finale is a classic dancefloor-friendly bpm increase, nicely done here with some Lost Soul and Nirotiy, before Hydra deepens things at the finish.
Overall another excellent set, and what it lacks in unified atmosphere from start to finish it makes up for in quality track selection. With literally a few hundred classic tracks yet to appear in his sets, I’m looking forward to AM’s next tribute to the golden age.