Finnish

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.

I was listening to Proteus’ Hard NRG V recently, and Lou Cypher Project’s Plague jumped out me as one of those nice early-era NRG tracks. It turns out that Lou Cypher Project’s are all available on their SoundCloud, with 7 or 8 in the Weirdo-esque style of Plague. My favourite is The Next Level, as its harder kick and low-end heavy synths could still do the job in a Hardcore for Life style set. Old news for many I’m sure, but check these out if you’re in the market for some retro NRG.

Belated shout out for a rare Asahi mix that’s worth checking out for lots of reasons. He’s got such good taste in NRG that it’s always nice to hear one of his sets, and while this one sounds a bit rusty in places there are some top class track combinations that I enjoyed a lot.

I somehow completely forgot about Mask Man, and here it shows what a strong track it is by combining excellently with Lush. I must admit that I zoned out a little once the UK freeform kicked in, but saying that Krater is a quality transition track that could come in handy for a lot of DJs.

The big showstopper for this set has to be the inclusion of an unreleased Booty promo, a superb track with an odd, experimental atmosphere. I wish I could hear more of these, as they make you realise how much influence might have had on the other Romancer artists. Close to zero chance of any of his material seeing a release, so we should all be extra grateful to Asahi for giving them an airing.

Back in the day I used to rely on Midas for my UK freeform, as he would usually find a nice balance between the UK style and FINRG that gave a taste of what was happening in both scenes. More recently Hedonistik Ritual is definitely the one to watch for that, though as a producer and FINRG member he’s going a few steps further, of course. I’m a bit late mentioning this one, but his Exposed Events set was a fine example.

The set starts off with some Lab 4/Substanced/Carbon Based, easing into things before the UK freeform comes in. It’s always interesting to hear a mix of the two like this (even if this set is definitely more on the UK side), especially with Hedonistik’s energetic mixing style that always keeps the interest up. As many will know, he used to be (still is?) an MC, so he’s a natural at hosting and introducing this sort of streamed event.

Watch out especially for Hedonistik’s tracks, Pelko’s Hellchoir and a nice use of Kokomochi’s Megaptera towards the end.

1.Lab4 – Reformation (Nick the Kid Remix) Intro
2.Lab 4 – Reformation (Carbon Based Remix)
3. Substanced – Geneva pt 3 (Carbon Based Remix)
4. DJ Scot Project – O (Mark Sherry’s Acidburst Remix)
5. Alex Mo – Over the Rainbow
6. Hedonistik Ritual – Invasion
7. Pelko – Hellchoir
8. Aeon – Apostasy
9. Angel 0A – Psychokiller
10. Kokomochi – Megaptera
11. Kevin Energy & Afterburner – Escape Velocity
12. Impact – Phat as Phuck (A.B & Hedonistik Ritual’s Keep it Freeform Remix)
13. Ephexis – Sick Seduction

A quick reminder for anyone who hasn’t checked out the return of Cyrez yet to do so asap. Beyond the Void is essentially a Hybridized Private Demon Part 2, sharing some of the same riffs (and maybe even a few samples). It’s a slightly slower, but more complex track than Private Demon with an especially nice intro and melodic drop in the second half.

‘Buy this track’ is all that’s needed for this post, with the caveat that this seems to be a Junodownload exclusive for the time being.

FINRG Legacy might have started with the novelty value of me releasing a track, but now we’re into ‘future classic’ territory with Nomic’s Phoenix Down. Since Nomic’s last release we’ve seen plenty of freeform productions inspired by him, but it only takes the intro to remind you what a different level he’s always worked on. An utterly beautiful piece of work.

Like me you might have been learning more about the freeform scene in China recently, and the talented group of young DJs and producers who seem to be inspired by the sounds we favour around here. One of them, Asukarai Matsuri, has put together a fantastic mix that covers just about all the TYFTH bases.

The most impressive thing about the set overall is the transitions, both in how they sound and their originality. By halfway through my first listen I was looking forward to each new one, wondering how the next track would appear. Needless to say, that’s not the case in 99% of freeform sets, and even though some were more successful than others this is very impressive for such a new DJ. There are some superb, in-key combinations like Children into Rachel’s Song and A Mind On Its Own with Skybreak, plus some ‘close enough’ transitions like Ziggurat – Gozenzeuna and Deimos – Surendrajit. There’s also a superb sequence of Hase/ThermalForce that keeps the energy of the set going despite the two long back-to-back breaks of Brionac and Meditation. Another good sign of set construction sense is that there isn’t another breakdown of similar length until the much later Fall 4 You.

Of course the danger with those ‘close enough’ transitions is that sometimes you’ll push it too far and they start to stand out, especially in a mix with so many smooth, in-key combinations. That’s the case with Surendrajit – Falling Star, which doesn’t quite work and yet becomes a very lengthy blend. It doesn’t sound bad, but when the previous 45 minutes have had some very impressive moments, it can’t help but be jarring.

Something that might put first-time listeners off is the occasional messiness of the early transitions, but things clear up a lot in the second half. It seems that this could have been a streamed set, in which case it’s totally understandable and might just have been early set nerves/tech stuff. Either way, it’s something that’ll only get cleaner with experience (something I know all too well).

It’s a real pleasure to hear a new generation take on the sound we’ve all been pushing for so long, and to already be creating such impressive sets makes it even better. I’m looking forward to hearing what comes next, both in terms of new takes on NRG sets but also new productions.

If you’re dedicated enough of a Horser to still be visiting these realms this is already old news, but either way it’s about time to mention that my first official release, Cyhyraeth,  is appearing on FINRG today. Although it probably sounds laughable to all those artists with dozens of releases to their names, for this long-time non-producing DJ a release on FINRG has to be up there in the top 3 career highlights. Not only that, mind – Cyhyraeth is release 001 of FINRG Legacy, the new home for freeform that continues the lineage of the original Finnish sound. One of the nicest responses I’ve had to the track was ‘It makes me feel the darkness of the 2000s,’ and that was exactly what I was going for. I’m not in a position to put together another In Praise of Shadows right now, so this track was an attempt to point back to those incredible early atmospheres, for all the freeform newcomers who didn’t experience them in the mid-2000s (or the veterans who have since forgotten them – which seems like a sizeable crowd too).

It won’t be much of a surprise to learn that I’ve been working on various incarnations of this track and others for years, especially given my approach to mix planning. It’s in the last year or two, though, that I decided to really take the production side more seriously. The rule was to finish at least one original track before working on any remixes, and so here we are.

I wonder how many other DJs can relate to this, but after years of playing most of the genre’s all-time greatest tracks, it’s been unbelievably intimidating to try something of my own. After plenty of wrestling with this, I finally came up with three requirements for anything new before it would go public:

  • Would I play this track in a set of my own?
  • Would it make me dance?
  • Would it fit into a mid-2000s FINRG set?

Cyhyraeth is far from a perfect track of course, but eventually I got to a point of ‘Yes’ in answer to all of those. Happily it also felt that I was forming a bit more of a distinctive style while working through those questions, even if the ‘pale imitation of Alek’ aspect might always be there somewhere. Something I brought back from my mid-late 90s FastTracker days was to decide on the title first, as that always used to be super important in building an identity and atmosphere for the track (even in the odd breakbeat stuff I used to make back then). Cyhyraeth wouldn’t sound anything like this if I hadn’t kept that fairly disturbing Welsh myth in mind while putting it together.

There’s a lot of Goa influence too, which you’ll especially hear in the full version. It makes it harder to mix than some freeform tracks, but that was also intentional. Working a lot with Exemia’s tracks (or past Goa sets) reminded me of the obvious – mixing challenging tracks makes you a better DJ, no question.

Anyway, I’m very grateful for the positive/constructive feedback I’ve had on this track and I’ll be taking it all into the next one. Who knows when/if that’ll appear, but clearing this hurdle was a massive step that bodes pretty well. Final, massive thanks to Robin Petras for his wizardry on the mastering and solid gold feedback/advice throughout. After his incredible work on the compilation I was quick to get in touch with him this time, and somehow he outdid himself once again.