I was supposed to put this post online a couple of weeks ago, but Alek was adding so much new material to his SoundCloud that I couldn’t keep up. Things have calmed down again now, so here’s a roundup of some of the wonderful stuff he’s been working on recently.
Toisto is a lovely update to a tracker(?)/demoscene track, even if I’m not familiar with the original and had no luck with a search. The Boulder Dash theme, on the other hand, is an absolute classic and has been a favourite of mine for over 30 years. Here Alek’s gone for a trance remix, perhaps wisely as the theme is so good that you can quite happily loop it for 4 or 5 minutes without getting bored. Might we hear these tracks in another back to back set with Byproduct in the not-too-distant future?
Before we get on to the harder side it was a Paocala track from earlier this year that gave me hope for if/when Alek made a freeform comeback. 5396 Miles (at the top of this post) is a beautiful, downtempo soundtrack-esque piece that finds Alek right back in that emotional, otherwordly place where he’s always made his best music. Dare I say, I think it’s the best he’s written for years, and channelling that (back) into freeform would raise the bar, just as he did 20 years ago.
The first of the harder tracks is a collab with Decion, and an excellent hard trance/dance track that nicely combines the two styles. It’s only 150bpm, mind, and very much in the Decion style of ‘very hard trance’ rather than NRG, making it tough to get into a weightier Hard NRG set. Find the right tracks to surround it though, and this could be the uplifting centrepiece with an atmosphere that not many will match.
Origami Hearts is at freeform speed for sure, and even flirts with some of the depth of 5396 Miles with its spectacular opening. That gives way for some oldskool ravey sounds and a lead that almost has me imagining it’s an Alek-Substanced collab. It’s a fantastic, unusual track – though I’ll admit I was really hoping for some FINRG filtering to join the hoovers for a while in the middle section.
I won’t link the next one here, but it could be the most exciting (upcoming) freeform release from Alek in a long time. Blood from the Sky is a dark freeform track of the sort that I wasn’t sure we’d ever see again – aggressive, atmospheric, and progressive. The opening half of the track is spectacular and even Re-form-esque at times with the voice samples and jittery snare rolls, but it’s post-drop where the leads get darker and more complex, and the track really takes off. The use of some samples from the FINRG Hard era is a nice nod to the history that flows through this tune, but there are plenty of modern production touches that make it an evolution in the best way. Absolutely superb work from Alek – if you’re looking for a preview then apparently there’s one on Facebook, but I’d recommend joining the FINRG discord if you haven’t already, where he added a full-length version last month.
As if that wasn’t enough, a remastered version of Voices of Babylon also appeared on Alek’s SoundCloud a week or so ago. Earlier this year Guld and I were sitting in an izakaya listening to the original together, trying to decide whether it’s the best Alek’s ever done – personally it’s still in my top 3 freeform tracks, and very possibly at number 1. This remaster cleans up the track, giving it a brighter feel that definitely benefits some of the leads. The grittiness of the original master is something I really love though, and I still prefer the older kick. In my case I’ll be keeping both versions to hand, as depending on the atmosphere of the set and the surrounding tracks they’ll both have their place. Scandalously it hasn’t been shared by the main FINRG account yet (thinking of going rogue and doing it myself) and so it might not have reached the audience it should have. Spread the word then, as one of the all-time greats has had an update, and there must be some who weren’t in the scene the first time around.