Japanese

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.

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.

It’s no secret that I’ve been pushing for more carefully constructed freeform sets since the very early days – ten years(!) or so ago we had a fine crop of DJs who worked wonders with what was being released, but mixes of that quality have been pretty thin on the ground lately. Asukarai Matsuri to the rescue, then, with a set of older tracks that instantly belongs among the all-time greats.

Normally when I give a mix the spotlight around here I pick out a few highlight transitions, but the standard is so high for this one that it’s almost impossible to choose. Veterans will look at the tracklist and probably have something of an idea of what to expect – melancholy melodies with some pacy filters to keep the energy up – but I guarantee that some of the combinations will catch you by surprise. Old Proteus favourite El Orfanato used as a follow-up to Byrgius is one, The Last Breath into Geneva another.

It’s the overall atmosphere of the set that’s the biggest achievement for me though, as it finds and then explores the common ground between a pretty wide range of artists. From Nomic’s melancholy to Aryx’s uplifting sound, via Epyx and Cyrez or Substanced’s agressive synths, it really does make something new with these ingredients. Many freeform DJs (myself included) have struggled to handle that kind of variety in the past, but this is an almost perfect attempt. Deimos is the one track that doesn’t slot in as smoothly, but that’s a common problem when using Alek’s tracks and it’s back to business as usual with the excellent transition to Fairytale. The fine tradition of unpronounceable freeform track names continues here too, with Nirotiy’s impressive 沉渊低语 ending the set on a forward-looking note.

I can’t imagine I’ll be recommending many more sets as highly as this for the rest of year, so I urge you both to check it out and share it with any and all who might be interested

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.

Belated notice if you missed it that Ri-nergy’s FutureProof EP released during summer. Alert Horsers will have heard both tracks in Ri-nergy’s excellent promo set, making this by far the best freeform release of the year so far.

All the tips of the hat to FutureProof – recent bursts of activity from FINRG aside, for me it’s quietly become one of best places to look for consistently quality NRG and freeform. There’ll be more mixing from me in November, so I’m planning to give both of these some play in sets and/or streams asap.

It’s not every day (or even every year, come to think of it) that we see a full album release that’s of TYFTH interest, so a recommendation from Sherkel to check out CBR and Shihen’s First Impact was very welcome. Don’t go in expecting freeform only, though – the topic list on the archive page lists everything but, as it’s very much on the Hardcore Syndrome/Hardcore Tano*C side of hardcore. That means we get everything from early 2000s happy J-Core to speedcore, along with some wonderful, Betwixt-influenced tracks. If that sounds up your alley, you’re not going to find a better album this year than the 12 tracks collected here.

Shihen’s Lost Planet is the first of the early tracks that could find its way into a freeform set (particularly one on the uplifting side) and I’m a big fan of the acid work and lead sounds. BeyondX is a much lighter hardcore track that somehow sounds to me like it might have a melancholy freeform track hiding inside, but it’s probably the second half of the release where we find more to perk up the ears of the typical Horser. Cloudburst is a brilliant high bpm track, heavy on the Betwixt influences despite (or because of?) being all over the place in terms of genre, while Disaster Foretold is as freeform as the album gets. Sounding at times like pre-freeform Betwixt mashed up with his later style, it’s a very impressive (and very fast) track. Shihen’s Aegaeon is my favourite track on the album – a lovely, weighty 5 minutes of NRG-ish freeform with some especially excellent work on the intro and break.

Overall it’s a superbly produced, high quality album, with more than enough freeform-adjacent sounds to come highly recommended. You can check out all the tracks via the slightly temperamental player on the release page, and download the album itself in full.

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.