Japanese

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.

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.

Last call for TYFTH Live 009, as it’s been visible in all the usual places since February. That includes Twitch, as it’s highlighted there and shouldn’t disappear anytime soon (if ever?). This was a a very fun set to put together, with many old and new tracks getting a play for the first time. I’m very happy with the atmosphere, even if (as usual) it was a lot of work to put together.

The biggest Horser-related news from the set was that we had two tracks on show – my Cyhyraeth and Sherkel’s superb Concealed. I’ve been trying to work out a way to use it in a set for quite a long time now as it has an extremely long, atmospheric breakdown. The opening three tracks of this set (repurposed from a CODEX appearance) are pretty hectic and absolutely set the tone, but are combined in a way that keeps the long breaks to a minimum. That was the perfect platform for Concealed, then, and I love the flow of that section.

Of the other transitions Perkele! – VPN is probably my favourite, as they’re two tracks I’ve wanted to play for years but are extremely challenging to use well. It was one of those lovely mixing moments when I realised there was potential to combine the two. Another high point was the Twisted Freq section (which needed some 3-deck action to get things working), as I combined the two in that way to reduce the massive breakdowns that you tend to get in Kreatrix tracks. PHASE 6 – Tigris also works really well, linking PHASE 6’s break with Tigris’ intro to deepen the atmosphere some more before the dark-but-melodic final part of the set. Oh and Mirage – Chimaera has never been in any of my online/event sets, but I used a less ambitious version in my first ever freeform mix back in 2006.

I was very happy to see how well the set was received live on Twitch – a massive thanks goes to Shimo for her raid, and to all the Fairy Forest crew who stayed around to listen. I’ve played to far fewer people at many club events, and it was a bit overwhelming to try to keep track of the action in the chat. Apologies to those I missed, and I’ll try to be on top of it next time. It actually crossed my mind to have a mic set up for interacting with everyone listening, but then I’d need to also record the set through Traktor to get the clean audio. I’m wary of adding more stress to my overloaded setup, but I’ll do some tests before deciding one way or the other.

Obviously I missed the March deadline for the next one, but more than ever these days I get the feeling that people expect a certain kind of set from me, and just throwing one together at the last minute wouldn’t really cut it. With all the newcomers to the scene and the ever-increasing distance between now and the release of those 2000s tracks, hopefully my ‘old and new’ style can still hit the sweet spot between introducing the classics to freeform rookies, while pushing the newer tracks and producers that are keeping that spirit alive. On that note, I’ve put in quite a bit of time to the next mix, with an intro just about decided and another section that has some lovely combinations. I’d say it’s pretty likely to appear this month, depending how well I manage the traditionally tricky middle part of the set.

I should give a quick mention to this here – it’s been a long enough wait, after all. My Hell’s Gate remix has been hidden away on SoundCloud for a few months, as I had to add the track to Spotify as a way to set up an artist profile (a bizarre process that doesn’t need explaining here). Although that was all for FINRG purposes, it was in the back of my mind to add to TYFTH’s ‘free tracks‘ section while I was at it. If I had my way it would have quietly appeared there with little fanfare, but that’s not the way SC does things. With some talk about Hell’s Gate recently, here it is at last.

This version is actually the ‘easier to mix’ edit I did after finishing the original, but both are essentially the same. In theory I could work on a ‘2022 remix’ at some point, but as even typing that drains all enthusiasm instantly, it’s probably better to leave Hell’s Gate in the past at this point. Unbelievably the track still stands up pretty well, with a very similar second half to Zio’s original, and the most ‘beginner’s luck’ breakdown you’ll ever hear.

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

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.

Thanks to Shimotsukei I saw this Tano*C stream recording for the first time the other day, including a rare video of a whole Betwixt & Between set (starting here). No live PA this time though, instead he’s mixing mainstream hardcore. He would often say that he preferred PAs because he didn’t know how to DJ, but he had some mixing experience by this stage and it’s a good effort.

Truth be told it’s hard to watch this without getting a bit emotional, especially considering the timing. Hopefully there are a few other sets/event videos floating around that I’ve missed up until now.

Time for a much delayed look at Sherkel’s latest production mix, a highly recommended set for anyone looking for some Romancer-style NRG. That’s not to say it relies completely on Sherkel’s amazing ability to capture the sound of Einhander though, as the set has plenty of more creative melodies and some high quality remix work.

To my ears this is without doubt the strongest set from Sherkel so far, and the best example yet of the sound he has been forming over the past few years. All three of the original tracks are excellent in different ways – Coincide is perhaps most similar to previous work, with plenty of energy and an excellent breakdown, while Rising Waves has one of the most distinctive, oddly calming atmospheres I’ve heard for a long time. 死人花 (Shibitohana) is a fitting set finisher, with its quality, hectic melodies and another inspired breakdown.

Talking of inspiration, you can feel it in full force for the Surendrajit remix, adding more NRG style to the track and (pleasingly) not replicating Betwixt’s structure completely. Instead this is a proper remix, gophering deep into Sherkel’s style in the second half with some lovely updated melodies and impressive synth work. Short Circuit is the other remix (one I had to look up) and is equally well-handled. Sherkel’s done well to spot the NRG potential in this one but also managed the difficult part, putting together a catchy, powerful track that will appeal whether you’re familiar with the original or not. The Sherkely synths filtering around the sampled vocals are especially great.

To reiterate, then, this is impressive work and genuinely a set that would have gone down well at either Romancer or CODEX. Hopefully there’s more on the way for next year?