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.
Thinking about Guld’s Dark Dimension set again the other day (which started with his Candyman remix), I realised I never mentioned Lab4’s own update from earlier this year. I much prefer the rough, ferocious style of Guld’s version but this is still a good rework with some nice changes to the structure. Incidentally, it’s well worth a dig through Hard Trance Europe’s back catalogue, as along with this and Cyrez’s Resurrection remix there are a few other Lab4 remixes and rereleases of some older tracks.
Anyone pining for emotional pianos and filtery leads has to check out Ri-nergy’s second promo set, as they don’t get any better than this in the current freeform scene. It’s also time to stop the Nomic comparisons now that Ri-nergy has developed such a strong style of his own – taking plenty from the master himself of course, but sounding very ‘modern Japanese freeform’ in the best possible way. There are lots here that I’ve already had in mind for a set, and others that I’ll be checking out asap, thanks to an extremely useful tracklist with links to various compilations.
The mix itself has a few more uncomfy moments in transition than the first promo set, but they don’t stick around for too long. As always, it’s a lot easier to forgive them in an artist set, and it does avoid the other tedious extreme of trundling though the DJ-friendly intro and outro section of every track. The tracks themselves are superb, with some genuinely standout emotional moments that match anything we’ve heard in the last decade. I’ve even noticed Ri-nergy’s releases popping up in the occasional UK freeform set, so he’s probably doing more than anyone right now to nudge both listers and DJs back towards the sounds of the golden era. A special mention too for Ende’s wonderful visuals that accompany the YT version of the set – I hope we see more of this in the future.
I’ve plenty more sets to mention, so stay tuned, and there’ll be at least one new one from me pretty soon – more about that on Mastodon.
Would ‘PVC’ be the answer if most Horsers were challenged to name their favourite Eryk Orpheus track? It’s still mine – hardly a surprise as it’s the only UK freeform track I’ve ever played in a club – but Eryk’s psy-influenced modern style has plenty going for it, too. This inspired remix of This Place Is A Shelter comes pretty close to merging the two, and shows that his ear for a melancholy breakdown sample is as sharp as ever.
As often these days I find myself wishing that the post-breakdown lead had some more Finnish/Japanese ‘rawness’ to it, but it’d be silly to criticise a UK freeform track for sounding the way it was intended. I’d love to hear this one in a Transcend-style ‘intelligent UK freeform set’ someday – as much as I enjoy it I’m not sure it’ll fit into any of mine for a while.
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.
If you’re as much of an Exemia fan as me you’ll already know that he was signed up by NGDEV to work on Gunvein’s OST. I was definitely planning to give the soundtrack a mention anyway, but for full disclosure I was kindly gifted a promo copy by Exemia around the time of release. It seems the ‘freeform loving shmup fan’ demographic is marginally bigger than I expected, and for us especially this was one of the most interesting releases of 2022.
Like Gunvein itself, the OST has plenty of late-era Cave atmosphere to it, but (unsurprisingly) a much more authentic hardcore feel to most of the tracks. One of the drawbacks from a freefrom DJ’s perspective is the short running time – you’d need some nimble mixing to get many of these into a set. That’s obviously not the main goal here though, and the variety is what makes this a fine listen even unmixed.
There’s more drum and bass here than I was expecting, but if anything less guitar – this is a very DoDonPachi inspired game, after all. No surprise that Exemia absolutely nails the stage 1 theme, with enough of a shmup feel to start things off followed by full freeform in the second half. Another favourite for me is Exhaled Haven, both a superb boss theme and a track that would easily fit into an Exemia freeform set. An extra mention too for the chilled ending track with its lovely drums and chirpy main lead.
Lately I’ve been back to trying to 1cc Guwange among others (I’ll take talk of that to Mastodon, not here) so I haven’t yet given Gunvein the time it deserves. With the reception it’s had so far and the best OST since Blue Revolver (or GG Aleste 3 if we’re including non-freeform) it’ll likely be worth the wait.