With barely 120 SoundCloud listens so far, Melancholia’s rather special Lucky Lotus set remains slept on by too many. Whether a post on the dusty pages of TYFTH will make much difference is doubtful, but either way I’d like to pay proper tribute to one of the finest sets I’ve heard for years.
Although I’ve been familiar with Melancholia’s sample-heavy mixing style for quite a while, this time around the tracklist couldn’t get much closer to the TYFTH ideal. Add in to that some pretty inspiring mixing, and you’ll understand why I was so excited about this one.
Self Extortion is obviously a good start (with bonus points for some great work on the intro), and one that gets even better thanks to an impressive harmonic mix into Aurora. That super smooth Sylph into Byrgius transition is a standout, while the way Eternity Has Passed mixes in next, underneath Byrgius’ filters, is a sign of Melancholia’s technical flexibility. A combination that could have sounded very messy is instead nicely aggressive, with some voice samples papering over any of the gaps that are left.
You’ll notice a lot of trademark sample usage here and there, including some fantastic use of the Self Extortion vocals. Others are less effective to my ears – Aryx’s melancholy breakdowns are probably vocal-less for reason, after all, but on the whole they’re both well selected and well timed. There’s generally a nice line being walked between the po-faced samples you often hear in Finnish tracks and the nudge-and-a-wink semi-comedy style of some UK freeform (‘At ease, listen up!’ is one of my favourites here).
Hearing Eternity Has Passed at 175ish makes me realise how much I like it, and it’s probably somewhere in my top 5 Betwixt tunes when played at this speed. It’s a reminder of how, when Betwixt was really feeling the inspiration, even Nomic or Alek would struggle to match him. What I’d give to hear a modern freeform bootleg or two.
The samples appear again as the set moves into Axiomatic System, giving some listening landmarks that are so effective that I might do some experimenting of my own in this style. As for Lost Soul, I’ve surely lamented before that there are an awful lot of tracks that have some fantastic moments but never quite live up to the atmosphere I’m expecting. Here Melancholia’s solution is to combine an effective snippet of the track with the ever-reliable Iron Squid. Ephexis’ Destination Entheogen remix is right up there with their best, and here makes for a surprising but effective finale. With the shortened use of Axiomatic System I’d prefer DE to be given more time – as the first four tracks had longer play it would help greatly with the flow of the second half of the set. That’s tricky to balance in a 22-minute mix though, and a minor weak spot in a massively impressive piece of work.
I’m biased thanks to the track selection, but this would still be a must-listen thanks to the technical quality on show. If you’ve been feeling a bit stuck in a mixing rut then this could well give you some new ideas, and those non-DJs who stick to listening will probably end up making this their TYFTH-style go-to for a long while.
01. Betwixt & Between – Self Extortion
02. Aryx – Aurora
03. Aryx – Sylph
04. Aryx & Alek Száhala – Byrgius
05. Betwixt & Between – Eternity Has Passed
06. Lost Soul – Axiomatic System
07. Alek Száhala – Iron Squid
08. Alias A.K.A. & Johan Floss – Destination Entheogen (Ephexis Remix)
I can’t say this will become any go-to for me, though it’s in part for the same reasons that you like it as much as you do: it’s a DJ doing the job of an experienced one and making their own product out of existing ones, rather than just presenting them side-by-side. I’m not sure if there’s such a thing as doing that “too much”, but the use of samples crossed some sort of line for me. The ending section reminded me of when you formulated a “new track” live with Supriya’s outro as the intro, The Boatman as the breakdown, and Tendrils of Reality’s intro as the outro. The Self Extortion and TYFTH samples recurring all the way through to the end show (if it wasn’t clear already) how deep the planning of this mix as a single unified whole went. It’s easily one of the most impressive sets I’ve heard from an artistic and technical standpoint, just not to my personal taste.
(A side note about Eternity Has Passed: I slept on the original until about a year ago, but it’s absolutely crazy how Betwixt twisted the melody the way he did! I still don’t think I’d be able to trace back each transformation he applied in that second breakdown. The importance of “owning” a piece of music is debatable, but nonetheless I think it ought to be looked at 100% as his work.)
Absolutely fair – the previous set or two I’d heard from Melancholia made the sample use here look restrained, so I was probably coming at it from a different starting point! That we agree on the artistic and technical side shows how strong it is, maybe you’d feel differently without the samples?
Quite possibly! To be honest a large part of it is that I haven’t found myself going for this extremely lead-heavy type of freeform much lately, not that there are any tracks there I haven’t enjoyed at some time or another.
This review came as a really big surprise to me – definitely not something I ever expected! I have my own sample-heavy DJing style that I recognize not everyone enjoys. Primarily, I have always made mixes for my own enjoyment or for a small circle of friends, and I recognize the sound can be very different or too fast-paced compared to what others are used to (although my approach for this set was a slower, less sample-heavy approach).
While no DJ set is perfect, I was very rushed with this one due to life’s constraints (both career & personal issues) – I personally feel that their impact shows, but overall I’m very happy with how the mix turned out. My wife played a big role in helping me decide some of the sampling, I’m super happy about the Gladiator one, but gathering the samples for Starship Troopers was also really fun (I hadn’t watched that movie in forever!). The big weakness to me is the last few minutes which do not fit with the rest of the set (due to style & pace change), but in a strange way it fits my style 100% – which is to (almost) always do something crazy in the last few minutes of my sets (ie. go into Speedcore or change things up in some fun & different way as a big finale).
Eternity Has Passed @ 175-ish BPM has a very special place in my heart, and I strongly felt the need to drop it into my set. Once in though, I found myself not knowing what to do next, so the sampling kind of stops for a bit (I think PlasmaDancer caught onto this). Regardless, this was a very fun set to plan, even if rushed, and I had a lot of fun with it, as did the Lucky Lotus listeners that caught it live.
Just a few small words: I have been following TYFTH on & off for over a decade now (since 2007 or very early 2008), and I consider PlasmaDancer a small part of why I mix – I strongly admire PlasmaDancer’s dedication to both Freeform and the Japanese scene, and I thank him for the time & energy he has put into this project. Your hard work is noticed, even if at times it may not seem that way. Best wishes & a big Thank You!
Thanks for the message and kind words, both made my day!
I always love hearing how a set came together, so this was an excellent read. Seems like many of us are working our sets around whatever else life is throwing at us, which makes this one even more impressive. I hope you’ll be able to keep them up now and then, even if they’re on the shorter side – as I mentioned, I haven’t been this inspired by a set for a while. I feel like the sample use gives you a bit of mixing wiggle room now and then too (it helped with Eternity has Passed), at its best it really sounded to me like a style choice instead of a rushed part of the set.
Good luck with the next one, whenever life allows 🙂
I was meaning to reply to the blog post a few weeks ago, but didn’t for whatever reason. Felt it was a very well-written review. A pleasure to read.
Belated thanks bern, that’s really appreciated 🙂