2008 was a fantastic year for free music. Now, having had more than a month to reflect, I have compiled a list of personal highlights. I’ll own up to being involved in some of these projects in some capacity or another, but this bias shouldn’t come as a surprise—I wouldn’t be working so closely on some of these projects if I didn’t like the music! Without further ado, here are my picks for the best free psytrance releases of 2008 (in no particular order).
Momentum Vol. 1 is techtrance the way it should be! PhaseTech assembled a great set of tunes for this release, many of which have been heard on Toronto dance floors thanks to DJs like Jarek, Nomolos, and myself. The classy futuristic style is a throwback to the early years of the new millennium—when artists like Midi Miliz and Authentik ruled the night (and Wizzy Noise was still releasing music that people were enthusiastic about). From what I know, the second volume is due to land sometime this spring, so stay tuned for more mechanical mayhem from TesseracTstudio.
Entheos Audio Archive 2.0 is one of the first (mostly) Canadian psytrance compilations in history. Osiris Indriya is from Oregon, but the rest–all Canadian content. Akhentek and Sijay worked on the artwork and mastering while I helped to compile a few tracks and ran the final product to the printers. 1,000 physical CDs were printed up just in time for the main event: the Entheos Summer Solstice Festival. I still have some CDs in case anyone wants one! What do I like about this release? It is the flow that does it for me—it gracefully moves from one style to the next, charting a true journey through psychedelic trance and West Coast downtempo vibes.
IsraTrance is perhaps the largest and most important psytrance community on the planet. Nowhere else will you find such a mix of producers, label owners, and party people of all nationalities. This compilation features a number of artists active on the site—each with their own distinct approach to psytrance. Given that I possess diverse taste in psytrance, it is the sheer variety of styles present on this compilation that really does it for me. NASA, Mubali, Filteria, and Minimal Criminal provide some great beats here. Not to be missed!
Digital Diamonds is a German techno and techtrance netlabel operated by Volker and Adam of Alic. After releasing many great EPs over the course of the previous year, they assembled Digital Family, a deep and dirty psychedelic techno compilation perfectly suited for the cold and misty days of November. It’s been a hit all over, particularly with the “non-psytrance” crowd. I dig it for its sleek, futuristic sound.
I couldn’t leave out the compilation I was instrumental in assembling, could I? Organic Circuitry was years in the making—I began to compile material for it back in early 2006 or so. Back then, free music had zero credibility, so you have to hand it to these artists for being forward-thinking enough to have faith in the concept! I am really happy with how it turned out in the end. No two tracks are alike but they all share emotional and melodic qualities and non-standard approaches.
Neither Ekoplex nor myself had any idea how well Journey of the Turtle would be received when we released it this summer. This was the first major release on Ektoplazm—the “test case”, if you will, to see how well a professional-grade artist album might fare. Of course, the response has been absolutely astounding; just check out the comments and reviews! Not only has it been a huge hit online but we even managed to sell close to 200 copies of the physical CD version—with full disclosure, of course. The album itself is a great ride; something fresh and interesting and truly Canadian. Be sure to check it out.
Nanospheric is an extraordinary concept album by the German producer Cybernetika. I wouldn’t hesitate to call it one of the top albums of the year, free or not! The style is an original fusion of darkpsy, full-on, and old school Goa trance, all wrapped up in heavy science fiction themes. Defying genre standards, most of the songs on the album are extremely long—four of them are between 10 and 15 minutes in length, with not a second wasted. Creatively brilliant and masterfully executed–definitely one of the best free psytrance releases yet.
And so we arrive at Jikkenteki’s massive sophomore effort, Flights of Infinity. This is what happens when you let a talented producer break all the rules and simply write the music they want to write. The opening track smashes all length records, weighing in with a runtime of more than half an hour—and that is just the beginning! FOI is a dazzling display of creative virtuosity and daring–precisely the sort of thing you won’t find much of in the commercial psytrance industry. Music without limits!