Friday, 3 July 2015

It's Exciting Again

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After months of being teased about something different, we've finally put together a hardcore music show unlike any other - Find the details below

9 months ago THR and UK Hardcore fell out.

Nothing really happened - in fact THR had just launched the Hardcore Review Show; a revolutionary concept where we delved deeper than other podcasts into how the music was made. The first episode, "So What is TripletCore?", which you can hear at the top of this page, was really well-received.

Episode two was supposed to be a killer too, with a guest mix and interview with a UK Hardcore legend. This is where it got awkward. 

The DJ in question gave a date he was happy to be interviewed, then disappeared when subsequent texts and emails were sent his way confirming a time. THR Show was put back a week to try and reschedule. Another date was primarily agreed, but nothing came of it. Frustration built. 

It got to the point where he then asked THR why we hadn't had the interview yet. This was confusing, as THR had been trying to organise nothing BUT the interview for weeks. 

So push came to shove and THR abandoned plans for episode 2. We regressed into our cage. But also, nothing was really inspiring us in the scene. Not many releases, and lots of same-sounding records when there were. We lost a little hope and belief and moved on.

But here we are now. We're reinvigorated, revitalised and ready to try again. We won't announce dates or plans yet, but THR Show is coming back. It's going to be better than it was before. And we're just getting started.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

The Arrival of The Hardcore Review Show

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It's Finally Here...

After months of being teased about something different, we've finally put together a hardcore music show unlike any other - Find the details below

THR love hardcore podcasts. What.What you usually end up with is slick, quick mixing that plays all the hottest tracks from a given moment in time over a 45 minute period and that sounds great. 

But in no other scene than Hardcore is music churned up and discarded so quickly. Most producers can assemble between 25-30 high quality tracks a year, that are played on maybe one album (if they're lucky) and then forgotten about. Only the most hyped about tracks get any real time to breathe and become classics. More DJs and producers are flooding in to the scene to offer new musical experiences, but over-saturation often ends up leaving epic songs missed by most ravers.

At THR, we worry that this culture makes it's way to the guys producing this top-class stuff too. Around mid-2008 THR spoke to Al Storm and told him how much we enjoyed his remix of Slipmatt & Slam's "Express". His response was to suggest that the song was old-hat and he was surprised we had even remembered it. Go and check this song out while you read the rest of this.

THR have therefore decided that this practice can go on no longer! We will stride forward and celebrate not just what is great about now, but what was excellent before! 

We also want to explore the creation of hardcore music a little more deeply. so we devised a segment that we will call #HardcoreAnatomy (go on, you can tweet about it now) where we examine an aspect of the scene in detail. We start with the rise and fall of Tripletcore (which is something you may never even have heard of, meaning you should DEFINITELY listen), and will have much more to come in the future.

This is the start of a beautiful journey through the Hardcore cosmos. Join us. Get yourself across to iTunes and subscribe so you don't EVER miss a future edition. 

Oh, and we've only gone and got a HUGE hardcore name to be interviewed on the second edition of the show. We announce that name on the show that you can listen to right now. Just you wait.

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Wednesday, 5 February 2014

The 2013 #HardcoreReviewAwards

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The Hardcore Review Awards 2013

The Most Prestigious Awards in the scene and the only place where Kutski won't win the Freeform Award... because there is no Freeform Award

Yes. It's time. The Awards to beat all of the Awards. The ones all about the music. No vote shilling here. No hyped up memories of 5am in a warehouse on the Wirral. This is the real deal. 

The Hardcore Review Awards for 2013 are here. Now we're entering February, the Hardcore Review has digested the year that was and has collected together your Award winners. (note to winners - there is no trophy. Just pride)

The layout of the Hardcore Review Awards is slightly different to other Hardcore ceremonies, in that we rank a top 3 in each category. We've also got far fewer awards than others, because this is all about the music. There is no "Live Set of the Year" Award, no MC award and no "Best Venue" Award. We live and die by Hardcore music, regardless of form within, so there are only seven awards to fight for.

So let's get to it. 2013 was a great year for Hardcore music, and we are going to showcase the best. 

Best Album Mix

Criteria: Must be a mix from a Hardcore album released in 2013

In third place for Best Album Mix is Marc Smith's Notorious By Nature. Showcasing the very best that Marc and friends have put together over the last few years is a breathtaking journey through Freeform and Upfront, leading in to some incredible Gabber tracks.

Silver medal goes to Gammer and his excellent mix on Clubland X-Treme Hardcore 9. From the get-go, it is clear that "this bitch's quick mixes are gonna fuck you up", as is stated in the introduction. Indeed, Gammer manages to squeeze 21 slammers in to the near-forty minute mix. 

The first 2013 Hardcore Review Award goes to Fracus & Darwin, for their disc on the excellent Hardcore Underground 6. This mix comprises a little bit of everything, and features some of the very best tracks of the year. Fracus & Darwin have mixed these tracks together seemlessly and are thoroughly deserving of this award.

Honourable mentions: Scott Brown & Al Storm - HU6, DJ Kurt & Joey Riot - This is Powerstomp, HU Presents: 2013

Best Album Mix - 

Fracus & Darwin - Hardcore Underground 6

Best Label

Criteria: Should be a predominantly UK Hardcore Record Label that has released in 2013 

The Bronze medal for Best Label goes to Lethal Theory, whose label has had a phenomenal year. Taking Powerstomp to new heights and a firm favourite amongst ravers, they even released their own album with the support of Hardcore Underground this year. Lethal Theory is also where the aforementioned Alex Prospect hangs his hat, as well as the excellent producer Chaos.

The second best label of 2013 is the newly consolidated Futureworld Records. Housing arguably the most recognisable line-up in UK Hardcore, including Re-Con, Gammer, Whizzkid, Darren Styles, Dougal and the owner Breeze, they have begun a faster process from the production studio to the decks and CDs, thereby addressing a major issue for ravers everywhere.

Collecting their second Award is Hardcore Underground, whose label not only has some of the best up-and-coming talent in the scene, but has also put Hardcore albums back on the map in 2013. With more to come in 2014, including the much-anticipated album from Dougal and Gammer, Hardcore Underground has seen 2013 as its most important and influential year yet.

Honourable mentions: Klubbed Up, GTYM

Best Label - 
Hardcore Underground

Best Fan Interaction

Criteria: Must be a performer or former talent in the Hardcore scene, who interacts with fans regularly 

Third place for this Award goes to Whizzkid, who posts regular updates for fans and often gives freebies too. He contributed to the most downloaded Hardcore freebie of the year too...

That's right, in second place is DJ Gammer, who collaborated with Whizzkid on the awesome free mix, #QWERKout, which showed just how a mix featuring an MC should be choreographed. And, it was free! Great way to thank their many fans.

Somewhat controversially, I am handing this Award to DJ Billy 'Daniel' Bunter. Now, his involvement in modern UK Hardcore is admittedly not the most. However, his offbeat humour and crazy photos, plus the amount of effort he puts in to his comments on his Facebook page, combined with the fact that his page reaches more than any other member of the Hardcore world, make Bunter just pip Gammer and Whizzkid.

Best Fan Interaction - 

Billy 'Daniel' Bunter

Breakthrough Artist of the Year

Criteria: An artist who has had a year where they have truly taken that step up

Often working with Klubfiller, third placed Nuton has shown his production and mixing values in 2013, such as the impressive solo effort "Dig Dis" or his link up with Klubfiller on his remix of "Wanna Be" by Rock N Roller. 

The only issue I have with A.B is his name, as it gets lost in any kind of Google search shuffle. In terms of music, he is taking over Freeform and dragging it in to the middle of this decade with a newer sound, particularly on his bass notes. With top notch production standards, A.B could take that next step further by diversifying his catalogue in 2014.

When I first heard "I'ma Turn It Up", I was convinced I was listening to a new track from a Re-Con or Darren Styles. I wasn't watching the screen when it came on and it was to my immense delight that I saw the artist in question was in fact Alex Prospect, who is, as his name suggests, fast becoming a serious player in the scene. I can pay this producer no higher compliment than to say he belongs among the elite. And his mixing is pretty good too.

Honourable mentions: Skinny, Daniel-7, Rhythmics

Breakthrough Artist - 

Alex Prospect

The "Return to Form" Award

Criteria: Whether they have had time away or not, an established artist who revived themselves this year

Only really entering the game towards the end of 2013, Brisk showed on Hardcore Underground 6 with a couple of outstanding productions, showing he has regained that spark that made him unique. Long may it continue with the release of his album "Til Death Do Up Party" in February 2014.

The biggest thing Al Storm has done this year is diversify. He seems to have regained his edge and his production and mixing values are hitting top order once again. It's not that Storm got stuck in a rut, but that he never seemed to be able to break that glass ceiling. After 13 years in the game, another Award's ceremony gave him the Breakthrough DJ Award. We say he should be in the running for the main award next year. If his album with Euphony, Mind Over Matter, and his mix on Hardcore Underground 6 are anything to go by, he'll be a difficult act to stop.

One of the biggest legends of the scene, Scott Brown forced his way back in to prominence in 2013, not only with the first releases on Evolution Records for years, but with a fresher production sound and a huge gig mixing a CD with Al Storm on Hardcore Underground 6. Tracks such as "Fl1ck" and "Don't Doubt Me" proved his credentials as one of the best still to be in the scene. Bow down.

Honourable mention: Hixxy

The "Return to Form" Award - 

Scott Brown


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And now.. for the two big ones...


Artist of the Year Award

Criteria: DJs, MCs, producers or vocal artists can all vie for Artist of the Year

Technikore has has a solid year. Churning out tune after tune, making epic riffs and awesome basslines across several tracks. Technikore has had a diverse year, producing Freeform, Upfront, and Minimalist Hardcore. "Dance If You Can't" was an outstanding track this year. More of the same this year please.

Similar to Technikore in some respects, Fracus & Darwin have had a hugely diverse year. Having had an amazing disc on Hardcore Underground 6, they (both together and separately) have created magnificent tracks, including the spell-binding "Music Blocks" and another track to be featured before the end of these Awards.

Probably the easiest award to predict, the top DJ in the scene is truly breaking new ground in the world of Hardcore right now. Pushing the envelope with tracks such as "Fuck That Shit" with his long-time producing pal Dougal, Gammer has produced one of the best mixes and several of the best tracks of the year. Another outstanding year, and, if UK Hardcore does want to kick into mainstream in 2014 (which I know is very much a balanced debate amongst ravers...) Gammer is the man to spearhead the effort.

Honourable mentions: Whizzkid, DJ Kurt

Artist of the Year Award - 


The 2013 Track of the Year Award

Criteria: Any song featured on a hardcore album or label can be considered - and as you would expect, this is the hardest category to decide; and therefore the most prestigious

A heavy, bass-laden track with a deep-set vocal shot and lyrics from the talented Becci (found on Al Storm's "Rock!"), "I'ma Turn It Up" is an outstanding engineering feat. It's the type of track that never gets old, driving melody leading to the bassy mixdown; I challenge anybody not to move to that minimalistic main section. This track has been huge in 2013 and rightfully so. 

I wish I could have chosen a top 8 or 9 for this category, as there have been some outstanding tracks this year. But coming in at number two is the best song from Hardcore Underground 6, Archelix's "Say Goodbye". It covers Hardcore Breaks, Drum and Bass and driving Upfront all within three minutes, with a haunting yet sweet vocal and a melody that I feel is better than any other you will hear anywhere in any genre of music. An absolute corker of a track from a producer that I would love to hear more from on a UK Hardcore platform.

I heard it. My jaw dropped. My ears exploded. It wasn't a grower. It hit me like a wrecking ball. And it wrecked me. Because no other song could top the Track of the Year, "Paranoia" by Darren Styles & Gammer, for the tenacity, energy and overall combination of phrases and effects. The melody could not be any smoother, and the song builds up enough through the hard bass breakdowns that when the main riff and bassline are in tandem, you surrender your senses to it. Harshly blended with the vocals from "Find Yourself" on Clubland X-Treme Hardcore 9, this track deserves to stand alone as a dance music masterclass.

Honourable mentions: Fuck That Shit - Dougal & Gammer, Free From Form - Fracus & Darwin, MDMA - DJ Kurt vs. Delgado, Wild For the Night - Keyes & Outforce

The 2013 Track of the Year Award - 

Darren Styles & Gammer - Paranoia

And there you have it folks, the 2013 Hardcore Review Awards. There are so many producers, DJs, MCs and vocal artists that haven't had a mention in the Awards this year. But so many do a fantastic job of pushing boundaries and aiming for new musical highs. I want to take this chance to thank every single artist who is passionate about the UK Hardcore scene in 2014. You know who you all are. Merry February.

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Current Track of Choice:     Darren Styles & Gammer - Paranoia

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Hardcore Tidbits

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Hardcore Tidbits from December 2013 - Hardcore Review Awards 2014 & More

Powerstomp Album sees big success, more albums out and on the horizon, and the Hardcore Review Awards are coming soon

With December being a hugely busy month, there simply wasn't the time to write any blogs for the month. I have listened to (and thoroughly enjoyed) 'This is Powerstomp' by Joey Riot & DJ Kurt, and will still look to post that review before the month is out. I try to spend a lot of time analysing the tracks I listen to and therefore need multiple listens and note-taking sessions and with all that has been going on it has been impossible. Rest assured though, the album is a beast with everything that has made Powerstomp so popular throughout 2013. 

The Hardcore Heaven Awards also took place recently and some of the winners were a little controversial. Leading the way was Kutski winning Best Freeform DJ. I have heard many Kutski sets and shows and I think it's impossible to name a Freeform track that he has played. Kutski admitted he was surprised to win the award and has offered a genuine Freeform artist, Thumpa, a slot on his Keeping The Rave Alive podcast (after the axing of the Radio 1 Residency Hardcore slot, which is a shame but has been coming). The real issue here is that name recognition of one artist seems to have overcome an entire Hardcore sub-genre, but does this mean fans need to go away and do some research, or that the sub-genre itself does not have the popularity to appeal to a wider audience? The comments box is below... (and @HardcoreReview1 on Twitter or The Hardcore Review on Facebook of course..)

A sub-genre that did extremely well at the Awards was the aforementioned Powerstomp, nailing four awards (and three others for Lethal Theory as a whole), including best album for 'This is Powerstomp', best label for Lethal Theory and Hardcore Set of the Year for Riot, Kurt & MC Mayhem's gig at Westfest. Gammer & Whizzkid won the DJ & MC Awards for the fourth year in a row. Newcomer Alex Prospect won both Best Breakthrough Awards, which is testament to the sort of year he has just had. As a comparison, Al Storm won the Best Newcomer Award a while back after 12 years in the game.

For the Hardcore Review Awards (to follow very soon), I will give you my top 3 in a series of categories. As the whole concept of the Hardcore Review is about the music, I will not be reviewing events or live sets. Production, album sets and mixing will all be accounted for though.

On a personal note, as well as Christmas and New Year, I also planned and executed a proposal of marriage to my girlfriend of many years. I think she would have been pleased if I'd put a copper ring on her finger at this point, but as it was she said yes and the wedding planning has started already (jeez). 

I'm convinced that 2014 will be a huge year for the genre, and with more albums on the horizon than at any other time for nearly a decade, Hardcore is on the rise once more. 

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Current Classic Track of Choice:     Scott Brown - Gang Bang Society

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Hardcore Underground 6 Review

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The Evolution, Not Revolution, of Hardcore

Hardcore Underground gives dozens of producers the opportunity that others don't. The variety encased in the album is second-to-none: but they could have taken more risks

The latest release in the second longest-running current Hardcore series,
Hardcore Underground 6 had a difficult game to play from the get-go. Heralded as a fresh start by many (including myself) to a scene with fewer opportunities for creative outlets, the fervor quickly grew upon the announcement in April of the addition of the returning UK Hardcore legend Scott Brown to the line up. Then, as seems customary in the scene presently, there were shipping and production issues leading up to release. 

Paul Rodriguez is poignantly remembered in the album sleeve, which notes that "UK Hardcore owes, and will always owe, a huge debt to this champion of our music". If Rodriguez could see how fantastic this album is, I'm sure he would be delighted. 

But now here we are, and as ever I will break this down disc by disc.

First, let me say that I was extremely impressed with the album as a whole. Professionally done, excellent mixing and superb track selection across the board for the most part. The eight DJs who have mixed the discs and everyone behind the project should be extremely proud for bringing this project to fruition. Let's get to it.

CD1 saw the aforementioned return of Scott Brown, a man who is the inspiration for so many artists who have joined the scene in the last decade. Brown teams with the ever-reliable Al Storm to put together a good mix. The main disappointment was in the lack of surprises present, as all bar one of Scott Brown's tracks were available to listen to online around a month before the album dropped. However, there are some amazing tracks from elsewhere that more than make up for it.

JAKAZiD's track "Funky Town" is a great example of how to combine the many elements of UK Hardcore in 2013. The track houses elements of dubcore, pianos and a simple synth with a cool vocal. The minimalist drop-out piano section is some of the best production work on the disc. . "A Little More" by Heaven-7 and Storm, remixed by Technikore, is an update of "This Life" and is well-maintained. "Haunted" sees Storm team up with long-time music partner Sy to cover a Taylor Swift number. The vocal here is, as the title suggests, haunting. The recurring theme of the disc becomes apparent here - Storm is fantastic at bringing the best production standards from those he works with. This is shown too in "Spinning Around" (also with Euphony), which is very Brown-influenced in terms of its melody but has a modern edge in its' bassline.

Not everything on this CD is positive however. There are a few 'filler' tracks that don't feel like they accomplish much, such as Brown's own "Enchantment" or "Kerrang!" by Storm & Euphony (the intro of which actually made me think of the Squad-E number "Taste of Ibiza (Break of Day)"). The biggest disappointment of all was the track "Breaking", written by Brown, Storm, Fracus & Darwin. I was excited to see how the four would mesh, but it seems too many cooks spoil the broth and the track itself is fine, but never seems to do one thing or the other and ends up sounding a little flat compared to the four outstanding tracks that follow it. Namely, these are the monotone-bass but irresistible "Dance if You Can't" by Technikore and "Stylin' on You" by Brown (the mix of one into the other is great work), as well as Kurt's Powerstomp remix of "Power of Love" and the quite fantastic (and surprisingly old) Gabber track "Complicated" by Marc Smith & Re-Con. 

A revelation comes to the fore on both this disc and the following in the form of breakout DJ Skinny, who comes in with "Pressure Rockin'" on CD1 and "Drop This" on CD2. Both tracks are put together with excellent mixdowns and hands-in-the-air pianos. One to watch, you feel.

Throughout the whole album, the presence of Darwin and Fracus is strongly felt, such as on CD1 with the sensational "Music Blocks". Including having their own disc they appear on multiple occasions (Darwin appears on every disc, Fracus on three). Yet they are such talented and multi-functional producers that at no point does a track of theirs sound rehashed or worn. The peak of their talents is available for all to see on their own mix though, commencing with what is already a 'Track of the Year' candidate in "Free From Form" (first track on this mix), a belter of a melody that leaves you in no doubt this mix has started off with a bang. 

There seems to be more direction on CD2 than on any other in terms of the type of music they are presenting - full-on melodies and bouncing beats. The best melody & FX combination track has to be "Nothing Left to Say" by Brisk & Darwin. The hard club-kick section is a great transition to the next vocal and showcases the talents of two top producers.

Another fantastic track on this, probably the strongest disc the album has to offer, is Shimamura's mix of Black & White's "Show Me The Way", which is a synth-heavy 'Drums n' Rave' style tune that ties vocal, riff and beat together perfectly.

The only criticism that can be made of CD2 is that some tracks aren't allowed to breath and stretch out. "Fast Forward" has a huge atmospheric lead that comes in around the 2:10 mark, but is then shoved to one side for the next track to come in. This is something I have pointed at the Clubland Hardcore series as well in the past and it just ends up feeling rushed when tracks aren't given the chance to shine. 

When they are given freedom to build, such as A.B's storming track "This" or the incredible final piece "About to Fly", tracks feel special. The pianofest that is "Make it Werk" by JAKAZiD is another highlight on the CD and shows Fracus & Darwin's talent for putting together a fantastic mix. 

Now everyone who knows me knows I'm really a four-to-the-floor man, but CD3, which features CLSM & Entity picking the tracks, really floated my boat. Hardcore breaks is well-loved by its' proponents, and, after the success of Gavin G's HU Breaks album it only makes sense to build some time in to the most anticipated album of the year. And while there are a few too many similar piano riffs on the disc, there are also some fantastic moments, such as the Skeets and Ian K remix of "Going Under", which drags the genre kicking and screaming into 2013. The Gavin G remix of "Screwface" combines the popular off-key synths that Darren Styles produced with a new beat that fits perfectly.

As previously mentioned, there are many tracks in the breaks genre that have piano riffs, and that's fine. But I counted eight tracks where there were similar piano sections, and many of them were tucked together on the first half of the mix. I also felt that more adventure could have been shown on the same tracks; "Feel It" had the sense of a track that has a lot of potential, but could have taken some risks with effects or key changes that could have given it more depth beyond the dark bass section it delivered.

However, CD3 was also the home for the absolute best track off the entire album. The final track is by Archelix, with the epic "Say Goodbye". I flew out of my chair when the breaks kicked in; this combined with an innocent, eerie vocal and the best wobbly atmospheric leads I've ever heard to create a masterpiece of a track. The short but sweet four-to-the-floor section didn't hurt either, but there's no denying the immense quality and beauty of this song. Great job. (Disagree with my choice for best track? Tweet me @HardcoreReview1 or leave a comment at the bottom of this page!)

Reading the list of DJs that had been included on the final disc, mixed by Thumpa & Obie, was probably the biggest challenge I've faced in my history with the English language. Names like Cyrez & Cyrax, T-TY, jD-KiD, and Qygen, confuse me, not merely for their unusual structure, but because surely a DJ should have an easily recognisable name? In any case, the disc is predominantly Freeform with some hugely intricate riffs throughout. The track "Latika" by jD-KiD & David Traya is mesmerising with a drop-out melody and a quite incredible FX-laden build up to the mixdown. 

Thumpa & Obie requested track submissions of any genre for this disc, including those from budding producers, and they do not disappoint, including artists such as Rik Arkitech and Qygen. 

The tracks back away from Freeform on a few occasions; an odd, messy drum & bass remix of the classic Sharkey track "Ascending Angels" by Endemic finds its' way onto the album, and Joey Riot's track "You Will Be The Last" feature. Though not entirely Freeform, there is maintained throughout a high octane energy, with epic building melodies, such as Obie's "Mk31", a powerhouse tune that floats as though in space. 

The standout track on the final disc is reserved for Darwin & 3Star, who provide us with "Leap", a track that pull on heavy electric guitar strings before luring you back in with a reverse bass and high octane, simplistic melody that you end up humming after four bars, it's just so catchy. CD4 ends with a few hard tracks, "Hardcore is the Future", "You Will Be The Last" and "Like a Bulldozer" all verge on Gabber without ever quite getting there, before "2012" takes your head on what can only be described as an absolute mindfuck. But a brilliant one where you feel you've just seen deep space or discovered £200 behind your couch.

Overall, Hardcore Underground 6 (or #HU6 as I've been hashtagging all month) lives up to the hype. It's not perfect, but it's what an underground label without any major backing should be, and that's raw. Raw talent, excellent mixing, showcasing the huge range of styles of UK Hardcore (and beyond) whilst also giving dozens of producers and artists the opportunity to shine. And obviously, its' great to see names like Scott Brown, Brisk and Stormtrooper on a Hardcore album once again. 

Don't forget you can follow me on Facebook or Twitter by clicking the links at the bottom or top of this page. Feel free to leave comments and I will respond.

As December approaches, I keep seeing advertisements for the Hardcore Heaven Awards. I'm delighted to announce I am going to be running the Hardcore Review Awards this December. Keep it locked onto Facebook and Twitter for more details soon!

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Current Classic Track of Choice:    Sharkey - Ascending Angels