Rapper Madlib’s mad assortment

Multitalented producer headlines Nagano's Taico Club festival

by James Hadfield

Sometimes you wonder how Otis Jackson Jr. even finds time to sleep. The Californian hip-hop producer and rapper, better known as Madlib, churns records out at a rate so furious, that even dedicated beat heads struggle to keep up. His discography on the Stones Throw Records label Web site lists over 50 releases — as producer, remixer or artist — since 2004 alone. And they probably missed a few, too.

Madlib’s distinctive jazz- and soul-inflected productions — the fruits of a life (mis)spent crate-digging in musty old record stores — have graced albums by the likes of De La Soul, Prince Po and Wildchild. He’s delivered critically acclaimed collaborations with MF DOOM (“Madvillainy,” as Madvillain), J Dilla (“Champion Sound,” as Jaylib) and Talib Kweli (“Liberation”).

Oh, and then there’s the Blue Note remixes, two albums as helium-voiced alter ego Quasimoto, one as the dancefloor-friendly DJ Rels; the mix CDs; and innumerable releases under the umbrella of Yesterday’s New Quintet, a jazz combo in which Jackson played all the instruments himself. Under aliases. To make matters more confusing, the latter recently split up — yes, imaginary groups can do that too — and reconfigured into no less than 10 different units, all of which will appear on the forthcoming Yesterday’s Universe LP. And all of which, of course, are actually Jackson (although he does drag in a couple of drummers, Karriem Riggins and Mamao, this time).

Got all that? It seems this is just the tip of the iceberg, too. Jackson is renowned for his ability to turn out entire albums’ worth of material in the time it takes most producers to EQ a kick-drum. In a rare interview with U.K. magazine Big Smoke last year, he admitted that the amount he produced in a day could vary; as in, “sometimes it’s one beat and sometimes I do a whole 70-minute CD.”

Just go back and read that again. While other producers — Timbaland, say — get out of bed in the morning intent on making a Number 1 hit, Jackson is rather more nonchalant about his art. He confesses that two of his most successful records to date, “Madvillainy” and Quasimoto’s “The Unseen,” were made purely for personal consumption, and once told Billboard that he made music not for the fans but “for my own mental health, you know?”

Jackson and the Stones Throw Records crew will be in Japan at the start of June. On Friday June 1, label stalwarts Peanut Butter Wolf, JROCC, Egon and Jamie Strong are DJing at Air in Daikanyama, as a tribute to J Dilla, who died last year at the age of 33. There will also be a live turn from drummer Karriem Riggins, although there’s been no mention of any involvement from Madlib.

He will, however, definitely be present at the Taico Club festival in Nagano Prefecture the following night, and he’ll be in good company. Now into its second year, this all-night event offers a riposte to people who thought outdoor parties were all about glowstick-twiddling idiots getting mashed out of their skulls to an endless barrage of psychedelic trance. Along with Metamorphose, held in August, Taico Club caters to the discerning clubber — the kind of person who shuns tie-dye and nods meaningfully when you inform them that tonight’s genre is, er, “genre-less.” Such is the sound palette at Taico Club.

This year’s bill, like the last one, is a mishmash of styles, embracing everything from electronica and techno to hip-hop, reggae and jam bands. True, some faces may be a little over familiar (step forward, Takkyu Ishino), but there are some real treats on offer too. One welcome reappearance is Rhythm & Sound, the Teutonic duo who abandoned their trademark minimalist digi-dub for a string of killer ska and reggae 45s to deliver one of last year’s highlights. Expect more of the same this time, with charismatic Paul St. Hilaire (aka Tikiman) reprising his MC role. Other DJs include rotund U.S. house mainstay Doc Martin, good-time New York City duo Rub-N-Tug and local luminaries Fumiya Tanaka and Moodman.

On the live front, things are looking even more eclectic. Don’t you dare miss DoraVideo, aka Yoshimitsu Ichiraku, the drumming powerhouse who uses his kit to trigger copyright-flaunting, hilarious video montages in the vein of Negativland and Coldcut. Also keep an eye out for Class of Ninja Tune electronica knob-twiddler Daedelus, hotly tipped minimal techno producer sleeparchive and the downright unclassifiable French duo, Chateau Flight.

Going to a Taico

Taico Club is held at Kodama no Mori, in Kiso-mura, Nagano Prefecture. Gates open at 2 p.m. on Saturday June 2, with music from 3 p.m.

What to bring

Festivalgoers whose experience of the Japan Alps begins and ends with Fuji Rock should note that the nights are a lot chillier in early June. Take a warm sweater and a waterproof jacket. Tents are recommended, too: there is a free campsite — something for which you’ll probably feel very grateful come 6 a.m.

Getting there

By bus: All-inclusive bus and festival tickets are on sale until Sunday, May 27, with buses from Tokyo (18,000 yen), Nagoya (17,200 yen) and Osaka (19,500 yen).

By train: There is a free shuttle bus service from JR Yabuhara Station, on the JR Chuo Line. The trip from Tokyo, taking the Limited Express between Shinjuku and Shiojiri, takes approximately 3 hours and costs 7,130 yen. From Nagoya, take the Limited Express Shinano to Kisofukushima and the local line from there. The trip takes under 2 hours and costs 4,810 yen.

By car: The site is approximately 30 minutes from Ina I.C. on Routes 361 and 19. Tickets for the onsite car park cost 2,000 yen in advance, 3,000 yen on the day, and must be purchased in conjunction with a festival ticket.

Tickets

The deadline for buying advance tickets, at 10,500 yen a pop, is Friday May 25. Tickets are available via Ticket Pia, Lawson, e+ and at select record stores. Tickets can also be purchased on the day of the festival, at a cost of 12,000 yen each. For more information visit www.taicoclub.com