Counting out 2010 with the best beats across the country

by Richard Smart

Over drinks with a former Tokyo-based promoter recently, our conversation turned to the state of the city’s nightclub scene. In Europe, nightclubs can usually guarantee a certain number of patrons to show up on any given night, which is great for DJs who are scouted to perform at those clubs. In Japan, however, venues can’t make the same guarantee and drawing a crowd becomes the responsibility of event promoters and even the DJs themselves. It’s hard work but this New Year’s it seems to be paying off — the most promising parties are set to take place in some unlikely venues.

Tokyo

For music enthusiasts, the best party of the night will be at the cavernous and rarely used Tabloid (¥5,500; www.tabloid-tcd.com). This is a bit of a surprise to clubbers, as the last major act to DJ there was Lady Gaga in April. On New Year’s Eve, U.S. duo Metro Area will man the decks. In a poll taken by dance-music website Resident Advisor, Metro Area’s “Miura” was voted the top track of the 2000s. That song is a good introduction to the pair’s style of DJing, which is funky and modern, but maintains a retro vibe. The Tabloid event will likely go down well with both casual clubbers and scene veterans.

The night is promoted by a group called the Rainbow Disco Club, which is comprised of DJs Carlos Gibbs and Laurent Novatin (both of Skinnipants and The Redbox Project) and Masahiro Tsuchiya of Raft Tokyo. If the RDC crew continues to bring over quality acts to less-established venues in 2011, their parties will be worth watching out for.

Meanwhile, Xex (¥4,000; eggworm.jp ) in the Nihonbashi area will feature a formidable lineup of local DJs as promotional group Eggworm, which organized the Audio Tokyo festival in July, teams up with a number of event companies, including dB Uki and Fasten Music Concrete, for a night that may be the busiest in the city. Make sure to catch Aron Tseng at this event, his set at Audio Tokyo was as good as any by the international artists that played that festival.

Tokyo’s superclubs are likely to draw large crowds on New Year’s, especially Womb and Eleven.

Womb (¥5,000; womb.co.jp) will be bringing over Magda and Marc Houle, two of the leading producers and DJs in Berlin’s minimal-techno scene. Expect weird sounds and heavy electronic music made for real techno lovers. In Ebisu, an alternative exists for punters wanting techno without too much psychedelia, as legendary DJ Derrick May hosts the Electronic Tribe event at Ebisu Garden Place (¥8,000; www.electronic-tribe.com) along with locals such as Eye from Boredoms and Dexpistols.

At Eleven (¥4,000; go-to-eleven.com), Timmy Regisford will play dub, house, techno and anything else that takes his fancy. The structure of the party is in line with what Eleven did in its earlier incarnation as Yellow, where many a New Year’s was seen in with DJ Spinna playing a mix of assorted genres to packed crowds. (Incidentally, Spinna will be at the club a week later.) Regisford’s take on the “anything goes” attitude should be interesting, since his Shelter party in New York is considered one of the best in the world. This year, however, Eleven will face some competition from Air (¥4,000; www.air-tokyo.com) in Tokyo’s trendy Daikanyama neighborhood. That club is bringing over Britain’s Idjut Boys, who will likely play a set similar to Regisford’s anything-goes approach.

Over at Ageha (¥7,000; www.ageha.com) in Koto Ward, the management must be thinking “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” The club is sticking to its usual approach of exclusively showcasing local acts. This year, sets from Masanori Morita of Studio Apartment and Ken Ishii are likely to be the highlights. But for those craving a taste of the Japanese tech-house scene, Warehouse702 or Liquidroom would be a better bet. The legendary Ko Kimura will be performing at Warehouse (¥5,000; www.warehouse702.com), while Takkyu Ishino and Fumiya Tanaka will be at Liquidroom (¥5,000; www.liquidroom.net).

Osaka

Osaka’s behemoth Shinsaibashi Monolith (¥3,500; www.shinsaibashimonolith.jp) will be transformed from a wedding venue into a nightclub on Dec. 31, with U.S. hip-hop act Two Fresh joining an army of local electro, house and nu-jazz DJs for the event.

For those more interested in harder music, Spanish techno producer Cristian Varela will be at Lunar Club (¥3,000; www.lunar-club.com), while Cocoon Recordings’ Minilogue will be playing a minimal set at Triangle (¥4,000; www.triangle-osaka.jp). At Onzieme (¥5,000; www.onzi-eme.com), The Young Punx!, a U.K. electro-house act whose sensibilities are palatable to pop fans, are spinning alongside locals such as Koji Kubota.

Kyoto

Daishi Dance, a Sapporo-based house-music producer will be performing a long set at World (¥4,000; www.world-kyoto.com). His biggest hit to date has been an album made up of remixes of Studio Ghibli songs, so the event could attract a surreal mix of house-music fans, anime enthusiasts and casual partygoers. Club Metro (¥2,000; www.metro.ne.jp) will end its yearlong 20th anniversary celebrations with DJ sets from Nabowa, Soft and other locals.

Kyushu

Fukuoka’s three-floor Decadent Deluxe (¥3,000; www.d-deluxe.jp) will offer free sake all night at its event, with music provided by DJs Hirahata and Tomokazu, Ichi and Ryo. The music will cover a variety of genres, but is most likely going to be dominated by house. Kyushu’s best event of the night, however, will probably be at M-Cosmo (¥4,500; ameblo.jp/m-cosmo) in Kumamoto, which will be shuttered from New Year’s Day. For the final event, Japan-based techno producer Xavier Morel will play a long set. Expect the music to be hard and the dancefloor to be full.

Nagoya

The city’s largest club, Mago (¥3,000; club-mago.co.jp), may get a little messy with the club offering an all-you-can-drink deal for a limited time within the night. DJs performing at Mago on Dec. 31 include Ogawa, arguably the city’s leading house DJ and a man with a formidable record collection as the director of online record show Afterhourz.jp. He will be joined by Hattori, a resident of the Black Cream party known for sets that include funky and soulful deep house. Nagoya techno fans may also want to visit the club the night before, when Magda and Marc Houle are playing.

Of course, for those seeking a calmer and more traditional New Year’s Eve, there is always sitting in front of the television and watching NHK’s “Kohaku” battle of the bands. But chances are the beats won’t be as good.