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It’s like watching the lights go out at the stadium. You know, that low metallic “Klung!” “Klung!” “Klung!” as the off switches are hit in succession.

The hoped-for sequels to last year’s big open-air parties — our great summer weekend respites — are going dark, one right after another.

Klung! Harukaze, back in April. Regrettable, but understandable. (We’ve covered that already.)

Klung! Music of the Sphere in May. Domino’s magic was the core of this special mountain party — she personally greeted the early arrivals last year at the gate. But she is still off her feet on maternity leave.

Klung! Vision Quest’s Mount Fuji in June. Their breakneck pace for killer indoor parties leaves no time on the schedule for now, says Vision Quest.

And now, KLUNG! Solstice Music Festival, canceled for 2003.

So, how dark does it feel now? Don’t be fooled, the situation only seems dimmer.

Interestingly enough, there are still about an equal number of outdoor events on the calendar as compared with last year, possibly more. The banners are different, that’s all.

Harukaze was scaled down and became a Shanti party; Arcadia picked up the Nenoue Kogen Festival and slipped in the extra Hibiya party; and while Vision Quest is filling auditoriums every three weeks, several smaller raves are popping up at sites closer to Tokyo in June. [See Party Picks.]

But Solstice Music Festival, gone after only four years? Only for this year, is the official word. Next year, watch out for something totally different from the granddaddies of the Tokyo trance scene.

In an e-mail interview with The Japan Times, Solstice A&R producer Masachika (Chika) Fukui, expressing disappointment in the cancellation of this year’s music fest, cited as one of the main reasons “a lack of appropriate locations to hold the event.”

Last year’s festival at Lake Motosu drew more than 8,000 people. Traffic was hellishly snarled and the first day was a mud bath. The party was glorious, but hard on the campsite and certainly on the lives of the locals. The trend toward nervousness about large crowds of ecstatic young people looks to continue all summer.

“Second, it was important for us to take a break so we could expand creatively,” Chika explained. “For the future, we want to do something really surprising.”

An announcement sent by Solstice on June 7 about the cancellation states that Solstice Music was already working on the 2004 festival “under a new concept not bound to existing festival styles.”

I want to be around for this. I’m totally intrigued and no secrets are coming my way.

“We are testing the boundaries of this music’s style,” Chika continued. “The music has potential for new directions away from parties and releases, and we would like to test these areas in the near future.

“Our decision (to cancel SMF) is more positive than negative. It has left us with more time for creativity, and this will allow us to make next year’s festival even more special!”

Party-wise, beyond Saturday’s Summer Solstice 2003, Chika said the next Solstice party in the Tokyo area will probably be in October.

Solstice is coming off a banner year in 2002 and has already scored four album releases in 2003 (see reviews below), half the way to last year’s total of eight with their catalog of nine mostly A-list artists. Album sales are estimated at about 3,000 to 5,000 units of each title on average in Japan, and sales are growing steadily.

At the end of July, Solstice will release a DVD that chronicles the Solstice Music Festival. “This is a DVD with footage from the last three years of festivals and a 5.1 surround-sound live recording of last year’s SMF,” Chika said. This package also includes a live compilation CD.

Tickets for Summer Solstice 2003, at Club Citta in Kawasaki, are 4,000 yen at the door only. Citta is convenient to both the JR and Keikyu Kawasaki stations.

The dance floor is a huge room capable of really big sound. Not much chill-out space, but you won’t want to miss very much of this lineup: live acts [Wrecked Machines] and Orion; DJs Dimitri DKN, Jean Borelli (Orion) and Solstice resident Ryo. Starts at 10 p.m.

Shared honors for 2002

Solstice Music and Vision Quest started and ended 2002 together with wildly successful Crystal Skulls countdown parties, and each made huge advances that are retuning the Japan trance vibe.

The venerable Solstice delivered (swiftly and widely, compared with just two years ago) eight hot album releases to Japan in 2002 — about doubling their catalog — and organized or assisted with a full hand of parties across Japan, including Harukaze and SMF2002. Chika & Co. (a daily staff of six) have been the undisputed leaders in Japan since the beginning. And they demonstrated time and again in 2002 that they have the experience and clout to do everything they take on just right.

Veterans Vision Quest jumped into the label arena in 2002 with three CD releases. Their party tally was slightly higher at nine, including the Fuji rave and Gathering. But Vision Quest truly earned the right to share the leaders’ podium based on two key events: The Delta’s surround-sound set — a first — at Ebisu Garden Hall last June and the Dec. 23 release of the Gathering 2002 DVD (bundled with the killer CD Amphibians), a mere three months after the event.

Solstice Music and Vision Quest can rightly share the Second Room honor of Japan Trance Organizer of the Year for 2002.

Arcadia, Space Gathering, Stargate and Chikyuya also earned avid votes of support from various survey respondents. But the real surprise was new label Music of the Sphere, which released a DVD bundled with a double-CD compilation in time for Christmas. But even on the strength of the Domino Japan Tour, the “Moon” release and the Nenoue Kogen and Hotaka mountain festivals, nobody put up their hand for the Sphere. Their star-over-crescent label was all over last year, but it has been scarce lately.

(In my last installment, I asked for reader input and posted an e-mail address with a formatted link. After several hundred messages from people claiming to sit on piles of cash in Third World countries and friendly reminders that “size matters,” I realized that other gathering methods would be required. I have since deactivated that address. Random polling at parties proved to be a lot of fun! Thanks to all who responded!)

New releases: a Solstice hat-trick

“Holographic Memory,” various artists (SOLC-019, released April 25)

I took the cancellation of Solstice Music Festival rather hard because this compilation was looking very much like the preview for a July weekend romp even better than last year.

“Holographic Memory” is nine A+ selections out of Solstice’s magic bag of music.

The Alien Project track (“Nitro”) is a vast move away from Ari Linker’s “Dance Or Die”/”One Good” vibe that was with us all last year. “Vociferous,” by unknown Quadra, is possibly the hottest new thing out this year.

Crunchy Punchy, Orion, Eat Static, Dino, Etnica, Mexican Trance Mafia, The Antidote and Bio-Tonic round out a playlist you will hear more of this summer.

“Blink,” Wrecked Machines (SOLC-020, released June 6)

If Gabriel Serrasqueiro is any example, trance born of Brazil is pretty damn good. His first Wrecked Machines album is already proving very mixable on Tokyo dance floors.

“Blink” is fast, shallow and playful. And familiar. The unobtrusive bass lines will have your mind wandering somewhere between early Juno Reactor and the latest Antidote. If you were expecting an ethnic Brazilian beat, there doesn’t seem to be any.

Serrasqueiro uses vocal cuts that ooze space travel and a science fiction feeling. Saturday’s live set should be interesting.

“The Remixes,” GMS (SOLC-021, released June 6)

Bland title aside, this could be the Ibiza-based Dutch duo’s best-selling release. And leave it to GMS to reinvent the tribute album.

On “The Remixes,” GMS adds its flavor to Hallucinogen’s “Gamma Goblins” and “Kundalini” by Spectral (Moog), while seven GMS-anchored tracks (includes Soundaholix and 1200 Micrograms) tracks get the same befitting treatment from Duvdev, The Antidote, Alternate Vision, Earthling vs. Bushman, Wizzy Noise and Astrix. A live mix of “Juice” rounds out the list.

It plays like you would imagine a party at Riktam and Bansi’s fabled villa in Ibiza — a bunch of their artist friends hanging out and playing around in their studio. Conceptually, at least, it was just like that.

“We wanted to make something with our friends, you know?” Riktam said in an interview at Vision Quest’s Bamboo Forest party (Differ Ariake, May 31). “And the way it turned out, I think it’s going to be our best-selling album. You can feel the different styles. You know it’s still GMS, yet it’s fresh. We’re really happy with it.”

Astrix’s take on “Psychedelic Circus” is the best example here, molding his space-bending trip around the Soundaholix favorite. “Psychedelic” is track 9, but let your mind be blown eight times before then.

Riktam’s next appearance in Japan will be at Fuji Rock Festival, July 25-27. Continue to expect the unexpected. His DJ set at the Vision Quest party included one of the bravest remixes I’ve ever heard — a heavy trance version of “Money For Nothing” by Dire Straits. You’ve got to hear it to believe it!

THIRD EYE — Party picks

Friday

“Ietoravel 4th” at Shinjuku M’s, presented by Psychedelic High. DJs Seven, Kazuma, Shu-1 and a surprise artist. Starts at 11 p.m. At the door it’s 2,500 yen with one drink, or 2,000 yen with a flyer. Call (03) 3200-9966.

Saturday

“Avangard” at Differ Ariake, presented by Sirius. Live act Parasense and DJs Alex, Zolod and Tokage. Starts at 11 p.m., tickets 5,000 yen at the door.

Sunday

ToGetHer free party at Yoyogi Park. Starts at 5 p.m. and ends at 9 p.m. DJs Keisuke, You-1, Kemal, Jay and Ohaka plus live set by Strike Sparks. (Synchronisity is already working on Shanti 4, a free-party weekend Aug. 26-30 at Yoyogi. Last year’s Shanti 3 events attracted some 20,000 people.) E-mail info@synchronisity.jp for more information.

June 28

“Deep Sea Dreaming -eden-“ at Plug in Shibuya, presented by Infants. This little gem runs from 5:30 to 10 p.m. and DJ 901 will create an artistic oasis just a few minutes away from Shibuya Station’s Hachiko exit. Joining 901 are DJs trouBADOur, Aki-F and serio. With a flyer it’s 2,000 yen plus a drink. Contact infants@901clay.com or see www.901clay.com/infants/ for more details.

“Shiva Space History” at Differ Ariake, presented by Sound Fort and SDP. Live act Beat Hackers from Israel and DJs Jorg, Joel, Hyro.K and Flow. This is the release party for DJ Jorg’s new mix CD. Advance tickets are 4,000 yen. Starts at 10 p.m.

“Demented Kaleidescope” open-air at Mother Farm Camp Site in Chiba Prefecture, presented by 7th Dimension and supported by Star Gate. Live acts Astral Projection, Deviant Species, Full Color, Astron, Double Dragon and I.B.I.S. Starts at 2 p.m. and ends Sunday at 4 p.m. Tickets are 6,000 yen advance and 7,000 at the gate. More information and contact details available at www.7th-d.net/

June 29

“Psychedelic Summit Ultima” at a-life, presented by Dvibration. DJs Ami, Ilija, Kemal and Seven. Starts at 10:30 p.m., 3,000 yen at the door. Call a-life information at (03) 5785-2531.

July 5

“The Delta Tour 2003,” by Vision Quest, at Differ Ariake

Wouldn’t it be great if Differ had a retractable roof and a grass dance floor? Vision Quest is on course for an unprecedented 19 parties in 2003, and they keep blowing holes in the notion that quality gives way to quantity.

The night will feature a triple performance by Marcus C. Maichel, who will do an X-Dream set with Jan Mueller, a Delta block with Arne Shaffhausen and Wayan Raabe and his own DJ set. Shaffhausen and Raabe combine for Midimiliz (live). DJs Mitsumoto and Ami will lead things off.Advance tickets are 4,000 yen, starts at 10 p.m. Dress light – this one is gonna be hot!

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