Calamitous. The world was a bouncin’ in 2004.
The land bounced. The sea bounced. Big trucks bounced in a downburst in Yokohama. For so many people, what just finished was the worst year of their lives.
And yet, here inside the Japan psychedelic trance bubble, the just-ended year was above average. But then, after 2003, it seemed that our sphere didn’t have any other direction to go than up.
On the dance floor, 2004 enjoyed early upward momentum as a string of quality compilations released last winter made their way into DJ cases. Twelve months ago we were hopping to the tracks off “Tweakers,” a prized collection that blurred the distance between Ibiza and Israel enough to give us hope.
In contrast to the year before, the cycle in 2004 favored artist releases. By the end of March, we had new music from Space Tribe, Wizzy Noise and Crunchy Punch, followed up by “Temporary Insanity” from Xerox & Illumination, Entropy, Analog Pussy, Space Cat, Astrix, Cyrus the Virus, X-Dream, the list goes on. We even got a punchy second album from Space Tribe. How we didn’t get a new Skazi or G.M.S. album is beyond me, although news from Spun Records is that a new G.M.S. is coming soon.
A handful of solid compilations hardened the floor, and for a lot of DJs, it was like riding a Superball tossed from the balcony.
One DJ still flying high off the bounce in 2004 is the Kanto area’s own Tokage, who hails from the southern shores of Shonan. With just five years on psy-trance decks, this crossover guitar player and punk rock, new wave and reggae aficionado exceeded expectations on three noted occasions — two inside, one out — around Tokyo last year. He was very fun to watch, in fact.
Tokage, 37, a former Chikyuya resident, founded Sirius Records in 2003 and released his compilation “Sirius,” his second following “Russian Connection” on Panorama Records, that October, putting his new label on a nice trajectory for the year ahead.
Whether in or out of headphones, Tokage — sans hair and always upbeat with that disarming, toothy smile — was on top of his game in 2004, always displaying a true determination for “the party.”
In an interview with The Japan Times, Tokage cited inspiration for his outlook to playing and organizing, from the free Chikyuya parties in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park in 1999 to the final Equinox outdoor event of that year.
“These parties changed my life. Dancing outside like that, I felt ‘free’ like I had never felt before. It’s not often that people in this country can really feel that way,” Tokage said. “Right away I felt a special connection for trance culture.”
He forged a fast, clean path to the DJ table, accelerating from small crowds in Aoyama with his friends to his first overseas gig in Israel a mere two years later. He returned to Israel in 2002, played Moscow in 2003 and did two major parties last year in Portugal (New Year’s and the “Psyber-tech” summer festival with Crystal Matrix) along with appearances all around Kanto and Osaka.
Sirius is kicking into the new year with the “Sirius Records Japan Tour 2005,” which travels to Tokyo’s Differ Ariake this Saturday night. The lineup brings back the same headliners as their Tokyo party last January: live acts Exaile and Paranormal Attack and guest DJ Paul Taylor and Tokage. (Also playing is Sirius resident Tsutomu, a very talented mixer.)
Label-wise, Sirius just announced the release of “Transparent Image,” compiled by DJ Omi, which has a very tasty-looking track list. This will be followed up at the end of next month with another compilation, “Sirius Blasting,” slim details of which can be found at the Sirius Web site.
Paul Taylor, as you may remember, compiled “Tweakers,” which was spreading like a wildfire across dance floors last January and was virtually unchallenged all year. And Exaile (Nir Sobol and Eyal Zur) is responsible for “Radio Edit” (No. 2 on “Tweakers”), an easy choice for Best New Track of 2004.
“Radio Edit” was played everywhere last year; I counted four times at Arcadia’s Summer Arcade festival last summer. It has a quality reminiscent of “Electro Panic” in that in nearly every situation, DJs played the entire 6:55 track uncut.
Exaile last summer released their second album, “Hit the Machine,” and Paul Taylor is here fresh off the release of his newest compilation, “Freedom Fighters,” which he did with Crystal Matrix. (Check www.psyshop.com for samples.)
Crystal Matrix has had my attention since Nov. 28, the morning I brought home “Hi-Tech Pleasures,” compiled by DJ X.P. Voo Doo. Instead of sleeping like I should have after an exhausting night at Differ, I dug in and started remixing dance-floor versions for my playlist.
Scoring a track each on this versatile gem are G.M.S., Paranormal Attack vs. Paul Taylor, Talamasca, Atomic Pulse, Dali, Psysex, Tikal, Sirius Isness and Void.
Perhaps it was from some kind of imprinting effect from the Sirius party I just left, but the overall vibe of this compilation clicked with me right away. The G.M.S. (“I’m Out”) and Tikal (“Mission Impossible,” just like the TV theme song) tracks are demonstrated floor-killers at recent Tokyo events. A handful of others aren’t far behind.
DJs will enjoy the choices get they on this, but should be prepared for the abrupt ending on Void’s “Addicted” closing track.
“Holographic Memory 3,” compiled by Dimitri D.K.N. and DJ Ryo (Solstice Music, released Dec. 22)
The “Holographic Memory” trilogy is complete with this 10-track release. In on this latest Solstice Music showcase are Deedrah, Pixel & Cyclic, Joti Sidhu, Wrecked Machines, Huja Boy, Intellibeam, The Antidote & Dimitri, Psysex & Rocky, Synthetic and Tristan.
“X-Mode 8,” DVD and CD (Tokyo X-Ray Studios, to be released in February)
Tokyo X-Ray is definitely onto something here. I had seen these X-Mode packages in the shops but didn’t know what to make of them.
Now that I’ve been treated to a sample of the music videos that Spy.D and Sharon G.K. are putting out, 4,500 yen (before tax) for six whole-track clips and a 35-minute mini-feature on Arcadia’s Summer Arcade festival plus a compilation CD ain’t bad.
Think for a moment back to the days when MTV was actually good, say 1988. Capture that spirit and let it loose on Japan’s dance floors. Substitute the likes of Dire Straights and the Bangles with Dark Soho, Electric Universe, Sirius Isness, Jorg. Center the video footage around an event like Summer Arcade, then relax the boundaries found in more limited documentary styles, like the Gathering or Solstice Music Festival movies.
Tokyo X-Ray, which has been releasing the X-Mode volumes about every three months, allows a lot of freedom on achieving slick edits and ample quality special effects, which are never overdone. Watching these over and over will make you yearn for either a multi-DVD player, or our own music video channel.
Tokyo Karmageddon, Differ Ariake, Dec. 22:
This was the first time I had the honor of watching Goa Gil (www.goagil.com/) play. He played for nine hours, and I have never before seen someone make it look so easy. I’ve also never seen such unity in the crowd, where everybody was there to see just one artist play, for nine relentless hours. The Goa Gil experience is one that will stay with you for a very long time. I’m still digesting it. And I hope to have a better understanding of it by the time Gil makes it back to Japan, possibly this summer.
Vivid Experience, Makuhari Messe, Dec. 25:
It is unfortunate that despite everything it’s favor, “Vivid Experience” will long be remembered as “that party with no beer.” Neither Vision Quest nor Solstice dropped the ball on this; local authorities seemed to have been influenced to whistle a bad last-minute call to deny us this basic event staple.
Setting up in the exhibition hall was an excellent choice. The stage, deco and graphics were awesome and the sound was solid all the way back. This one had all the makings. Now, I’m not big on beer at parties, but a lot of other people are. There did seem to be a connection between the lack of inebriation and the crowd feedback normally expected during a Skazi set. But other than that, it was all quite overwhelming.
Countdown 2005, Differ Ariake, Dec. 31:
A very memorable countdown party! The showman DJ Tsuyoshi drove us into the new year in a frenzy, and the fun continued until morning. G.M.S. regained a lot of ground among the Tokyo crowd with its second show in a week. Shanti and Alien Project blew our minds in different directions. The venerable Differ venue absorbed this party like a champ, and Vision Quest and Solstice scored their second straight joint hit.
The Third Eye Party Radar
K.O.A. Music presents Sonic Synergy at Club Citta in Kawasaki.
If only I could get my hands on Hermione’s hourglass from the latest Harry Potter movie — I’d have it made and be in two places at once!
Live acts Deedrah, Earthling and Cyrus the Virus, plus DJ sets by Cyrus and Dado and “Spun Records DJ Battle” featuring Celli vs. Dado. Starts at midnight, 5,000 yen with a flier or 6,000 yen without at the door.
Arcadia Music presents Off Beat at Aquamarine Studio in Chiba.
The Arcadia gang has done something really slick with this flier — open it up to find a 2005 calendar showing the full moon cycle for the year. Live acts Absolum, Electric Universe, S>Range, Wizzy Noise and Theoreme plus DJ sets by Christof and Nori on the 2nd Floor and Masa, Ree.K, Nori and Supernova on the 1st Floor. I haven’t made it to this venue yet, but I’ve heard good things about it.
Tickets are 5,500 yen advance or 6,500 yen at the door.
Feb. 10 (Thursday):
Solstice Music presents Future Shock at Zepp Tokyo in Odaiba to kick off a holiday-enhanced weekend.
Live acts Wrecked Machines, Bio-Tonic and Quadra, plus DJs Dimitri D.K.N., Gabriel and Ryo. Tickets are 5,000 yen advance or 6,000 yen at the door.
Live sets by G.M.S., Zorba, Shanti and Frequency Surfer, plus DJ sets by Ami (two sets), Riktam, Bansi and Shanti. Tickets are 5,000 yen advance or 6,000 yen at the door.
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