I missed everything in the doctor’s explanation of my condition after she used the “A” word.

So she kindly repeated it, with “aging” coming at the end of her spiel as “only one” of the possible causes. But really, “It’s not too serious.”

By this time, both my X-ray shots and the medical knee model on the desk were dotted in little blue pen marks, as the doctor persistently tapped out her diagnosis.

Of particular concern was the purplish foamy stuff in between the fake femur and the fake tibia — the cushiony meniscus. There’s not enough on one side, and that’s why it hurts. One too many nights undulating on the bouncy bleachers at Differ Ariake this winter, I guess. I’m convinced it was the Exaile live set (Jan. 29) that finally pushed things too far.

“Stay off your knee and treat it gently for now. Give it time. That’s all you can do,” she said, not understanding that she sounded like a flight surgeon trying to ground me. The intern behind her was almost chuckling at my horrified expression. But he had no idea. Was my theory about dancing reversing the aging process coming unraveled in front of me? Best not to bring it up.

The mind recoils: “What now? Stand still? Rescue the model knee from the doctor’s relentless attack?” By medical standards, at least, I’m not lame yet, although I have no confidence that the knee and I could abscond safely out the door. Refuse the pain pills. Manage the beast by smothering it with sticky menthol rectangles. Survive until Gathering at all costs!

# # #

Fast-forward a month or so. Reset cycle complete. The joints are feeling better and the psychedelic auditory pathway I strained during the Exaile set is nearly healed. For a while there, nothing was getting through. (For therapy, I’ve been remixing a long, wicked Exaile medley that I plan to spring on my friends very early one morning in May.)

# # #

News of Hunter S. Thompson’s death (Feb. 20) made the winter seem colder. This man partied with Ken Kesey & the Merry Pranksters, whose groundbreaking “Acid Test” shindigs in the mid-1960’s bear a striking resemblance to the modern party format, sans electric Kool-Aid. (Grateful Dead fans — “Deadheads” — should know what I’m talking about. Believe it: The late Jerry Garcia is in fact one of our earliest ancestors.)

The uncomplicated suicide of an immeasurable giant like Thompson is not meant to be lingered over. And I’m unworthy to eulogize such a champion. It’s time to get back on the bus and renew trust in the music. This year is going to be too good to miss.


“Echoes,” compiled by DJ Pena (Flow Records)

Portugal’s Joao “Pena” Garcia is certainly one prolific DJ. As head of progressive trance label Flow Records, DJ Pena has with “Echoes” released his eighth compilation in a mere five years.

Eight alone would be impressive enough in that period of time, but Flow Records has another 14 artist albums and EPs in their catalog with two more discs on the way at last check.

Flow Records prides itself in being a pioneer in quality Portuguese progressive psytrance and “Echoes” is a superb flag for DJ Pena to hoist.

If you have any misgivings about slowing down and widening out a bit for progressive trance — I admit that I did — then “Echoes” will be a real mind-opener. So much so, that it’s hard to think of it with the “progressive” preface.

When DJ So fired up Freq’s “16842” — the “Echoes” leadoff track — after 1 a.m. for a packed Arcadia dance floor at Club Citta on March 12, the excited reaction spoke volumes about compatibility. On the dance floor, it didn’t feel “progressive.” So’s exit into an Alien Project classic was seamless.

“Echoes” is loaded with deep, intelligent, playful tracks that are perfect for flirting with the full-on senses. Expect an overall soothing, thought-inducing vibe.

The artist list is a mix of familiar acts and solid newcomers, delivering a cleverly storied progressive adventure. Following Freq are Yotopia (debut album coming), Echotek vs. Side Effect, Hydrophonic, Quadra, Manmademan, Human Blue, James Monro and Sativa. Hard to pick a real favorite. As DJ Pena replied in a recent e-mail interview, “Each track has its own moment.” For DJs, “Echoes” is an essential addition.

“This release is deeper and more open-minded in terms of style than Flow’s previous compilations,” Pena explained. “And it has a strong dance floor effect, showing that all sorts of progressive and psytrance can coexist. Good music is just good music.”

Pena, one of Portugal’s most frequently booked DJs, has a definite vision for shaping and projecting the Flow Records sound: “The label reflects what I play and enjoy hearing. In ‘Echoes,’ I just wanted to have top quality dance floor artists and tracks that I identify myself with, and that I think the people will love. The artists nowadays already know what Flow releases, so they tend to adapt to the label.”

When Pena started Flow Records, he found himself “lucky to get some amazing tracks.” Five years later, “the offer to release music on the Flow label is always increasing, so we have to be very picky, choosing only top quality tracks. It’s important to keep a balance between the artist and the label.”

Pena last played Osaka in November and is eager to return to Japan. He described his DJ set as one of fusion between progressive and psytrance, or “progressive trance with psy elements, because sometimes we have to push the dance floor to another level.”

“Booo” and “Point of View” (Doof Records/Dooflex)

Welcome to the Doof Experiment! The crew serves up something amazing in each hand on this cycle.

When I got the press release for “Booo,” I immediately recalled the movie “Crazy People” (1990, Dudley Moore, Daryl Hannah), a “comedy about truth in advertising.” Specifically I was thinking of the news report in front of the theater about the long lines of people waiting to see “The Freak,” which promised to not only scare the hell out of you, it would, uh, “mess you up for life.”

When I read that Doof was about to take things “over the edge” with “some real spooky psy – for the brave ones … Now let’s see who can really handle this!” I jumped right into the line.

Doof did deliver on its promise of a collection of audio trips featuring the full spectrum of inner space traveling — a lot of new psychedelic territory was explored here. It’s weird, but that’s what Doof set out to do. Prepare yourself for some of most twisted vocal effects you’ve likely ever encountered.

Parts are a bit spooky, but don’t expect “The Freak.” It’s closer to “Ghostbusters,” like the chubby apparition on the label, but it moves a lot faster, and stranger. The opening track by Bonky (the late Onno Borgen), “Thanks Tim,” is kinda eerie, but after that things go in directions you never expect.

According to Uv, who runs Doof with Zirkin, the idea behind “Booo” has been cooking for quite a while. “We felt the urge to go back to the pure Doof sound, which is the musical origin of our label. Instead of building this compilation to work from the legs up, ‘Booo’ works from the head down. There is nothing evil or aggressive in the music here. It’s dark, sometimes spooky, but many times funny. This is also the message from the graphics. No need for chain saws and skulls. This music gets its energy from a deeper source. It’s a lovely swim.” says Uv.

“Point of View,” in the other hand, is the first release by new sub-label Dooflex, which Uv says “will feature music that we like, but doesn’t have the Doof sound.”

Compiled by Blanka, Dubi El-kayam, who played recently down in Nagoya, “Point of View” sits on the interface between progressive, full-on and psy, taking a bit of each to create a new blend that’s coming to be known as “Neo-full-on” — quasi-minimal, clean, sexy, phat but sinuous.

What makes it easy to relate to this new Neo-full-on vibe is that many of the artists on “Point of View” have released on recent Doof compilations, like “Forest” and the “e.s.t.” double — Blanka, U-Recken, Blanka, Zion and Blanka. I’m already looking forward to the upcoming Blanka album. (All three of his tracks here are excellent. And “V.T.V,” at 12 minutes and 38 seconds, is practically two tracks in one.)

Also contributing are: Psypilot (“Pgneofu!!onptechtranz,” no kidding); Quantize (“Strange Days,” fun and bouncy); Mind Complex (“Love Thing,” nice deep basslines); and Quantum (“Blitz,” more dreamy than the name suggests).

This is to be the first of what Dooflex vows will present “different genres of Mother Trance.” Watch for a funky-trance compilation — psychedelic trance deeply merged with classic funk – to come from that direction.

“Gran Turismo 4 Kicks” (Solstice Music)

The ultimate driving tunes are coming to a PlayStation near you.

The impact of this release is more than just in the CD itself. Solstice Music, collaborating with Polyphony Digital, designers of the racing game “Gran Turismo 4,” has enjoined psychedelic trance with a venerable video gaming legacy. Soon, innocent TVs all over could be pumping out The Antidote, Hallucinogen, Etnica, Koxbox and Synthetic Vs. The Antidote (“GT’s Theme”). Cool, huh?

All of the tracks on this genre-solidifying compilation were written just for this project and five are said to be featured in the game. Solstice Music was wholly responsible for production of the album. (See the Web site for track list and samples.)

The music is just what we would want to hear if suddenly plunged into a realistic driving simulation — a smooth, low, steady vibe that you can lean into turns with and come out grinning. I don’t own a PS2, so unless one of you invites me over to play, it’s an experience I’ll sorely miss.

On April 20, Solstice will release “New Maps of Hyperspace,” a live DVD of its New Year’s countdown party. A party of the same name will be held May 7 at the Makuhari Messe convention center. Shpongle fans should note that it will be Shpongle’s last live performance. This could turn into a pilgrimage.

“Freedom Fighters,” compiled by DJ Paul Taylor (Crystal Matrix Records)

The good news is that we are the freedom fighters symbolized in this powerful nighttime compilation.

Hidden amid the flouro-camoflage theme of this CD is an all-out assault to retake the heart of the dance floor. A year after “Tweakers,” Paul Taylor is relocated to Moscow, and when Crystal Matrix granted him total creative freedom for a compilation, Paul took to arms.

With his Russian friend, they designed the artwork — hence the AK-47 outline, and bullets and cyber-soldier theme.

Paul admits in an e-mail interview that, yeah, it’s “kind of a piss-take on the war thing,” but there’s more to it.

“Also, the title refers to what I consider the international trance scene to be about. I mean, these days it has become harder and harder to express our individual freedoms, and a dance floor on a beach somewhere is where I feel it the most,” he explains. “We really gotta fight for it! So yeah, I guess it’s kind of a statement. The days of peace and love may be over?”

Paul says that when he started selecting tracks for “Freedom Fighters,” he went for tracks out of his current set, which has strong nighttime emphasis, as opposed to thinking only about what would sell CDs.

“Freedom Fighters” is stealthily dark, but very direct. If you’ve tripped over to the Crystal Matrix Flash site already, then the track you are probably listening to is “Paranoia,” by Xerox & Illumination. For a lot of people, this intriguing creation will be reason enough. It doesn’t sound anything like what we heard on X&I’s album “Temporary Insanity,” so I asked Paul about it.

“Well, I asked Amir and Moshe several months ago to make me a nighttime track. I needed something really special,” Paul recounts “When I heard it the first time I really flipped out. It’s one of the best tracks of the year and it has become a huge hit in Goa this season.”

Deceptively slow, “Paranoia” is the fastest 142 bpm track I’ve ever heard, and it’s only the beginning. The rest of the list is one killer after another, faster and more furious. “Freedom Fighters” will be a nice 2005 benchmark compilation for the full-on crowd.

For the future, Paul has been marinating an ultra-high-end compilation using what he considers to be the world’s best trance artists: Juno reactor, Deedrah and Dino. “Something to play in a very good car hi-fi when coming back from a party, that sort of thing. . . . I am a bit sick of all these new labels putting out a mediocre product. I want to get back to the Blueroom Released standard of 1995 to 1999.”

The Second Room looks forward to Paul’s return as we inch toward summer, hopefully for an open-air party under a blistering full moon.

Party dispatches:

Sirius Isness, Citta Kawasaki, Arcadia Music, March 12

Max and Davina’s live set is like a race around the asteroid belt on galloping chrome horses. And not just over the belt, but also inside and under it, skillfully dodging icy boulders. Their devastating Citta performance was a preview of their second album, “Breaking the Matrix,” which should be making its way into shops now from Mind Control Records.

S.U.N. Project, Zepp Tokyo, Vision Quest, March 19

When bodies start sprouting from shoulders in the crowd like summer dandelions, then you know there must be one helluva show going on. Marco, Matthias and McCoy demonstrated soundly March 19 that S.U.N. Project’s live set is still one to be reckoned with. The boys are back strong, again widening their sound with more full-on energy than ever before. A new album is also said to be on the horizon.

Roppongi disavowed

Before I go any further: When the problems of one section of town become so flagrantly out of control that you are reading about them third-hand in English (“Getting wired in Roppongi,” April 3), then it’s time to stop going there. My own distaste for Roppongi aside, it’s become a dangerous place. The danger is primarily not inside the club environment. Velfarre’s security checks are legendary. Spiral, for example, had a frightening security cadre poised to pounce on and swiftly eject all ne’er-do-wells the last time I was there. There is a crackdown in progress. Expect no-cover-charge bars to be even easier targets for undercover raids, with the entire staff and clientele — regardless of innocence — at risk of being rounded up in the “investigation” process and detained for up to 21 days. Let’s hope it gets cleaned up. Until then, some chances just aren’t worth taking.

The Third Eye Party Radar


Nagisa Music Festival, at Tokyo Odaiba Opencourt. The open-air season in Tokyo got its footing last Saturday in Yoyogi Park (Tokara2009) and this weekend is forecast to be gorgeous and warm. You will find the event Web site extremely informative and easy to navigate. The festival opens in the morning and goes until 9 p.m. The stages to watch are Moon and Sky. There’s even a delicious-looking “after-hours” party at Cube326 that starts at 9:30 p.m.

April 16:

Sirius Records presents Dance Machine at Yokohama Akarenga. The famous red-brick building will host the release party for DJ Tokage’s new compilation “Sirius Blasting.” Live acts Psysex and Hujaboy, guest DJ XP Voodoo (compiled “Hi-Tech Pleasures”), plus Tokage and Miki. This party starts at 9 p.m. and could quickly fill up with a limit of 1,200 people. Miki’s opening set will make it worth the early arrival. Advance tickets, if you can still find them, are 4,000 yen, otherwise it’s 5,000 yen at the door.

Arcadia Music presents Mind Control vs. Chemical Crew at Zepp Tokyo in Odaiba. Live acts Exaile, Nomad and Tube, plus a special guest DJ set by Lestat (aka Talamasca). Advance tickets are 5,000 yen, or 6,000 yen at the door. Brace yourself for Exaile. Their live show is coming close to rivaling that of their Skazi patriarchs and is relentless.

April 23:

Solstice Music presents Zanzibar at Club Citta in Kawasaki. Live acts Etnica, Mitsumoto and SDP, plus DJ sets by Shiva Jorg, Max/Maurizio (Etnica) and Kotaro. Advance tickets are 4,500 yen, or 5,500 yen at the door. Citta is within easy walking distance of JR Kawasaki Station and Keikyu Kawasaki Station. Start time is midnight.

May 2 (Monday):

Vision Quest presents Goldenvision at Zepp Tokyo. Skazi returns to play with Dino, Melicia and SAFI Connection, plus a special Dino-Skazi DJ set and Ami. This party is gonna rock the Ferris wheel, and the next day is the start of a string of holidays. Reservations for advance tickets (6,000 yen) are being taken at the Web site. Even with a door price of 7,000 yen, it’s likely to be a sellout. The flyer for this event carries a notice for “The Gathering 2004” movie, which is due out April 28.

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.

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