New Year’s Countdown lineup


The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks; the Afghanistan and Iraq wars; the Boxing Day tsunami; the “Lehman Shock” — yes, a look back at the last decade is not so great. It’s the kind of downer that could drive you to a night of nihilistic hedonism and luckily this year’s New Year’s Eve parties can facilitate that desire.

Over the last few years, the lineups at parties throughout Japan’s capital have been disappointing, with the same DJs and live acts playing the same venues. But for the ride into 2010, promoters have pulled their socks up.

Three parties stand out in particular as being the places to be this year, showering revelers with techno, jazz, funk and house beats.

In Ebisu, the Electronic Tribe New Year’s Party 2010 (¥6,800 in advance, ¥8,000 at the door) will feature Laurent Garnier and Mixmaster Morris behind the decks. Garnier cemented his reputation as a legend long ago with his pioneering union of techno, funk and disco styles, and is likely to mix a set that is pitch perfect for a crowd more concerned with partying than hearing the latest tracks. Mixmaster Morris will likely play a more ambient set, though anything could happen given his reputation with The Shamen (as DJ). Support from Japan comes in the form of hip-hop’s DJ Krush and electro up-and-comers 80kidz.

Womb in Shibuya, meanwhile, has broken free of Nic Fanciulli — the DJ who has played their NYE parties for as far back as I can remember — and brings Detroit’s Jeff Mills to town (¥6,000). The Detroit DJ has evolved over the last decade from a techno DJ to a Ryuichi Sakamoto-esque musical visionary. Given that this is Mills’ first performance in Japan since his monthlong residency in Womb back in 2005, the man that combines techno with classical sounds is likely to deliver something special.

For those craving the “disco” vibe of yesteryear, the party of the night will be at Microcosmos in Shibuya. This club is one of Tokyo’s best kept secrets and New Year’s Eve will offer the perfect chance to check it out, with DJ Spinna booked to play (¥3,500). Those who sorely miss Club Yellow will be pleased to know that some of that club’s management team are behind Microcosmos (hence Spinna, a New Year favorite at the legendary club). A Spinna set effortlessly moves from 1970s funk and jazz into more modern sounds, making his performances a lesson in the history of dance music and inclusive to all.

On the domestic front, Ageha hosts a live performance from the Boom Boom Satellites along with the sounds of Ken Ishii, DJ Emma and the Dex Pistols, who are likely to provide a night that combines techno house and rock (¥6,000).

Club Air also provides a choice line up this New Year’s, with progressive house legend Satoshi Tomiie playing an opening-until-closing set on the main floor. Upstairs in the second room, Berlin-based Radio Slave will be playing a mix of mash-ups, re-edits, house and techno (¥5,000).

Meanwhile, down in Kansai three parties stand out. At Osaka’s Ritz Carlton Hotel, Shinichi Osawa and Masatoshi Uemura will play a blend of house and electro for the event Worldout (¥5,500). For those into funkier beats, Mitomi Tokoto will be playing at World Flight To 2010 along with a number of hip-hop and R&B DJs at Kyoto World (¥4,000). Both parties will also feature the Cyber Japan dancers. Britain’s Tim Deluxe, famed for his anthem “It Just Won’t Do,” but now more of a minimal DJ, will play with Mike McKenna at Onzieme in Osaka.

So this year, instead of watching the dire NHK pop-music battle or heading to a temple, the high-quality line up at Japan’s clubs means there is no excuse for staying in.