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Friday, Dec. 23, 2005

THE SECOND ROOM

All I want for Christmas

Plus gift ideas for the trance crowd


Special to The Japan Times Online

Dear Santa, I hope this letter doesn't freak you out. I realize that it's been three decades since I last wrote to you, but I have been keeping your spirit alive all this time, albeit mostly as a child-management tool. I swear, this will be my last request of you.

All I want for Christmas this year is for the new trance cover version of Pink Floyd's classic "Another Brick in the Wall" to be played dead last at "Vivid Experience 2005" in Makuhari Messe. This killer remake by the Evil Drug Lords (just a showbiz tag, they're not really drug lords) will bring down the house, especially with the lights up. (Can't you see it already? Thousands of crazed lunatics screaming in unison, "Hey, teacher, leave them kids alone!" Righteous meltdown!)

I know you'll still be busy delivering presents when it's Christmas morning in Japan, but this should be easy, really. Just sprinkle some magical Santa dust around the stage when you fly through, or send one of your psychedelic elves. The crowd will do the rest. You won't regret this, Big Guy! But if it can't be done, can you please slide a copy of this track under my tree?

Merry Christmas!

Well, of course I believe in Santa Claus. Why not? I believe in Santa in the same way I believe that goodwill and kindness can exist in all of us. Meaning, we can all be Santa if we want to, just by spreading around a little magic of our own.

Fortunately, there is a lot of magic to choose from in this hallmark season. Anything in the list below will light up your party mates brighter than a titanium-powered glow-stick.

"The Gathering 2005 DVD" (Vision Quest, 4,935 yen)

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A production crew member mans a crane camera for stage and crowd shots at "The Gathering 2005" in September.

Just released (Dec. 22), the fourth edition of Vision Quest Tokyo's popular DVD series "The Gathering" is a two-disc set featuring videos of 16 live performances, eight DJs, psy-clips and plenty of invasive crowd shots dancing in the rain at The Gathering 2005.

Vision Quest pulled out the stops on this year's preparations, employing multiple cameras, including a manned crane cam for outstanding stage shots, and pumping up the lighting and lasers. The tracks are fresh and the angles will blow you away. This is very close to the MTV-quality product that VQ cofounder Tania Miller has been striving for.

At 148 minutes in total, you get almost double the fun as last year's movie. Check the VQ Web site for an eight-minute preview video (29 Mb) in MP4 format.

"Dissolving Clouds" (Interchill Records, Mariko Music)

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This 11-track ambient compilation includes flavors of psy, dub, techno and jazz-influenced electronica and will delight even your totally full-on friends.

"Dissolving Clouds" explores the spectrum of contemporary down-tempo music with selections from renowned artists like Eat Static and Kaya Project, and new talents Peyote Sound System, Alex Theory and more.

"Elixer," Kaya Project (Interchill Records, Mariko Music)

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Kaya Project is Seb Taylor and Natasha Chamberlain, currently based in the U.K., and "Elixer" is their second album, following up on their debut "Walking Through."

If you spent any time around chill floors or stages in the past few months, chances are you've heard tracks from "Elixer," which combines elements from the Project's studio sessions they collected in their travels. Prepare yourself for a nice journey rich in fresh and funky ethnic and tribal ambience.

Out since October, "Elixer" will be released in early 2006 in Australia and New Zealand.

"Sanctuary" (Interchill Records, Mariko Music)

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This Zen-mixed compilation is labeled as "a shanti mix from the Interchill Garden" and sets the space for a meditative voyage deep into uncharted areas of the imagination.

This debut album in Interchill's Spectrum Series is ideal for yoga, healing, inner peace and serious relaxation. Very serious relaxation, in fact. This is a perfect present for someone who already owns a lot of ambient music.

"Enemies and Allies," (Dooflex, released Dec. 12)

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U-Recken (Yaniv Ben-Ari) has been one of my favorite Doof crew artists for a while, and this compilation starts off just the way I like -- a captivating nine-minute trip by U-Recken vs. Nitro (DJ Gil Dagan).

These two have been playing together in the forests and deserts for a while. Apparently they were also roomies with a common musical spark that led Dagan to move from mixing to making, and creating one of the genre's best back-to-back live sets.

"Enemies and Allies" is a basket full of the mushrooms and wild berries of Israeli trance that you won't find on other labels. True to the Dooflex label concept, this compilation has a softer, more seductive flow than the known Doof sound. This is one of the best all-around compilations of the year.

"Cereal Killerz," Double R.E.L. (Doof Records )

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Double R.E.L. is Ariel Ram and Ariel Sela (get it? two Ariels?), a pair who have been making psychedelic trance with an intense and funny darkness for some time now.

The R.E.L.s met on a blind date (arranged by a mutual friend) years ago and their chemistry was so good that they made their first track ("Humping Humper") within the first couple hours.

Since than it has been a true "love story," fast and full-on with influences from X-Dream, MFG, Little Blue Men, Weirdo Beardo, Tsuyoshi and many more.

"Cereal Killerz" is a wild raw-edged ride way above the speed you'd expect for desert psychedelia -- the two slowest tracks are 146 bpm -- but one that you'll appreciate when played at the right time of night.

"Strange Planet," C.O.N.Sequencer (Solstice Music, released Dec. 7)

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C.O.N.Sequencer is my favorite side act to emerge from the S.U.N. Project family. Drummers McCoy (S.U.N. Project) and Milque formed C.O.N.Sequencer in 1999 and a year later they added guitarist Arrow and they quickly released their first album ("When Gods Make Love").

"Strange Planet" is the trio's fifth full album in five years and pushes a funky-groovy production style flowing around a much more solid psychedelic trance core than ever before.

Already unique in their approach, C.O.N.Sequencer has turned a corner in "Strange Planet" to harness a fresh full-on energy. It's the same kind of shift that S.U.N. Project made in their new album "Wicked" -- and it's a move that will keep C.O.N.Sequencer viable for some time to come.

Because of his heavy commitments playing with S.U.N. Project, the C.O.N.Sequencer live set, like this Saturday at "Vivid Experience 2005," does not include McCoy.

And, party tickets for your friends. . .

Still can't figure out what to get your psychedelic friends for the holidays? Don't overlook the simplicity of inviting your friend(s) out to a party at your expense. With door ticket prices now at around 6,000 yen, this is no small gift.

I paid for two of my very best friends to join me at the Mother Records birthday bash at Ariake Differ last weekend as a Christmas present and we all had a blast. (Everybody should try this!)

Countdown update:

Watch next week's Psychedelic Radar for a list of New Year's countdown parties.

Note: Vision Quest will not be holding one this year because they are "taking a well-deserved holiday off."

Next time:

In the next installment of The Second Room, we'll take at the recently released Bluetech "Sines and Singularities," and how Revolve magazine in the U.K. hopes to change your music purchase habits.

Readers are invited to submit comments to the2ndroom@yahoo.com


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