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Friday, June 30, 2006
THE SECOND ROOM PRESENTS
Psychedelic radar 06.30
Special to The Japan Times Online
Solstice Music Festival 2006: July 15-17
Solstice Music presents Solstice Music Festival 2006 at the Myoko Suginohara ski resort in Niigata Prefecture. Advance tickets are on sale for 13,500 yen (or 15,000 yen at the gate.) Parking charges vary: a vehicle with four people inside pays 2,000 yen, while one with three pays 3,000 yen, or 4,000 yen for two people. Those under age 20 will not be admitted (photo ID required).
If this sounds like the same ski resort where "Spun Field 2006" was held just four weekends ago, it's because it is the same. I know, it's practically unheard of for open-air events of this size to return to the same place in the same season. And there are a lot of reasons why, mostly bad. But this is yet another sign of how our scene is maturing. By conducting a scaled-down dress rehearsal, Solstice was able to identify and rectify dozens of potential problems for their annual showcase event.
The 2006 festival will be a three-stage event and includes a jam-band stage and a chill tent. The timetable for this year's festival just went online and Solstice has come up with an interesting way to prevent excessive overlap of the featured acts on each stage.
Music for the main stage will start at 10 p.m. both nights and finish at 2 p.m. each day. The Balearic Tent will run from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday and Monday. The Satellite Dome is where the festival actually kicks off, starting with live jam sessions at 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. When this stage closes at 5 a.m. you can go balearic or full-on. In a word, innovative.
Sol Stage (main): Live acts include Hallucinogen, GMS, Talamasca, Wrecked Machines, The Delta, Eat Static, Etnica, Space Tribe, Bio-Tonic and Quadra. DJs include Raja Ram, Ari Linker (Alien Project), Marcus (X-Dream), Dimitri D.K.N., Tsuyoshi, Riktam, Bansi, Ta-Ka (Mother Records), Ryo (Solstice), Lucas, Gabriel, Isao and Hachiga.
Satellite Dome (Produced by Fantastico): Live acts include SunPaulo, Dachambo, AlayaVijana, Olaibi-Itaci, poodles. DJ sets feature Shpongle, Kay Nakayama, Dominic (Interchill), David (Daikini).
Balearic Tent: DJs Ken Ishii, Ko Kimura, Max Lanfranconi, Lenny Ibizarre, Xavier, Yoda, Funky Gong, Ryo Takahashi, and more.
Some recent additions to the lineup -- especially Hallucinogen with a phenomenal following in Japan, and Ta-Ka, Japan's No. 1 DJ who is now getting global recognition -- should ensure the success of each stage. The only trick, which Solstice seems to have figured out, was how to balance it all. The two stages and the tent are closer together and easier to traverse than last year's main and way-up-the-hill-chill stages. The jam band dome will be on a different piste than the full-on stage, with lots of tall trees in between. The ambient tent, an extra large one, will be set up on a large paved area. All are within about 10 minutes walking.
Raja Ram's four favorite words are "love," "peace," "dance," and "Japan" (or "the Japanese") while he's here, and maybe even when he's not here. Although a lot has changed in the psychedelic trance scene over the years, Solstice Music Festival is still his party. Well, not literally, but Raja will definately be having the most fun. Although this will be my first SMF without a 1200 Micrograms live set.
At the moment, Solstice is going strong but is lacking the kind of momentum it had going into the 2002 festival, which featured the unforgettable sounds of Alien Project's "One Good" vibe, the entire 1200 Mics debut album, Dimitri's "The Usual Suspects" compilation, and even, unfortunately, that annoying Synthetic track "Africa" (which was actually great the first 12 times until DJs played it to death.)
There's just enough juice in the "Wrecked Chords" compilation (released in March) to power the climb up to Myoko Kogen. Then it's going to be up to Ari Linker and Ollie Wisdom (Space Tribe). Ari and Avi Algranati (Space Cat), who together make Alien vs. The Cat, are poised for a new album release, as is Space Tribe, who teamed up with Electric Universe for the just-released "Electric Space Phenomenom" collaboration. If the crowd goes home with two or three really unforgettable new tracks in their heads, the SMF will be a success.
Gettng to Myoko Suginohara is a breeze because the ski resort is just 6 km from the Myouko Kogen IC on the Jyoshinetsu Expressway (from the Kan-Etsu Expressway -- the smoothest highway leaving Tokyo.) For "Spun Field 2006," our group departed from Shibuya Station around 10:30 a.m. and we reached the venue less than four hours later, even with a 30-minute service-area break and driving through some ridiculous midday fog. A lower stage parking area will serve as the ticket checkpoint and where you get your wristband. The main parking lot itself is huge, paved and close. The tent sites are on softer, but not flatter ground than last year and afford either a beautiful view or plenty of shade.
The party three weeks ago had a ticket system in place for food and drink vendors, sold near a staging building that offered decent restrooms. Coolers were being checked for alchohol at the gate, and that might be the case even for a three-day rave. Sponsorship deals help pay the rent, staff, artists, etc.
2006 should be the year that Solstice Music Festival makes its comeback as the mid-summer's most influential open-air party. Much of that depends on whether a strong theme-sound can be cultivated. Last year's format, where live acts also played their DJ sets in the same time block didn't allow this to happen. (Plus, a good number of us were still severely bummed out about the debacle at Summer Arcade that nearly torpedoed the entire scene the week before.)
Next Month: July 15-17
Earthcore Japan and Psy16 present "Earth Energy" at Namesawa Camp Village in Yamanashi Prefecture. Live acts include Hydraglyph, Slum, Random, Gokufuto, Asteca and more.
This party will be limited to 500 people. Advance tickets are 5,000 yen. Psy16 sent out an e-mail the other day still offering a free Jikkenteki CD for the first 100 ticket buyers. Namesawa is a small well-shaded valley campground that has ferocious bugs and no cellular reception.
Les Muses progressive and psychedelic trance party at gronp in Roppongi. This weekly event is officially an all-female lineup, possibly for the first time in Japan. The music starts at 11 p.m. Cover charge is 2,000 yen but includes two drinks. Check http://www.gronp.info/ for each week's lineup. Use Exit 7 at Roppongi Station (Oedo Line).
Next Month: July 28-30
TPE Records Open Air Festival 2006 at the Tatehara Kougen campground in Nagano Prefecture. Special prices are in effect for advance tickets until June 30. After that, advance tickets will be 10,000 yen (or 12,000 yen at the gate.) Live acts include Altom, Alternative Control, Ananda Shake, Aquatica, Electro Sun, Karrmachanics, Nogera, Sesto Sento, Space Cat, System Nipel, Visual Contact and Vibe Tribe.
Over the horizon: Aug. 13-15
Mother Records presents "Space of Sound (S.O.S.)" at Hakuba Tsugaike Kougen in Nagano Prefecture. Check Web site for special prices on online orders. Tickets are 12,000 yen advance (or 14,000 yen at the gate). Live acts include Atomic Pulse, Beckers, Logic Bomb, Midimiliz, Pop Stream, Protoculture, Xerox and Illumination, X-Noize, X-Dream and more, plus DJs Ta-Ka, Daijiro, Messie, Ryo, Nate Raubenheimer, Arturo and more.
Over the horizon: Aug. 26-27
Sirius Summer Festival at Norn Ski Resort in Minakami, Gunma Prefecture. Live acts Psysex, Dino Psaras and the much-missed Joti. DJ sets include Goblin, Tokage, Miki, Noco, Unagi and Nori. Advance tickets are 7,000 yen (or 8,000 yen at the gate).
Over the horizon: Sept. 16-18
CD Case -- Full-On
"Tokyo Tel-Aviv Vol. 2," compiled by DJ Ziki (Noga Records)
People who know me well will tell you that what I'm about to say about "Tokyo Tel-Aviv Vol. 2," compiled by Noga Records' DJ Ziki, is some of the highest praise I've ever given.
Here goes: I have not been this excited about the potential impact of a new compilation since Domino's "Moon" in 2002. And legend will tell you that it was in that little love affair (with "Moon," not with Domino) that The Second Room was conceived. Nothing has really held a candle to "Moon" since then; I could always find some disqualifying flaw.
Until now: "Tokyo Tel-Aviv Vol. 2" is the new benchmark against which all new compilations will be graded for the foreseeable future. DJ Ziki and Noga Records have checked all the boxes and it's important that next-generation record labels pay attention to what's been done here.
On the outside: Faces on the cover have been all the rage since Astrix put his cool hooded figure on "Psychedelic Academy" about a year ago. I've looked through my older stuff and other than Yahel ("Private Collection," 2002, Hom-Mega) and Space Tribe, not many faces until about a year ago. So this is about the limit. I mean, Ziki is the tallest psychedelic trance DJ in the world (program height 2.05 meters) and he looks really cool in the morphed image, where he's got this anime thing going, but the second more transparent shot of him might be that one face too many for 2006, especially considering that when you open the liner he's there again; Track listing on the back cover includes BPM ratings; DJ sleeve also with BPM ratings, is easy to read under blacklight.
Before pressing onward, let's talk a moment about the cover art decals that many labels are fond of including in their CDs. Oh, boy! STICKERS! Some of them are incredibly cool, ultimately useless in practical application, but still endearing. More so if I was 10 years old. But where are we supposed to affix these things the one chance we get? Somebody is missing a huge marketing opportunity. A better question is, why can't we have useful, readable DJ sleeves with BPM ratings in every CD? If it's a cost tradeoff, even non-DJs can make better use of the sleeve.
But even on stickers, Noga Records gets a gold star: Web site address under an enlarged logo. Now the extra expense for that sticker starts to make sense. And, taking advantage of the all-clear plastic case, Noga gets in another Web address in that almost never-used gutter between the hinges.
Normally this much self-promotion would make me a little drunk, but the soft grays and blues and aquamarines seem to absorb it all. The art on the CD itself is delightfully minimal, a soft and simple outline of a striking samurai.
"The music and voices are all around us. . ." No wait, that was on the last compilation. While the first volume of "Tokyo Tel-Aviv," released last summer, was definitely for the 3 a.m. to 4 a.m. slot, "T.T.2" carries us right through the sunrise. Ziki's genius is not accidental.
On the inside: Because of the relationship that Noga has established with Com.pact Records, Utopia Records and Translucent Productions, Ziki had his pick of the best of psychedelic trance's next generation artists and used each pick superbly, even contributing himself on two breathtaking numbers, one with Gataka and one with Amir Dvir (Illumination).
The album opens with an up-on-your-feet morning track by Double Impact and hits cruising speed (145 bpm) in about 30 seconds. It stays at that velocity for Freaked Frequency, Stereomatic, the Bizarre Nipel track (System Nipel vs. Bizarre Contact) and the Ultra Voice closer, only coming down a bit for Bizarre Contact (144) and Electro Sun (142). Ziki has concocted a very smooth intriguing flow that will have you yearning to stretch for the sunrise on a mountain somewhere soon.
"I wanted to create a nice transition to morning because the first compilation was more for the dark hours," Ziki told me in a recent chat. "Maybe the next one will be right for the afternoon. We've still got lots more good stuff to come. It's gonna blow you away, you'll see."
There's something in the way that Ziki nods to you that's very reassuring. Now pumping into his 10th year as a premier DJ in Japan, Ziki is hitting a long comfortable stride, both on and off stage.
The creation of the innovative Noga business model when the beloved True Trance formula had run its course has allowed an upstart label to brand an astonishing 26 releases since November 2004 -- about three new albums every two months for 18 months. When you count three earlier True Trance titles, it's 29 in the catalog, with more already one the way. Noga's foresightedness with this strategy is nothing short of brilliant.
Best in 2006: This is the way a compilation should be done, and Ziki has done this twice in less than a year. "Tokyo Tel-Aviv Vol. 2" is a stellar achievement for a strengthening second-tier psy-trance label in Japan. This is the best overall compilation yet in 2006 and should stand for the rest of the year. For what's it worth, this morning I officially retired my copy of "Moon." (Thanks, Doll!)
Psychedelic Radar will return on July 15. All parties are in Tokyo unless otherwise noted. Send potential party pick info to email@example.com Support the underground scene by buying originals.