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Friday, Aug. 11, 2006


Psychedelic radar 08.11

Special to The Japan Times Online

Mother: Aug. 13-15

Mother Records -- SOS

Mother Records presents "Space of Sound (S.O.S.)" at Hakuba Tsugaike Kougen in Nagano Prefecture. Tickets are 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. Music starts at 5 p.m. on the first day. (Last year, the gates were open by noon.)

This is the party that established that the Japan psychedelic trance scene was back on its feet last summer. Coming together in the mountain mist, we found both solace and the strength to dispel the demons of Kandatsu and push through to October and beyond. What is it about a Mother party that lets us feel like innocent kids again?

Hakuba Tsugaike is a spacious resort with wide ski runs (read: not much shade) and lots of setup options. The S.O.S. Chill Village in 2005 had the flattest and most shaded tent sites, although the vendor-lined path to it was paved in mud-covering cardboard by the second day. A gondola ride (in a decent size, enclosed car) is required to get up to the venue from the parking area. Access to this lift was not too difficult last year and the gondola staff are used to moving tourists.

Mother Records -- SOS
Tents dot the gentle slope at Hakuba Tsugaike Kougen on the first day of "S.O.S. 2005."

Inside the little black official guidebook with the "S.O.S." emblem are timetables for both days, maps and pictures from 2005. Last year's event was the best midsize stage production of the summer for lighting and sound. I especially noticed this during the Messie DJ set as he was bathed in graphics inside the "DJ dome," which, although cramped, is kind of a neccessity to protect the equipment from the elements in these mountains. Messie (MAIA Records, Mexico), who plays on the first morning, is one of the main reasons I'm so excited about this event. Ta-Ka's sunrise set on the second day is another.

The most difficult part of this event will be getting home when it's over -- the traffic returning to Tokyo was so severe last year that a few of my friends waited it out overnight at a highway service area. So plan ahead for this. For those going by train, check out the Zone81 Web site for fares and routes.

Infants: Aug. 19-20

Infants and c-les.com presents "Music Festival of Sun and Earth" at Namesawa Camp in Yamanashi Prefecture.

Special live by ElektrOscilloBleeper plus DJs 901, Troubadour, Aki, Serio, R, o-sam-u, Jose, Shiro, Tomo and Dr. Hakase. Entrance is 2,000 yen and includes one drink ticket and parking.

Sirius: 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).

Fineplay: Aug. 26-27

Fineplay -- The Beach 2006

Fineplay Music presents "The Beach 2006" on Mikawa Island in Aichi Prefecture. Live acts Absolum, Beat Hackers, Bizarre Contact, Michele Adamson, Perplex and Space Cat, plus DJs Dithforth, Jun, Mairo-such and Ronen.

Advance tickets are 8,000 yen (or 9,000 yen at the gate). If you're driving, the parking charge is 2,000 yen. And there's a 2,000 yen charge for the boat ride to and from the island.

There is a Dynamic music video by SGK Studio circulating that will show you exactly what this party is all about -- the back of the dancefloor is saltwater and swimsuits are de rigeur. If you see this footage, you won't be able to stop yourself from going. I'm still looking for a copy online. And apparently there's another video with Space Cat and Perplex that has also scenes from The Beach.

S.U.N.S: Aug. 26-27

S.U.N.S presents supreme trance shaman Goa Gil (Avatar Records) for a long summer DJ set at a secret location in Hokkaido, joined by Ariane on an ethno-tribal DJ set. Only advance tickets -- 7,000 yen and limited to 500 people -- are being sold for this event. You must see the Web site for details.

Genkanon: Sept. 2 and 3

Genkanon presents "Space of Phantom" at the Goko-bokujyou Auto Camp in Minamisaku, Nagano Prefecture. Web sales on now for 4,500 yen (regular advance 5,000 yen, or 6,000 yen at the gate). There's also an "auto camping" charge of 2,000 yen, but that could be just for parking a car.

Main floor live acts Dark Nebula, Uni, Bon + Arsenic, Jihooka and Ten-G, plus DJs Keiki. Hatta, Michy, Masayuki.m and more for the freestyle floor.

Vision Quest: Sept. 16-18

Vision Quest -- The Gathering 2006

Vision Quest Tokyo presents "The Gathering 2006," Sept. 16-18 at the Palcall Tsumagoi ski resort in Gunma Prefecture. Presale ticket information is on the Web site. Advance tickets are 12,000 yen. Tickets for parking are available for presale order online at 3,000 yen. On the day, parking will cost 4,000 yen.

Click here to read the preview for last year's event at Palcall. Vision Quest has put out a 32-page pocket-size booklet with loads of great information. Hotel space at the Palcall resort and the local lodgings filled up surprisingly fast last year and look to do the same for 2006. Check the "Hotel Plan" (in katakana with mouse-over balloon English) page for a list of official hotels and reservation information.

See the Web site and mobile site for updated info. VQ is adding multiple-language support to their mobile site -- select by clicking on the flags.

Every Friday

Les Muses progressive and psychedelic trance party at gronp in Roppongi. This weekly event is officially an all-female lineup. There was even a female VJ working one Friday back in July. 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), turn left and walk down the slope. Before you get to the traffic signal, you will see the gronp sign come on the other side of the street.

CD Case Special -- Ambient

Arcana, compiled by Naasko
"Arcana" is an outstanding evocative downtempo compilation, magical, dreamy electronica complemented by rainsticks, Indian classical vocals and all manner of tranquil psychedelia.

"Arcana," compiled by Naasko (Interchill Records, Mariko Music)

"Gathering the Tribe," compiled by DJ Neerav (Interchill Records, Mariko Music)

"Journey to the Sun," by Adham Shaikh (Interchill Records, Mariko Music)

When I first started going to open-air parties, you could always count on finding the both of them there. They were never too close together, but also never competing for each other's attention.

Back in 2001 and 2002, I remember, he took her everywhere, carefully selecting and preparing a special place just for her, even boasting that she would be there, doing her own beautiful thing. He didn't care so much about the cost of bringing her along, or that most of people hanging out with her just needed a break from him. Being proud to say that she was with him was enough. And they raved all summer long.

Then in 2003, times started getting tough. Things were going wrong and opportunities fell straight through the cracks. There wasn't enough money coming in and the extra expense of bringing her along to parties became a problem. He, of course, had to go -- he was essential to the party. Before long, he popped the question: "Honey, would you mind staying home this time?"

Understandably she didn't understand. She too had many friends who were also counting on her to be there. And people were still talking about how wonderful she was at Solstice 2001 and 2002. What kind of a rave would it be without little Miss Ambient? "What are they going to think about you when they can't find me?"

He tried to let her down easy: "Sorry, Darling, just this time, and maybe the next, if we're still not making enough money. Or maybe I could find something for you to do in the vendor area."

Journey to the Sun, by Adham Shaikh
"Gathering the Tribe" features a variety of ethnic instrumentation inspired by dreamy memories of Latin American travels and journeys to summer music festivals. Electro-organic performances, ambient passages and downtempo worldbeats highlight an uplifting Californian and West Coast festival sound.

The relationship between full-on psychedelic and ambient trance has always been a weirdly distanced love affair. This year, she -- the ambient stage -- has been to a few more events than last year, but she still hasn't regained the magical attraction that she had at Lake Motosu.

It's a fact that setting up a second stage comes at a cost -- manpower, equipment, decorations, rope, cables, tape and more. Then you need DJs willing to play for a couple of hours to almost zero people for almost no money. Or compromises are made, like naming it a "freestyle stage" or some other moniker that looks exotic but means nothing. (Freestyle stages are not a bad idea, but some DJs take the tag too literally and decide it's a good time to try something new or weird, like a sweet reggae tune on one deck and drunk alley cats fighting over catnip inside a cardboard box on the other -- "just to freak 'em out!")

It's also a fact that when a chill zone is done beautifully, people will remember it in surprising (and sometimes embellished) detail even if they are only there for a few minutes. And this is because most people don't go to the chill to listen. They go there to not listen. They go there to get away from all the movement, to get out of the human corn-popper for a while, to fix their vision on stationary objects. They go there in search of a soft spot under a shade tree where they can stretch out their legs, light up a cigarette and let the forest breeze gently rinse the angry ringing out of their ears. But actually listening? Not so much.

Gathering the Tribe, compiled by DJ Neerav
"Journey To The Sun" was originally released in 1995 and is the result of Adham Shaikh's visits to India. Heavenly ethno-ambient chill blends Indian voices, bansuri flutes and indigenous wires and lush atmospheres all steeped in Asian mystery.

But, hey, it depends. At "Earth Energy" back in May, one of the more tribal open-airs of the year, I begged for a morning block on the freestyle stage because those DJs were playing ridiculous non-chill most of the night, and because it was my birthday. Within 15 minutes of the start of my first-ever ambient DJ set, people started coming over. Honestly, my set wasn't all that good, having brought only eight new downtempo CDs, but at the end I had two "poi" twirlers twirling and almost two dozen "shanti" folks lounging about. They seemed to appreciate it. (Except for two people who were locked into an evil glaring contest. Who knows what that was about.)

If ambient stages could hold more of their own at a party -- attract enough extra ticket buyers to help cover the aforementioned expenses and a decent size crowd -- then we might see a rise in mini or sub-organizations specializing in creating the perfect chill zone. In that alternate universe, the organizer makes a call and contracts it out, just like they do now to arrange lighting, sound and decorations. (As of this writing, both www.chillzones.jp and www.chill-zones.com are not being used.)

Lest you dismiss this as merely an overlooked lucrative business opportunity, I am preaching here for the good of the party. A chill stage is a place where we can reconnect with the shanti roots of psychedelic, or for the wide-eyed batch of new ravers, a place to connect in the first place. The ambient music getting to record stores and chill floors has been excellent this year, especially from British Columbia-based Interchill Records and Chillosophy Music and people are coming back to the scene and bringing friends.

I'll see some of you in the Chill Village at "S.O.S." this weekend! See Mother's official guidebook for the lineup.

Psychedelic Radar will return Aug. 25. All parties are in Tokyo unless otherwise noted. For information about a "secret" after-hours on Sept. 10, send mail to: the2ndroom@yahoo.com

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