Every year around this time, as the weather
gets cold and the outdoor rave season tails off, promoter
Beatink steps in with what may be Japan's largest indoor
electronic music festival. Since launching in 2000, Electraglide
has presented some of the world's leading dance acts,
including Fatboy Slim, Aphex Twin and, last year, electro
This year looks set to pack 'em in with an act that
has proven a perennial draw in Japan, Underworld. Since they
first enthralled a crowd of 15,000 on the slopes of Mount
Fuji for 1996's Rainbow 2000, the group, which rose
to prominence in the mid-'90s on the strength of the
single "Born Slippy" from the Trainspotting
soundtrack, have shown themselves to be amazingly resilient.
Veterans of the '80s electro scene, manic vocalist
Karl Hyde and pinhead programmer Rick Smith (minus DJ Darren
Emerson, who left in 2000) most recently appeared at last
summer's Fuji Rock Festival. Their blend of techno
and rock certainly doesn't sound new anymore, but as
their recent hit single "Two Months Off" amply
demonstrated, the pair have an idiosyncratic charm and likable
repetitiveness that keeps them in the public eye.
In addition to Underworld, this year's Electraglide
features other acts that helped shape the early history of
British techno. LFO, for instance, helped to set the agenda
for the '90s with the release of Frequencies in 1991.
Taking their name from the low-frequency oscillator at the
heart of synthesizers, Mark Bell and Gez Varley fused Detroit
techno with UK acid house, creating a bass-heavy sound that
crackled with vocoder samples and sparse, spacey melodies.
Issuing their sophomore effort in 1995,
the pair then dissolved their partnership to pursue separate
production careers. Bell went on to work on tracks for Bjork's
Homogenic (1997) and Depeche Mode's Exciter (2001), relaunching
LFO as a solo project this year with the album Sheath.
Although heavy on UK techno stars (Luke Vibert, aka Wagon Christ,
is also on the bill), Electraglide also offers a look at one
of the more eccentric figures in US house in the form of Felix
da Housecat. Part of the second wave of Chicago house, Felix
Stallings Jr founded one of the premier house labels of the
'90s, Radikal Fear Recordings.
Through Radikal Fear, Felix da Housecat issued a string of recordings,
including his 1995 debut full-length, Alone in the Dark, and
also released material by producers DJ Sneak and others. He
became known not only for hard-edged house but also for taking
risks, such as on the concept album Metropolis Present Day?
Thee Album. His most recent is Bugged Out Mix, issued in September
on the Bugged Out! label.
Essential to electronica events is the VJ, or video jockey,
who controls the inevitable giant display screens. Beatink has
come up with something special this time in the form of Tomato,
the design/computer graphics/music production group, of which
Underworld are also a part.
takes place at Makuhari Messe on November 28. See concert
listings for details.
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