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by Don Crispy

New Year's Wrap

Ritchie Hawtin

New Year's Eve is a time for tradition: this year sees some new traditions taking hold in Tokyo clubland, as others give way to the inevitable.

For superclub AgeHa, 2003 was a good one. With plenty to celebrate amid the steady throngs who made the trek to out-of-the-way Kiba, Tokyo's largest club follows up on last year's opening party with another visit by New York house icon Danny Tenaglia. Be Yourself marked the first visit to Japan by Tenaglia in years, and judging by the ecstatic welcome he was afforded this year's event looks to be mobbed. While the Brooklyn-born Tenaglia's resume defies condensation, let's just say that the name-dropping begins decades ago with the Paradise Garage and stretches through residencies at Twilo and New York's hottest current club, ARC…

Shibuya's 2-year-old Womb, meanwhile, has also had a good year, pulling crowds despite AgeHa's opening. Womb knows a good thing, and has sensibly rebooked a pair of the world's most respected techno DJ/producers who made last New Year's one to remember. Every summer on the Spanish party isle of Ibiza, Germany's Sven Vath and Canada's Richie Hawtin team up for one of the island's biggest parties: Cocoon Club. These parties have become the stuff of legend, and last year Womb invited the pair to host a special New Year's edition of Cocoon Club.

A hardened veteran of the European techno scene, Vath helped launch the techno boom in the early '90s with a series of sophisticated albums that pushed available technologies of the time to the limit. Hawtin, meanwhile, is no slouch himself, expanding the boundaries of Detroit techno with demanding albums and a DJ technique that seamlessly blends computers and turntables…

Turning to the psychedelic trance scene, Solstice Music had to suspend their traditional summer solstice party this year, but are returning with another edition of their massive New Year's blowouts. This year's countdown event, New Maps of Hyperspace, slated for the enormous Tokyo Bay NK Hall, welcomes a number of artists at the forefront of psychedelic trance, many of them familiar faces from previous Solstice events.

Father figure Raja Ram, who helped bring the psy-trance experience back to Europe from its Goa roots, will be on hand with his project, Shpongle. The group, which premiered at the Solstice Music Festival 2001, also includes Simon Posford, who as Hallucinogen has delivered some of trance's most faultless recordings. This time, Shpongle are joined by jazz guitarist Pete Callard, opera singer Abigail Gorton and Japanese drummer Nogera, for an "Orchestral Concert" that looks to be one of the year-end's most unusual performances…

Liquid Room gets the final nod with The Last Dance, a two-night event that marks the end of an era. While this magazine is not at liberty to say why, suffice it to say that the name of the party pretty much says it all and that Shinjuku will be a much quieter place next year.

Last Dance features a trio of leading domestic jocks who have graced Liquid Room's turntables since its '94 opening, including Fumiya Tanaka, a leader of the Japanese hard techno scene for a decade now. Matching Tanaka's tendencies toward hard techno but with a more playful edge is Takkyu Ishino, also of ele-pop unit Denki Groove, who in recent years has also made a name as organizer of the summertime WIRE parties, among Japan's largest. Rounding out the trio is Eye, best known as leader of noisemeisters the Boredoms, and one of Japan's most unpredictable DJs.

Cocoon Club@Womb, 12/31, 9pm, ¥6,500 (adv), ¥7,500 (door). Tel: 5459-3939

Be Yourself@AgeHa/Studio Coast, 12/31, 9pm, ¥7,350 (adv), ¥8,500 (door). Tel: 5784-7053

New Maps of Hyperspace@Tokyo Bay NK Hall, 12/31, 9pm, ¥10,000 (adv), ¥12,000 (door). Info: Zexceed 5772-2059

The Last Dance@Liquid Room, 12/31, 8pm, ¥7,000; 1/1, 11pm, ¥3,000. Tel: 3200-6831


credit: Womb