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by Don Crispy

X-Press 2

Extremes of electronica: X-Press 2 (pictured) and Squarepusher visit Tokyo next weekend.

From the playful and buoyant to the aggressively experimental, next weekend will provide a look at opposing ends of the UK dance music spectrum.

First up are British house trio X-Press 2, who hit Air in Daikanyama for their first Japanese set since appearances at Fuji Rock and Electraglide.

Formed by former Soho record store manager Ashley Breedle (aka Black Science Orchestra), with DJ Diesel and DJ Rocky (aka Problem Kids), the threesome entered electronica in 1993 with the demented sirens and dance floor pyrotechnics of the worldwide hit, “Muzik Express,” quickly followed by a string of singles that found their way at the time to the decks of influential DJs from Pete Tong to Junior Vasquez.

Putting aside the X-Press 2 moniker during the mid-’90s for a stint as post-acid house unit the Ballistic Brothers, the three returned to the simple, uncluttered house they do best in the beginning of the millennium. The outcome was their 2002 album, Muzikizum (Skint/Columbia).

The disc included the effervescent “Lazy,” their biggest track yet—not only for X-Press 2, but oddly enough also for the singer, former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne. Interestingly, the collaboration came about when Byrne asked the three, then working as the Ballistic Brothers, to back him on a European tour. The contradiction of Byrne singing casually over a thumping house beat ultimately went on to make “Lazy” one of the most memorable dance tracks to be heard so far this decade.

In their Japan appearances, X-Press 2 have also shown themselves to be masters of the decks, employing a three-turntable attack that leaves plenty of room for maneuver. “It’s like a jam, really. It’s not rehearsed. We’re inspired continually by the shenanigans on the dance floor,” says Rocky on their website. “We play two records each and we go round like a tag thing. Whoever’s playing the tune coming out of the speakers, the other two can cut in effects, beats, a cappellas. It becomes like a wall of sound…”

If X-Press 2 represent the more accessible side of UK dance music, then Tom Jenkinson in his Squarepusher persona represents UK electronica at its most uncompromising.

Squarepusher, who brings his new album Ultravisitor—released on Warp and distributed in Japan by Beat Records—to Roppongi’s Laforet Museum, has positioned himself firmly in the avant-garde of electronica since releasing his acclaimed Music Is Rotted One Note in 1999.

Variously termed “experimental jungle” or “drill‘n’bass,” Squarepusher’s music operates on the outer extremes of electronica, where the mechanics of dance music collide with the esthetics and theory of free jazz and experimental music.

Previous appearances at Fuji Rock have not shown his live sets to be of the wave-your-hands-in-the-air sort, but for those with the stomach, his music has an impressive complexity. In its 80 minutes, Ultravisitor, for example, runs from crazed drum‘n’bass to ambient, from to minimalist drums to absurdist spoken word.

And if Squarepusher’s sonic experiments aren’t enough, Beat Records sister company, promoter Beatink is pairing him with two other veteran Warp acts, Luke Vibert and Jamie Lidell, themselves both notorious for pushing the dance music envelope to the breaking point.

X-Press 2@Air, 5/15, 10pm, ¥3,500. Tel: 03-5784-3386.

Squarepusher@Laforet Museum, 5/15, 10pm, ¥5,800 (adv). Info: Beatink 03-5766-6571.

Credit: Air