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by Dan Grunebaum

Freedom Village

DJ Mayuri knows what it takes to get the pulse racing of Tokyo clubbers

UK house duo Basement Jaxx head up this year's biggest electronica countdown

Back at the dawn of dance music culture in Japan in the early '90s, one woman set the pace. DJ Mayuri was not only perhaps the first woman DJ to get behind the decks to spin her own take on minimal techno at Tokyo's clubs, but she was also a pace-setting party organizer. During its legendary run, her Odyssey event was a key venue for Japan to get a taste of the latest techno and trance filtering out of Europe and North America, and also Tokyo's flashiest mix 'n' mingle for the international clubbing set.

Flash forward a decade. Now a veteran party organizer, Mayuri heads up Metamorphose, the summer's most freewheeling and credible outdoor rave, and Freedom Village Countdown, her offering to the gods of New Year's Eve. Launched last year, the first Freedom Village Countdown drew over 4,000 with a lineup including the Orb and the Vooredoms.

This year's event looks to up the ante, with a phalanx of battle-tested electronica forces guaranteed to get those hands up in the air and a new venue in the form of the futuristic spaces of the Pacifico Yokohama convention center.

Headliners come in the form of UK house unit Basement Jaxx. The pair of Felix Burton and Simon Ratcliffe were last seen in Japan at this summer's Fuji Rock Fest, where they amped up the crowd with a live set that featured not only the usual synths and effects, but also plenty of guitars and heartfelt wailing from a pair of house divas.

In the fickle arena of clubbers' tastes, Burton and Ratcliffe have proven a durable font of ideas, remaining consistently unpredictable since the massive success of 1999's Remedy. Hitching anything from punk, funk, Asian and Latin sounds to house beats, they have also proven a consistently bankable act.

Their latest album came in the form of last fall's Kish Kash, which featured heavyweight cameos from singer/bassist Meshel Ndegeocello and '80s new-wave survivor Siouxsie Sioux. The disc also showed that the pair hadn't ignored the recent electroclash wave, with liberal doses of punk attitude and '80s electro flourishes.

Also from the UK are playful house trio X-Press 2, who, as it so happens, have also graced the stages of Fuji Rock. The trio of Ashley Beedle and DJs Diesel and Rocky entered in 1993 with the demented sirens of the worldwide hit "Muzik Express," and returned almost a decade later with 2002's Muzikism and its effervescent single "Lazy," which featured vocals from former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne.

Rounding out the showing of UK veterans are the Transit Kings, the current moniker for the DJ duo of Alex Paterson and Jimmy Cauty. The quirky Paterson is well known to Japanese clubbers through his almost uncountable club visits, while Cauty was actually a founding member with Paterson of the seminal ambient house unit the Orb before leaving to join KLF.

The lone representative of North American techno, meanwhile, comes in the form of Detroit DJ/producer Theo Parrish. Raised in Chicago before relocating to Motown, Parrish uses live instruments and sound generation devices to create "sound sculptures" but is also a force behind the decks, spinning anything from garage classics to cutting edge tech-house. Recently, he visited Japan as part of the experimental Three Chairs unit.

Domestic talent calls on Mayuri's long links with the local scene, with sets coming from a diversity of creators. Both with new releases, DJ Krush and his longtime companion DJ Hide will be spinning abstract hip-hop, while Audio Active will be purveying their futuristic interpretation of Jamaican dub.

The inimitable Eye from the Vooredoms will be on hand for one of his unpredictable DJ sets, while DJs Hikaru and veteran Artman will offer brain-twisting downtempo for those in a chill-out mood.

With too many artists to cover in these confines, let's just say that Freedom Village looks to offer the biggest bang for your yen this New Year's Eve.

Pacifico Yokohama, Dec 31. See concert listings for details.

credit: Metamorphose

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