by Dan Grunebaum
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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