Selected by Don Crispy

Hotaka Mountain Festival

Xavier Morel
Images courtesy of Techno Flux
Eye from the Boredoms
Kaoru Inoue
Juno Reactor
Audio Active

After a two-year break from the outdoor party scene, leading psychedelic electronica promoters Equinox return - by popular demand they say - with Hotaka Mountain Festival ~ Music of the Sphere - slated for Gunma Prefecture next weekend.

The event will feature such techno mainstays as Juno Reactor (who blew minds last winter at Akasaka Blitz) and Alex Paterson of The Orb, but is also broadening the slate with live sets by avant-garde noisemeisters the Boredoms, electro-dub unit Audio Active, and a number of acts less familiar to rave-goers in Japan.

Longtime Equinox organizer Kotaro Manabe says, "We got tired of doing the same old thing again and again, and wanted to try something a little different this time and save our Equinox parties for special occasions."

With Juno Reactor (Englishman Ben Watkins and South African percussion group Amanpondo) and the Boredoms (in one of their many incarnations) having appeared at Fuji Rock Festival, and Alex Paterson scheduled for the Summer Sonic-related Sonicmania all-nighter, fans will have plenty of opportunity to check out these artists.

But some of the other acts will be making rare or even debut appearances in Japan. Club D' Elf, for instance, will be making the trip from the US. One of a growing number of jam bands making their way across the Pacific, Club D'Elf-who include a college music professor and a former drummer with Miles Davis-mix dub, trance and free jazz for a sound that comes highly recommended by leading Japanese jam band promoter Phatleaf.

The UK's Greg Hunter, meanwhile, is also an infrequent visitor to Japan. The force behind the superb 1996 ambient dub Subsurfing album, Hunter also engineers The Orb and Juno Reactor when he is not busy working as sound engineer for the likes of Madonna and Paul McCartney.

From Kyoto comes ambient improvisational unit Soft, who have recently been boosting their profile with their 2000 release Bonjour Bounshanfarm and their first national tour.

Another unusual Japanese offering will be Gocoo, a 12-member, all-woman Japanese percussion group who reinvent traditional Japanese taiko for the trance world. Also on hand will be DJ Artman, the latest incarnation of DJ Kudo, an inspiration to many younger DJs with his late '80s sets at the Cave in Shibuya. Kaoru Inoue (aka Chari Chari), and Utsumi Izuru (aka Izzy) are two of Japan's hottest current world music-influenced house DJs, and have both released convincing albums over the past year.

Meanwhile, Shur-I-kan, ebz and Koss, all members of the UK-Japan soundofspeed sound system introduced in these pages last week, will also be on hand.

From the Japanese trance scene, Ubar Tmar, who has just released the album Eigou Kaiki (Panorama/Techno Flux) and psychedelic trance-rock unit Kinocosmo (formed by leading DJs including Ree K and Masa) will be offering hard-hitting live sets.

For the visual element, Italian installation artists and Equinox regular Avikal will blow minds with what must be the most imaginative string sculptures to be seen at any techno party.

Hotaka Mountain Festival@Hotaka Bokujou Campsite (Gunma Prefecture), 8/11-12, JY8000 (adv), JY10,000 (door). Bus tour JY17,000. Info: Odyssey 3796-9999. 

Ralph Lawson
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