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SKAM night at The Liquid Room

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UK DJs get Tokyo heads and feet moving.

Tokyo, Japan


The listing for a SKAM night at one of Tokyo's hipper clubs was a welcome sight for western eyes that wanted to believe that something more substantial than J-Pop and circa 1996 B-Boyism was flourishing in Japan's biggest metropolis. The last time I was in Japan (1988), the 'in-thing' for Japanese teens was a bastardized version of rockabilly; Elvis was the icon of Western cool. Now it's Hip Hop. I asked someone at a record store in Tokyo if Japanese Hip Hop was any good since hip hop is the cultural bandwagon to whigh 90% of Japanese teens appeared to have hitched their collective wagons, and the clerk apologetically told me "uh, not really." That hip hop, graphiti, and b-boy culture are so universally, if naively, embraced is something of a mystery. But it made the idea of a SKAM night at a local club seem downright unavoidable.

After hours on trains rolling through seemingly endless rows of jumbotrons, neon displays, and buildings that stood 12 stories tall by one room wide, the SKAM night at the Liquid Room brought some closure to the feeling that Tokyo really is a picture of the supermetropolis of the future. Up until we got into the Liquid Room (with its hefty, but I'm told not unusual $40 cover charge) everything kind of looked like Blade Runner, but the sound of the world's third largest and most technologically dazzling city hadn't lived up to the futurist hype.

Gescom quickly put an end to that with the first of two DJ sets for the night, featuring a ripped up mix of broken beats, jagged electro, and tweaked melody that could only be described as the perfect soundtrack for Shinjuku late on a Saturday night. The Liquid Room's impressive sound and unobtrusive decor and lighting put the music rather than the club at the center of focus. Quite amazingly, most of the several hundred people crammed into the club's main stage area were actually dancing, or at least moving in some approximation of dance. After sitting through IDM sets in the states by notables from the Warp, Mego, and Schematic stables, it was liberating that the D in IDM was in full effect in Japan. I got the sense that people didn't know that this music was generally treated with chin-scratching detachment back in the States.

Bola followed the hour long Gescom set with an hour of live performance pulled from his numerous SKAM releases. While the live performance was more interesting to watch than most laptop shows (BOLA actually had a pair of Korg Keyboards and some other gear along with the requisite laptop), I got the feeling that most of the music could have just as easily been played off of a record with the impressive visual display synched up in the background. Still, seeing Bola on stage reminded me of how these kinds of tours never come anywhere near me in the States, and how maybe musicians and performers everywhere would rather play to a club full of kids who payed $50 a pop for a ticket and a bottle of evian, and who actually dance and clap, and appreciate the pure joy of music, than they would tour the US and get hounded after every show about whay kind of plugins they are using by people who sit stoiclly in the back of small clubs mumbing "I can do that effect in SuperCollider".

Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 July 2005 17:38  


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