The Tale of the Monkey Forest and Glaass Lounge in Nagano

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Matsumoto Castle in Nagano, Japan.

Nearly two years ago, I ventured north into the mountainous region of Nagano with two missions to accomplish.  The first was to see the famous hotspring-loving monkeys in Jigokudani.  Though a lot of monkeys in Asia are known to be feisty, the Japanese macaque (also known as snow monkeys) are said to be pretty relaxed.  It’s probably due to the fact that they have their own 24-hour hotspring to themselves.  The second objective was to go to a rare event in Matsumoto called Glaass Lounge.  This party is a gathering of house and techno enthusiasts that goes all night, and on this particular weekend Carpainter and Seimei of Trekkie Trax were to appear.  The stars had aligned for the ultimate weekend and I couldn’t be more excited!

 

Jigokudani Monkey Park

As soon as I arrived to Nagano Station, I went to the ticket office and purchased a day pass for Jigokudani Park.  The park is about an hour bus ride from the station, but you have the chance to see rare scenes of the countryside so it’s not a bad trip.  From the bus stop, the walk to the monkey park is about 30 mins through a lush pine forest.  When you get to the top of a hill in the mountains, you will see dozens of monkeys running through a roped-off area full of hotsprings:

Though you sadly cannot enter the hotsprings with the monkeys, you can get pretty close to them.  Often they will go under the ropes and leisurely mingle with people.  It is advised not to look them directly in the eyes because that is a sign of aggression.  Also there are notices posted not to feed them and to be careful with your bags (a.k.a. common sense).  I would allow yourself at least 1.5 hours to fully enjoy the park.  The monkeys are quite fun to observe and the mountain air feels lovely.

Besides the monkeys, the scenery surrounding the park made it worth the trip.  The mountain backdrop on the lake looked like something straight out of a postcard.  Plus hiking through the forest was an awesome workout and I saw many beautiful rivers along the way.  You can see the Japanese Alps from here too:

Admission Fee: 800 yen to enter the park // 3200 yen for admission to the park and roundtrip bus fare (I recommend this option unless you rent a car)

Although I had fun here, the day I went the monkeys weren’t particularly interesting in bathing even though it was cold out and there was snow on the ground.  Hakodate in Hokkaido has a better monkey onsen that you can see.  The monkeys there seem to love hotsprings more than the monkeys I saw here, but both are worth checking out.

Food

Due to having to catch a train into the city that night, I didn’t have a lot of time to look for places to eat but fortunately Nagano Station had me covered.  I managed to find some amazing kitsune udon (noodles topped with a thin layer of fried tofu), and oyaki (stuffed dumplings).  I was happy to see they had a number of vegetarian options and were very cheap to order individually.  Oyaki are a Nagano specialty so definitely try them if you get the chance!  You can find them literally all over the place in a variety of flavors.

Glaass Lounge

I arrived at Studio SONIC around 11pm when Glaass Lounge had just kicked off.  The club had a simple setup with a DJ booth in the front and a bar to the side, but since it was compact it was easy to socialize with people.  I found my friends immediately and told them the story of the bathing monkeys.  It felt great to experience the music scene of Matsumoto out here in the mountains.  A number of these DJs come to Tokyo events every once in a while too.

Monolith Slip, a duo of two music producers from this area were one of my favorite acts.  They create a lot of rave music and were featured on an earlier Haka Gang x Trekkie Trax compilation:

Besides them, I of course enjoyed seeing Carpainter as the featured guest.  As always, his techno/house mixes are amazing:

This party went on until 5am and was an experience I’ll never forget.  I haven’t been back to Nagano in over 2 years, but if there are more music events like these in the fture then I’ll definitely be tempted!

Address: 2 Chome-5-6 Fukashi, Matsumoto, Nagano 390-0815

Access

From Tokyo Station, take the Hokuriku-Shinkansen to Nagano Station.  This will take 2 hours and costs 8400 yen one way.  From Nagano Station you can take a bus to the monkey forest and the Shinano Limited Express to reach Matsumoto City.  All tickets can be purchased on they day you arrive, but if you are coming during a holiday I would book them in advance.  I would recommend 2 days and 1 night here to see everything.

Since I didn’t have a lot of money at time, I stayed at a net cafe called Carefree Cafe for a few hours after the party.  However, there are a lot of great hotspring resorts and ryokan you can stay in that are better!  Booking usually has some great deals depending on what you are looking for.

 

 

The Future Legacy of Super Dance Tools: Carpainter at Planet Cafe, Hamamatsu

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Carpainter plays a 90 minute set at EFEKT’s 7th Anniversary at Planet Cafe, Shizuoka.

During my backpacking trip to the Capybara Zoo of Japan, I spent an entire night dancing at Carpainter’s Future Legacy Tour held at Planet Cafe in Hamamatsu.  I had previously attended the album’s original release party at Contact Tokyo in December, but I wanted to travel here so I could experience the music scene in Shizuoka in addition to seeing him perform at a rare venue.  This particular event was not only a release party, but it was also combined with EFEKT’s 7th Anniversary.  In this article I will be reporting my experience at Planet Cafe and also talking about Carpainter’s latest releases: Future Legacy and Super Dance Tools Vol. 1.

Planet Cafe & EFEKT

Planet Cafe is one of the most famous music venues of Shizuoka located in the populous city of Hamamatsu.  Unlike its name implies, it has the atmosphere of an underground club instead of a cafe.  It’s divided into two rooms with one bar and one DJ booth, making it easy to listen to music and socialize with people.  I found it to be much more laidback than the typical clubs in the Tokyo scene.  The entrance fee was only 2500 yen and well worth the price for the quality of music.  The party lasted from 9pm – 5am so it was quite a long time—almost the duration of a music festival!  There was never a dull moment in the club because the music selection of all the artists was carefully chosen.

EFEKT is an “all style bass sound music” party routinely held by a group of Shizuoka-based DJs at Planet Cafe.  In addition to bass music, you can except to hear a lot of nonstop dance tracks with techno and disco influences here.  At this party in particular, I heard a lot of fire UK Garage tracks which really made me happy.  In addition to Carpainter, they have featured artists such as Licaxxx, submerse, and Chimpo at their previous events at Planet Cafe making the lineup more diverse each time.

Resident DJs: MASKAT, SADA, SUGURU, SINYA (see the EFEKT Twitter for more information).

You can hear a sample mix by MASKAT here:

Address

Planet Cafe
223-1 Motoshirocho, Naka Ward, Hamamatsu, Shizuoka 430-0946

Future Legacy Release Party in Hamamatsu

Future Legacy

Future Legacy is Carpainter’s 3rd official album defined as “The Japanese Techno Revival”.  Its 14 tracks are reminiscent to old school techno and breakbeat music with a bit of house music effects as well.  A recent DOMMUNE article mentions that Carpainter used rich and melodious synthetic sounds in the album’s production influenced by Detroit techno similar to his Orient EP.  Future Legacy also features the usage of female vocals for the first time in the track O.V.E.R. ft. Utae.  The album fuses old techno sounds with Carpainter’s own unique style making it one of the best nonstop dance releases I’ve heard in quite a long time.  I’ve enjoyed keeping up with the album’s production and would rate it quite high in terms of originality.

The album’s first track Re Genesis starts with a slow and simple build that immediately draws you in.  He used this track to open his set at Planet Cafe and it instantly got the crowd excited.  My personal favorites from this album are “Tiger & Dragon”, “Chaos or Order”, and “Declare Victory”.  A big theme of this album is the balance between looping sounds and inserting cuts and breaks to keep the dance spirit alive.  Each song has a unique way of doing this so it’s something you’ll want to keep on repeat for a while! The album ends with the previously mentioned uplifting dance track O.V.E.R. that was originally premiered at Trekkie Trax’s 7th Anniversary.  It truly is a treasure of Japan and is available worldwide:

Planet Cafe

I arrived to Planet Cafe around 11pm which gave me the perfect amount of time to drink and socialize before seeing the special guest performers.  The club attendees were a mostly a mix of Shizuoka locals and people who had traveled from Tokyo to see the event (like myself).  Though I was the only foreigner, I found it very easy to talk to people here.  The number of people that attended this was similar to the Carpainter event at Outer Kochi last year, so overall it was a good crowd and there was lots of room to dance.

Carpainter played a 90 minute set that consisted of a wide range of music including records with songs he grew up hearing in the Netherlands with his brother Seimei.  In addition to tracks from Future Legacy, he also played his previous bangers like PAM!!! and mixed it into an old style of techno music.  It was really fun to watch the crowd’s reaction because no one knew what song was coming next.  My personal favorite was this creative slip-in of “Mr. Roboto” towards the end:

In addition to Carpainter, isagen, a Shizuoka-based DJ and producer was also featured as a special guest in the lineup.  I have previously written about isagen in my LARGE SIZE article last year, but he has really grown as a skilled DJ since my last article.  In his set at Planet Cafe he played songs from his cgab release on Trekkie Trax as well as tracks I didn’t recognize (which I assume will be part of a future release).

Recently isagen has been featured on THREE THE HARDWARE, which is a unique video project started by tofubeats that demonstrates the production of DTM (desktop music) made with second hand equipment.  A recent video called THIS IS UK STUDIO explores some of the sound effects that isagen and other featured artists have made through experimentation.  This project is inspirational because it shows that you can make virtually any sound on your hardware with the right technique:

My clubbing experience in Hamamatsu was unforgettable and I hope to come back here in the future to listen to new types of music!

Super Dance Tools Vol. 1

Super Dance Tools (Vol. 1) is the latest release by Carpainter which contains 17 tracks over 5 minutes designed to be used as “tools” for DJs.  The loops with the combination of acid techno and hard techno sounds make it an addictive dance album by itself, but it sounds even better when the songs are skillfully transitioned into other songs during sets.  The album has gained international praise by artists such as Anna Lunoe, and the songs have been featured on London radio shows such as NTS.

You can listen to a preview of the album below:

A great example of Super Dance Tools being utilized is in this video of Addison Groove’s Getterfunk Takeover set where “B-Reverse” is played:

My top picks on this album are “Supernova” and “Drifting” because they have a nice build that makes me want to loop them on repeat for hours, but “1994” comes as an unexpected surprise because it ends the album on a mellow note.  I hope to see more artists use these tools to create unique sounds, and anticipate the possibility of more volumes in the future.

Final Remarks

Carpainter will always be one of my favorite artists in Japan because he has introduced me to so many styles of music through his DJ sets.  Despite being from Michigan, I had no idea what Detroit Techno sounded like until I heard him describe it in his interviews as a major influence of songs he produced for Orient and Declare Victory.  The people that I’ve met through his events continually inspire me to listen to new music and travel around Japan to experience it in different places.  I am excited to see what direction his music takes him in the future and hope that someday he fulfills his dream of debuting in the UK.  If that happens, I will definitely be looking more into the UK music scene as well!

For more information, please see:

Entering Capybara Heaven at Izu Shaboten Zoo (Shizuoka, Japan)

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Capybara freely bathe in an orange-filled hotspring at Izu Shaboten Zoo.

Last weekend on my backpacking journey through Shizuoka prefecture to see Carpainter perform in Hammamatsu, I decided to stop in Izu to see the infamous hotspring-loving capybara of Japan.  Izu Shaboten Zoo is one of the few places in the world where you can get up close with these large adorable rodents and see them bathe in a natural hotspring filled with oranges (which are a specialty of this prefecture).  Native to South America, capybaras are mammals with webbed-feet that are quite well-mannered around humans and other animals.  Like platypuses, capybaras enjoy being both on land and in water with a diet consisting of mostly grass and dried plants.  The ones at Izu Shaboten are easy to approach and very entertaining to watch in the bath!

Exploring Izu Shaboten Zoo

In addition to capybaras, there are also a number of other rare animals housed here including red pandas, kangaroos, unique species of birds, and reptiles.  I’ve been to a lot of zoos in Asia, but I highly recommend this one because it’s less like a zoo and more like a wildlife conservation area.  The natural habitat of each animal is preserved as much as possible and they all seem to be in great health.  Being up close to kangaroos reminded me of my trip to Australia last summer!  This place truly didn’t feel like Japan because other zoos in this country are comparably small in size.

I spent the most time in the Capybara Rainbow Pen (an area separate from the bath) feeding and petting the ones that wanted attention.  You can purchase capybara grass for 200 yen and they will be eternally grateful for your kindness!

Outside from the capyabaras, I enjoyed watching the red panda diligently march on its tree branch.  A Japanese couple beside me describe its movements as “ゴロゴロ” (I love accidentally overhearing people so I am able to learn new words everyday).

Another of my favorite places was the cactus garden, because you can purchase cheap capybara pots and customize your favorite cacti to take home.  Just all of the detail that was put into this attraction amazes me:

You can also take a boat ride around the park because it has a small river that runs through it and leads to other areas, but I chose to explore most of the park on-foot so I could capture more angles with my GoPro.  I would recommend spending at least 3 hours here because there is a lot to see and do━especially if you are a photographer.

Eating a Capybara Burger

At the Gibbon restaurant found near the entrance of the zoo, no one eats alone!!  That’s because there is a huge stuffed capybara sitting at every table to keep you company.  I came here on Valentine’s Day, so this cabybara date made it the most memorable one of my life.  Getting back to the food—the burger was made of fresh bread and was delicious (I customized mine to be vegetarian).  If I had more room for food I would have tried the omelet rice duck because it looked pretty aesthetic from the menu picture.  For a full list of restaurants, please see the official site.

Buying Capybara Souvenirs

My apartment in Tokyo is already full of stuffed animals that friends have won for me, but I could not pass up the chance to buy an adorable stuffed capybara holding an orange here.  I also bought some chocolat baumkuchen (cake) for my friend.  Everything here was extremely well-priced compared to other zoos because I only payed around 1200 yen for the plushie and 800 yen for the cake.  I already want to come back in the summer to buy more capybara merch!  Also, the restaurant signs here made me laugh:

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Mt. Omuro

Right beside the Izu Shaboten Zoo stands Mt. Omuro, which is an inactive volcano you can take a lift up for 700 yen.  Since I decided to go to the ropeway in Atami, I skipped this attraction, but it is worth seeing if you have time.  There are cute little shops you can look at while you’re waiting for the bus too.

Getting to Izu Shaboten Zoo

From Tokyo Station I took the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen to Atami, then the Ito Line to Ito Station, and finally a local bus to the zoo.  This costs around 5000 yen and takes 2.5 hours.  You can easily do this as a day trip, but I spent 3 days in this prefecture because there are a number of things to see besides the capybara (which I will get into in my next articles).

Entrance to the zoo is 2300 which may seem expensive, but with the diverse number of animals they have here I think the price is fair.

Address

Izu Shaboten Zoo, 1317-13 Futo, Itō, Shizuoka 413-0231

Final Remarks

Izu Shaboten Zoo was by far my best experience with animals in Japan because I got the chance to pet capaybaras in addition to seeing other rare species.  The zoo has a adorable theme with the hotspring and petting zoos which makes it a suitable attraction for all ages.  Since it’s more remote from the major cities of Japan that means it’s less crowded.  If I decide to go again, I will combine this with a trip to Shirahama Beach which is a little further south of here.  I will be writing more about my adventures in Shizuoka Prefecture over the next coming days, so please look forward to them because this is only the beginning!

Exploring Shikoku & Seeing Carpainter at Outer Kochi

I never would have dreamed that there was a club scene in the countryside of Japan, but through my travels I have learned that there is an underground scene basically everywhere–you just have to find it!  This time I went on a pilgrimage to Shikoku for the purpose of seeing Carpainter and Onjuicy perform at a venue called Outer located in Kochi.  I was very surprised to meet some very kind friends and enjoy the sights and sounds of a unique part of the country that I had never been to before!

I flew to Kochi from Tokyo a day before the event started so I had enough time to explore the city by myself.  When the plane landed, all I could see was rice fields and I didn’t know exactly where I was, but I knew it was about to be lit.  With a short bus ride to the station, I found that most of Kochi’s attractions were accessible by foot or via a cheap bus ride.  I grabbed some wine from the convenience store, and began my sightseeing trek around the city!

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I first stopped at Kochi Castle, which was quite a lovely sight to see.  I’ve been to a lot of white castles in Japan, but I liked this one because it involved a lot of climbing to reach the top and you could walk all around the castle!  Often you can only access certain parts of castles in Japan, but this one you can fully explore to your heart’s content.

Nearby the castle is the Harimaya Bridge, which is a super tiny bridge located near souvenir shops and the Sunday Market which is fun to see.  I stayed in the Kochi Green Hotel right in this area which my friend helped me get a coupon for only 3000 yen per night.

On the way back I decided to check out the Hirome Market for some delicious sea urchin and egg-like sushi.  There was also a disco ball and a giant tower of fries to see, along with many stalls selling beer and other novelties:

This market was very fun to see because it was so lively.  At all times of the day, you can see people drinking here.  There’s a great selection of seafood, noodles, yakiniku, desserts, and sake!  I could tell that the people of Kochi take a lot of pride in this market, because not only is the food good, but it is also a place where a lot of people come together and pass time.

The final destination on my list before the club was Katsurahama Beach!  Overlooked by the historic shogun Sakamoto Ryoma, this beach had a garden and stunning scenery.  I wouldn’t say it was the most beautiful beach in Japan, but it is definitely worth seeing if you are in Shikoku.

After spending a few hours here, I took a bus back to my hotel and started pregaming for the club.  This event was very special because it was the first time that Carpainter and Onjuicy performed together in Kochi, and also the first time Carpainter had ever been a back-up DJ for an MC (original Tweet).

As a foreigner with blonde hair, I definitely stood out but that was okay because everyone was very welcoming to me here.  I said hello to my 2 friends from Tokyo and proceeded to get drinks at the bar while they got ready for their set.  The event organizer greeted me and personally thanked me for coming all the way here because it was quite a long trip from Tokyo.  I thanked him back for having such a great event, and proceeded to be given shots by some locals and also one of the performing DJs.

The environment of Outer is quite different from clubs in Tokyo because everyone there makes an effort to get to know one another, plus with an indoor and outdoor area it’s quite spacious for moving and dancing around.  It’s not to say you can’t find a venue like this in Tokyo, but often you will find that the city is overcrowded and full of people who just want to party without paying attention to the music.  The crowd here was all very respectful and I really appreciated the time I had here!

During their performance, PAM!!! was played in addition to one of Onjuicy’s unreleased songs:

It was overall extremely fun to be so up-close to the performers and share the thrill  with the countryside people of Kochi.  I am excited to see the next place I end up following my friend’s tour!

“Moment” by Bahi JD Exhibition at Shinjuku Ophthalmologist Gallery

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Framed album artwork for Carpainter’s “Returning” (2017).

If you have any interest in animation, please stop by the Shinjuku Ophthalmologist Gallery and check out this amazing exhibition by Austrian artist Bahi JD, who has worked as a key animator for various Japanese companies and has created many original designs. Not only has he drawn covers for Carpainter albums (“Returning” and “Digital Harakiri”), but he’s also drawn his own original manga (“地球のマグノリア”) and has worked intricately animating scenes of Blade Runner, Fate/Apocrypha, SSSS.GRIDMAN, and more, as well as his own original GIFs that went viral. I’m really lucky I had the opportunity to meet him here, as I have cherished his art for a while!

For those who would like to see the in-depth animation process behind his works; a room of the gallery is covered with stills and a looping video so you can see each individual frame of his original animation up close:

Most recently Bahi has created the storyboard for and directed the beautiful opening for the anime “Carole and Tuesday” which premiered April 10, 2019:

The dynamic colors and physics he uses in his animations are quite unique and highly entertaining to watch! I hope people who are interested in working in animation can see this, as he is a major inspiration as a foreign artist that is very successful now in Japan.  

For more information on his work, please see his online portfolio, and stop by this gallery which will be available until July 3rd, 2019.  There will likely be more of his works display in the future, which I will be sure to visit and write about!

LARGE SIZE at Kyoto Metro

Last weekend, I traveled all the way from Tokyo to Kyoto to attend a thrilling electronic music event called LARGE SIZE at the underground music club Kyoto Metro.  LARGE SIZE not only featured Japanese indie artists from the Kansai region (Kyoto and Osaka), but also Trekkie Trax Crew from Tokyo, and isagen (the event organizer) from Shizuoka, Japan, along with a selection of other talented music producers from around the area.

Located in the basement Jingu-Marutamachi Station of Kyoto City, this was a highly-anticipated event that united many music fans from all over Japan because it showcased talent from some of the most well-known independent record labels and underground artists that are currently trackmaking and producing music.  In this article, I aim to introduce the artists I saw and write recommendations of their music in English.

The original timetable for this event was listed below (note that “Carpainter” is actually the correct spelling of the artist listed at 17:30).  The event lasted for approximately 5 hours, and tickets were originally sold at 2800 yen (purchasable online, and for extra money at the door):

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Arriving at close to the start of the event, I was luckily able to see the majority of isagen’s 50 minute set.  isagen produces his own desktop music, DJs at events, and also is the trackmaker for his band unit called POLPTOM.  In 2018, isagen released an EP on Trekkie Trax called c.b.a.g, which you can listen to on his Soundcloud below:

Though this EP is tagged as dance and EDM, you can tell from the very beginning that it is not the typical kind of dance music you expect!  isagen’s music really has a unique vibe sounding both progressive and abstract at the same time.  As the event organizer, he did an amazing job of making the crowd excited and earning the respect of other artists, even though he was the opener!  I was surprised to see the club was already crowded at opening time, and the majority of people there had their full attention directed at his performance.  Though I have seen isagen perform in Tokyo before, I could tell that he put a lot of work into ensuring that this was one of his best performances yet!

The next artist was one of my personal favorites, in the blue shirt from Kyoto City.  Having previously announced the release of his new album in April via Twitter, everyone was surprised to see him open with his own banger remix of “If I ain’t got you” by Alicia Keys and then mix his newly produced music into it:

in the blue shirt will always be one of my top artists because he puts so much of himself into his music, and each time her performs he plays exclusive and unreleased songs that you can only hear during his performances.  His music will make you feel nostalgic, energized, moved, and inspired at the same time.  Using a complex range of samples and chords, below is one of my favorite mixes he has uploaded to his Soundcloud:

Another reason I love in the blue shirt is because he designs a lot of his own merchandise. His sticker is an adorable digital drawn mascot that resembles Parappa the Rapper, and his clothes feature a blue shirt logo he created himself with Adobe Illustrator:

Since his performances are relatively rare, I always pick up his merchandise whenever I get the chance!  Not only is it fashionable, but it is also comfortable and a truly magnificent display of aesthetic art.  I was extremely grateful to see this set before the official promotion of his new album!

Next up was Pasocon Music Club (パソコン音楽クラブ) who played an absolutely amazing acid techno set.  They are a duo that write a lot of desktop music resembling nostalgic game music, but recently they have been trying out a variety of styles.  People around me went really hard during their set and I enjoyed seeing them for the 2nd time!  Previously I saw them at an event called STRUCT in Osaka, and it was amazing because people remembered me (as one of the few foreigners) that attended!  Here is one of my favorite releases Pasocon Music Club has had on Maltine Records:

Though I was already mindblown from the high quality of music I had already witnessed, this was still just the very beginning of the fantastic sets I was about to hear.  Carpainter‘s live set featuring songs from his recently released Declare Victory EP (which was officially on-sale the day before LARGE SIZE), was absolutely earth-shattering!  I will write a separate review for Declare Victory at a later time, but for now here is the featured track which I recorded below:

Though this EP was just recently released, Carpainter has had this music produced for a while now.  During Trekkie Trax’s 6th Anniversary on the weekend of Halloween, he played a set that was entirely breakbeat, techno, and old school rave-styled with a bunch of tracks that he would later release February of 2019.  What’s even more amazing is that Virtual Self dropped Carpainter’s “Sylenth Warrior” along with Otira’s remix of “Mission Accepted” at their set in the US just less than a week before they came out:

Watching this all unfold at an underground club outside of Tokyo was an amazing experience!  I enjoyed the change of scenery and also meeting new friends that shared similar tastes and feelings about these artists.  I connect to Japanese people best by listening to music and sharing these exciting experiences with them!

After Carpainter, batsu, an artist from Osaka, began his set with Carpainter’s “EXCITE” and immediately set the crowd into a unanimous cheer:

Batsu is a producer that is really good at mixing and engaging the audience.  I have seen him perform various times in both Tokyo and Kansai, and his mixes are always upbeat and easy to dance to while paying homage to various artists.  Just recently he posted his own WIP of “Face my Fears” from Kingdom Hearts, and also did a mix for Trekkie Trax Radio featuring a ton of artists from this event.  He was overall an essential artist in making this event a huge success!

After Batsu’s energized set, everyone’s favorite crew, Trekkie Trax, made their appearance onstage (consisting of andrew, Carpainter, Seimei, and futatsuki):

In this set, Trekkie Trax played a lot of music from their own artists including Carpainter Qrion, Cola Splash, and also premiered part of their label’s upcoming release of “Trip” by Native Rapper.  My personal favorite part of their set was when andrew mixed a KiNK song into “Quick Turn” by Qrion.  By this time, everyone was jumping up and down and cheering, because this was the first time that Trekkie Trax has ever played at Kyoto Metro, and it was an extremely memorable set!

The last artist that performed was metome, an original music producer from Osaka.  This was my very first time listening to them so it is difficult for me to write a proper review, but similar to isagen, they seem to produce a lot of abstract music with unique sampling that bends your mind.  It was neat because the event ended with a similar vibe to how it started.  This is my favorite song from their Soundcloud:

Overall, I really enjoyed this event because it was very organized, all of the artists played with their maximum effort, and it was easy to talk to people and make friends.  I love to go to events outside of Tokyo as much as I can so I can be exposed to different types of music and learn more about the world around me.  I will definitely come back to Metro and travel to other underground clubs in Japan in the near future.  Please stay tuned for more music news and adventures!

A Steamy Weekend Getaway: Takasaki WOAL & Kusatsu Onsen

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As a free-spirited traveler, I go wherever the wind blows me.  Upon returning to Tokyo from Thailand, I learned that my friends at Trekkie Trax were playing a show at an underground club in Takasaki called WOAL, so immediately I started planning my weekend trip there. I had been through this area before on my way to Niigata for Fuji Rock this summer, but have never gotten off to explore the area, so this was definitely on my bucket list.

Takasaki, the city of luck, is located about 2 hours from Tokyo in Gunma prefecture and is known for its dumplings, daruma dolls, and hotsprings.  The easiest way to get there is by the Joetsu Shinkansen, so I took the very last one from Omiya Station equipped with umeshu and Strong Zeroes to pregame for this all night show (that lasted from 10pm – 5am).  I decided I would stay at a net cafe called Link’s Cafe (for the sole fact that I love Zelda) then immediately go to Kusatsu Onsen when I woke up because that was the cheapest move.  Though there are many onsen scattered around Gunma, Kusatsu is by far the most famous and prettiest!

The atmosphere of WOAL was very friendly and inviting.  It was about an 8 minute walk from the station, but very easy to locate.  As I descended the stairs, I was immediately lost in a world of vibrant rotating neon lights and a boastful sound system.  The bar was conveniently located near the entryway, and by chance I met all of Trekkie Trax there as soon as I walked in!  I was so happy I could make it to their first show of the year, which was located outside of Tokyo (a rare event)!

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it’s a spirtual thing. a body thing. a soul thing. A lo-fi image of my favorite DJ from Trekkie Trax: Carpainter playing in Takasaki, Japan.

At the time I arrived, a Gunma native DJ called Amps was playing.  He is a longtime member of Trekkie Trax and I’ve heard him play juke sets in Tokyo before, but due to the chaos of Tokyo clubs, I had never really got to know him before.  It was wonderful to hear him play in his element.  An example of some of his tracks can be found below, or on his Soundcloud:

Each DJ had one hour to play, and it was great because the club wasn’t very crowded so there was a lot of room to dance!  I had a chance to get to talk to each artist, meet some of the Takasaki locals, and also became friends with one of the resident DJs called Momo who kindly bought me a tequila shot.  I liked this event because all of the artists played the music they wanted and didn’t try to please the crowd.  Everyone here came for the music and it was a great atmosphere.

This whole night felt like a dream to me because in the middle of Carpainter’s set, Andrew brought out a tray of tequila shots, Seimei brought out pizza, and Momo and I were dancing at the very front in this sea of neon lights and banging techno music, so it all just felt unreal.  Tokyo club events like this are usually very crowded and sometimes noisy, but I was able to lose myself completely within the music here at WOAL which is why I love traveling for these smaller shows.  The feeling that I felt here, I will never forget!

What’s funny is the vibration caused from the speakers makes the toilet paper in the restroom fall to the floor, and it’s become somewhat of a meme in the Japan music scene online:

Feeling completely mindblown and fulfilled, the next morning I took the local JR train to Naganohara Kusatsuguchi Station, then took a bus to Kusatsu Onsen and was amazed at this beautiful natural hotspring in the middle of the village:

Much like Takasaki, the atmosphere of this town was friendly and very inviting.  Dozens of street vendors were giving free samples of tea, dumplings, and local sake.  Though there was snow on the ground, the steam from the local onsen was enough to keep me farm.  Feeling hungry, I decided to wander around and find some food first.  There are dumpling shops everywhere, so I decided to try the black sesame ones.  I also found an udon shop called Matsumoto, and tried the udon and mushrooms that Kusatsu is very famous for in tempura form:

After feeling full, I wandered to Sainokawara Park and paid 600 yen to go inside the natural hotspring.  The water was very tepid, but it relaxed my muscles and made my body feel amazing.  I highly recommend this onsen for day trippers, because it is very affordable for those who cannot afford an inn.  Additionally, you can feel very in-tune with nature by sitting on the rocks and watching the moon rise.  Witnessing amazing music followed by bathing in an onsen is the perfect feeling!

Scattered throughout the town, there are many free footbaths that you can use!  Additionally, a friend of mine runs a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) called Hotel Miyuki Annex, so I would recommend staying there, because they are local and quite affordable (my friend is Japanese but speaks nearly perfect English).  At night, the town becomes illuminated and beautiful!  Another recommendation I have is coming during winter, because I think the water in other seasons would be too hot for most people otherwise.  I only stayed here for the day, but most people stay here overnight.  Most of the town you can access on foot, and there are an endless amount of hotsprings for you to try!

Before I took one of the final buses back to civilization, I stopped at a local liquor shop.  They had amazing grape liquor as well as amusing sake and award-winning beer, so I picked up a couple souvenirs for my friends.  You really can’t go wrong with the food and drinks here!

I am now back in Tokyo, but I will never forget the vivid memories I have from this trip.  The people of Gunma treated me with extreme kindness, and the views of the mountains, steamy hotsprings, and neon lights are permanently etched within my mind!  I am grateful I had this as my first trip of 2019!

Carpainter – Orient Review: A Soothing Sensation of Techno for the Soul

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Very recently, Carpainter from Trekkie Trax (Tokyo’s beloved independent record label) released a new EP called “Orient” with roots stemming from Detroit Techno and UK Garage/Funk.  The EP contains two songs; the first titled “Orient” and the second titled “Mottled Pattern”.  Collectively they are composed with upbeat, inspiring melodies that are true to their influences, and are very reflective of Carpainter’s ability of an artist.

What I like most about these songs are they can be listened to in any setting–such as a club, a lounge, or even at home in your room.  While listening to this EP, I definitely feel a funky vibe that is overall upbeat and easy to dance too, but simultaneously, the intricate composition makes you feel reflective and contemplative of life.  It is music that is soothing for the soul, much like classic Detroit Techno:

Orient is a song with an intro that sounds similar to the songs that Carpainter produced on his Returning album, but quickly transforms into an extremely unique and funky melody full of energy.  The clashing techno sounds in the middle of the song make it very compelling to listen to, but the drums in the background make the song consistent.  It is evident he carefully chose the timing of the techno chords and electronic components of the song, and much like Detroit techno, this song possesses a lot of spirituality combined with technology.  What I find amazing is that not many people in Japan are familiar with Detroit techno, but this artist has a firm grasp on how to produce it.

In contrast, Mottled Pattern sounds like it had more of an acid techno and liquid house influence, but much like Orient, the percussion and synthetic beats make it a consistent song that is still very funky.  Much like a pattern that is “mottled” or unclear, the song is ambiguous in nature. It sounds like liquid techno at first, then has unexpected spaceship-like SFX in the middle which make it very peculiar.  However, this is Carpainter’s distinctive style, and what makes him stand out as an artist.  Overall, I like this song just as much as I like Orient because Carpainter put so much of himself into it, yet you can tell he had various techno influences as mentioned above.

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Though I have many positive things to say about this EP, my biggest criticism is it doesn’t actually reflect how much as he has grown as an artist.  In less than one year, Carpainter has done amazing things like open for Virtual Self in Tokyo, tour in Taiwan with the rest of Trekkie Trax, and also has performed at extremely reputable clubs in Tokyo while studying music and building a following of loyal fans.  I have witnessed him perform at techno, anime song, and house events as well as open for foreign performers that come to Japan, and in this single year of 2018 he has improved his abilities more than what this EP reflects.

One reason I love Carpainter as an artist is because he has played more genres than anyone else on his label, and has challenged himself to create music that is much different than what your normally hear from other Japanese artists.  However, if you don’t actively follow his club events and only listen to his music online, then you won’t know how much he’s grown as a producer since his last album (Returning, released in 2017).

Fortunately, Trekkie Trax has premiered more of Carpainter’s unreleased exclusive songs on their radio show, so hopefully Orient is part of a larger and more epic release.  Additionally, the reason of why he chose sunflowers as his cover art remains up to the listener to perceive (and will hopefully be elaborated on in a future interview)!

If you like artists like Lone, Ken Ishii, Disclosure, and various UK Garage artists, then I definitely recommend that you listen to it!

Support Carpainter’s Orient EP through Bandcamp here!