eleven opening with Guti and Fumiya Tanaka

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  • There has been much handwringing the past few years about the state of support for quality electronic music in Tokyo. There is a virtual monopoly held by large clubs, some which specifically cater for house and techno fans, namely Womb and multi-purpose spaces like Unit and Liquid Room which also double as concert venues. All have satisfying sound systems, and, more importantly, are profitable—one of the principal concerns for Tokyo promoters when considering the huge costs of flying over international acts to play. Each venue has its specific pros and cons, but the general overall complaint seems to be a lack of direction since the closure of Spacelab Yellow in 2008. Occasionally bordering on the self-obsessed with its insistence in declaiming itself as more of a concept than a simple nightclub, it had a long history in Tokyo of being the first to promote uncommercial electronic music over the course of its 16 years. Photo credit: Ryu Kasai As such, the recent news of Yellow's reopening in the same place with much of the old team was greeted, unsurprisingly, with rabid excitement. The resurrection of sacred cows, however, often doesn't live up to expectation. And in the case of eleven—the new name adopted by Yellow—this was very much the case on the second night of its re-opening weekend. Outside the venue and all the way down the stairs, was a dense wall of enormously elaborate standing bouquets, each labeled with the names of the other clubs and bars around Tokyo. (It's a custom in Japan for your competitors to welcome new establishments in this way.) The decoration was equally as extravagant, all luxury office block marble walls and anonymous minimalist bar spaces; this was definitely not what I imagined would greet me in eleven. Before, it had an all-white barspace, a large staircase which descended down onto the dance floor and the kind of complex lighting which made the dance floor feel both expansive but yet cosy. This was all gone, understandably considering the circumstances, but it somehow seemed rushed and—worst of all—extremely sterile. The ceiling felt much lower on the dance floor, and there were large branded posters on the walls of the bar. Photo credit: Ryu Kasai Thankfully the crowd were in high spirits and the place was at a perfect capacity, many probably burnt out from Francois K's roadblocked opener the night before and some presumably staying away out of fear of such a roadblock. Desolat new kid, Guti, was first up, playing a live set of upbeat techy house, chucking in a load of brass and piano loops as a tip to his jazz background. Unfortunately, he wasn't done any favours by the sound system, which either blew or hadn't been burned in properly yet. The lows were completely distorted and rattling, which is something very rarely experienced in a country that prides itself on the care taken over sound. At this point, though, the entire dance floor did a volte face as Fumiya Tanaka stormed on in a booth on the other side of the room. Perhaps this was done because of the speaker malfunction or simply to make the transition between live PA and DJ easier, but nevertheless the sound definitely seemed a lot cleaner later on and not just due to beer having dulled my ear's frequency response range. Photo credit: Ryu Kasai Tanaka, like Francois K, has a long running association at Yellow, his monthly Chaos nights always proving extremely popular. Tanaka is king of the wee hours, with an ability to weave extremely surprising record selections into a very consistent groove. There was no discussion of a "narrative" in his set on this night, though, as he launched right in with Detroit bangers, house jackers and at one point the filthy moans of Mike Dunn's "The Pressure Cooker." One of the best things about Yellow was its liberal treatment of closing times, which in a town with strict adherence to licensing laws was a godsend, and true to form, Tanaka was still grinding the floor up at a very late hour of the morning. One of the promoters told me earlier in the evening that the interiors had been purposefully done to seem sterile in order to ease the granting of a license and that they were slowly going to inject the old character back in over time. Let's hope this dawn of a new beginning has been artificially induced with greater promise to come and not just as it stands now, simply premature.