I planned on going home early Saturday night, as I had spent the entire day at the junior high school participating in the annual sports festival. Being out in the sun had left me looking like two-thirds of Neopolitan ice cream and I wanted to sleep. At some point later in the day, though, my editor at The Japan Times texted me to say he had gotten himself and a plus-one onto the guest list for an event hosted by Tokyo label Maltine Records. With the assurance we would catch the last train, I decided to go.
Maltine Records is a netlabel dealing in every mutation of electronic music, the artists they release dabbling in everything from drum ‘n’ bass to dubstep to techno. Their personal touch, though, is the use of anime samples - many tracks put out by Maltine feature dialog lifted from anime, simply because the folks making the music like watching anime. One of my first articles for The Japan Times was about them if you’d like to learn more.
This club event was held in Kabukicho, one of the seedier parts of Tokyo, a place where I can count on white-suited men turning to me to ask “sex? Japanese girl?” while making pretty detailed gestures at me. Maltine rented out an old burlesque club, the type of place that was booming during Japan’s bubble era but now is just a relic of richer economic times.
I didn’t know how many people liked Maltine before the elevator doors opened - the answer is a lot. The club, relatively spacious despite having a catwalk running down the center, was packed. The line for drinks wrapped around half the room. The area near the stage, meanwhile, throbbed as people danced along to the music the various Maltine artists were playing that night.
The music jumped all over the place, but always remained populist, which is something that can’t be said for many of the other indie dance nights across Tokyo. Of the four performers I saw, three played brostep without any winking - even more, most of the songs remixed anime (or at least including anime samples) into dubstep. At one point, someone played a juke remix of Perfume’s “Polyrhythm.” The weirdest moment, though, was when one DJ simply played an unedited version of Dead Prez’s “Hip Hop” - cred wasn’t on the line, dudes just played whatever they wanted and the crowd ate it up.
The sounds, though plenty interesting and worthy of more attention, weren’t the most interesting aspect of this club night. It was the people who had come out to the Maltine event who grabbed my eyes, a mix of folks from all sorts of background converging into this bubble-era club, united by a netlabel. Besides bringing in fans of electronic music, Maltine also pulls in fans of anime and tech-oriented folks - both of whom came out in big numbers. The prior peaked with people in full-on cosplay mode, dressed up as popular anime and video game characters. The latter, meanwhile, brought their laptops with them to the club, parked themselves at a table and took advantage of Maltine’s free wi-fi (which, unrelated, was amazing, because Tokyo is a notoriously difficult place to find free wi-fi). They sat their, glued to the screen, some of them working on music while others appeared to creating videos while others…just logged onto the Internet.
The most interesting application of the free wi-fi, though, came from those who took their computers onto the dancefloor and USTREAMED themselves bobbing along to the music…presumably for other people in the very room to look at. It was the weirdest sight of a very strange night - seeing men and women buggin’ out to a bass drop, all while holding on tight to a computer that was capturing their face for people on the Internet to watch.
It was a strange crossroads between the world of now - the USTREAMing of one dancing, the dubstep - with what felt like something ripped from a cyberpunk movie. It also was genuinely fun, the first time in a while I’ve been to an event in Tokyo that didn’t feel like it was being monitored by some secret cred police. I write this not to make some grand statement (hope you enjoyed this information at the end!) but rather as a way to just sorta document what I saw…and I didn’t even mention the machines they built that were like perpetual applause machines.
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