Turning Japanese: Squarepusher among the snowpeaks

Set amid spectacular mountainous scenery, Taico Club is a music festival where the only highs are provided by the surreal soundtrack to the beautiful surroundings

Another week, another great Japanese music festival comes and goes, this time four hours outside of Tokyo, up in the mountains in the heart of the Nagano prefecture.

Squarepusher has flown in to headline the illustrious Taico Club, which limits its capacity to 7,000, even though it could sell twice as many tickets and still have no trouble accommodating the extra fans at the Yabuhara ski resort where it takes place. Not that being the biggest is the focus here – Taico Club is more about getting the sense of harmony just right. Packing the place out would only undermine people's appreciation of the stunning location.

And what a location. As the sun rises, snow-capped mountains appear dramatically through the early morning mist. The music of Squarepusher – tonight performing with a drum/bass/cacophonous laptop set-up – is a truly surreal soundtrack to these scenes. People gyrate on the huge climbing frame overlooking the stage, oblivious to health and safety rules, while food stalls politely switch off their lights so that all the attention is focused on Tom Jenkinson's frenetic, lo-fi equaliser displays. UK festival-goers might consider Taico Club's location as a great spot for tripping on mushrooms, but apart from alcohol the only highs here are those provided by the environment. Judging by the relentlessly playful nature of the crowd, it's all the buzz they need.

This year saw Squarepusher's label Warp celebrate its 20th anniversary, and Taico Club perfectly captures their frontier-pushing attitude towards music. While Summer Sonic and Fuji Rock, Japan's Reading and Glastonbury counterparts are hoping for bonanza years, the former celebrating its tenth anniversary and the latter set to right the wrongs of last year's fiasco where Primal Scream ended up headlining two nights in a row, the real innovation remains with smaller boutique events like Taico and Greenroom. So if you're heading to Japan, be sure to look a little lower down the events listings to discover a secret festival all for yourself.


Alex Hoban

The GuardianTramp

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