Being based within an hour of the majority of London gigs I go to during any given year puts one in a rare and privileged position. Because it is everyday life for me it is easy to loose sight of just how fortunate I am. The opportunity for gig going in Japan (where I spend much of my free time) is, in comparison, severely limited and expensive. Nevertheless, I'm always on the look out for a musical evening out, however few and far between they may be. So, whilst only a club night and not a full-blown gig of live bands, when I heard a friend was DJ-ing at something called "Mute Club Night" in Tokyo around the same time we were planning on next being in the country we made sure our travel plans coincided with the event.
Nestled in the basement of an everyday Shibuya district street, Bar Shifty was quite possibly the smallest musical venue I have ever been to! Indeed, it is hard to imagine how they could fit anything other than a single individual as a live act here and still have space for an audience. But that doesn't seem to be the aim. A simple square space, the venue is entered via a set of stairs at the bottom of which is a ticket booth where we exchanged our Yen for a voucher. Typical of the convention in Japan, this voucher covers both entry price and includes two free drinks of choice. A door to our right was opened and we were immediately on the dancefloor. To our left a small, boxed-in bar. Ahead of us the elevated, and also boxed-in, DJ-booth. To the right a boxed-in seating bench and smoking area. With black-painted walls throughout, the whole space little more than 3m2. In contrast to the spartan, almost industrial decor, a lone mirrorball scattered multiple shards of light crystals around Bar Shifty, successfully softening the otherwise hard edges of this stygian box.
The bricks and mortar may have lacked size and charm, but the crowd it steadily drew in more than made up for any venue shortcomings, creating an overwhelmingly positive vibe with their unadultered enthusiasm. It also appeared that some of the Tokyo club-scene cogniscenti were in attendance, with DJ's from other clubs on the circuit, as well as the publisher of the incredible book "80s Romance" guide to bands from the 1980s; all drinking, chatting and dancing alongside the hardcore Mute fans in attendance. There were no less than seven DJs on the bill. Each doing two sets and, as the title of the event set out, all were limited to spinning purely from the Mute Records catalogue.For those of a certain age who, like me, grew up with the Mute label from when it started, but largely switched off when they broadened their roster of artistes and musical styles, the name Mute is synonymous with the defining sound of English electronic music that emerged in the post-punk era as the 1970s transformed into the 1980s. When Mute started releasing records by bands who were built around guitars rather than synthesisers I lost interest. Due to this skewed perspective I kinda expected the DJs to be spinning what sounded like a random selection from my vinyl record collection, figuring I'd be able to identify every artist and song. This naïve assumption only proved how out of touch I am with the Mute label! Of course, there were plenty of the staples in there, but there was an awful lot that had me going up to the DJ booth to see the record/CD sleeve they all placed for the punters to review just so I could identify the artist. This was both an eye-opener (there was more than one name I'd never even heard of before tonight) and reaffirmed my preference for seeing Mute Records as existing only in a glorious and electronic heavy bubble of their first decade.
[Photos - left to right: helix, echo, nozap!!]
1st - “What It Means” - Barry Adamson, “Uphill” - Can, “Baby Turns Blue” - Virgin Prunes, "Judy In Disguise” - Silicon Teens, “Down To The Underground” - Client, “Other Too Endless (Vince Clarke Remix)” - Polly Scattergood, “Running Out” - Andy Bell, “Rocket” - Goldfrapp
2nd - “Theme From S'Express” - S'Express, “Where Are You Baby?” - Betty Boo, “Beach Bump” - Baby Ford, “Los Ninos Del Parque (Official Delkom Live Mix – Vocal)” - Liaisons Dangereuses, “Control I'm Here” - Nitzer Ebb, “Der Amboss” - Die Krupps (feat. Client), “Wir Sind Keine Freunde” - Andreas Dorau, “Take A Chance On Me” - Erasure
1st “Millionspiel ” - CAN, “Skills”- Add N To (X), “Wail (Mario Mix)” - Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, “Test Anxiety” - Toenut, “Amber Hands” - S.C.U.M., “We Share Our Mothers' Health (Radio Edit)” - The Knife, “Beatbox Rocker” - Westbam, “Find My Baby” - Moby, “Sorrow Town” - Peach, “Victim Of Love (Komputer Mix)” - Erasure
2nd “Skin Of The Night” - M83, “Tokyo (We Want To Go To)” - Komputer, “Warm Leatherette” - The Normal, “Ricky's Hand” - Fad Gadget, “No Good [State The Dance]” - The Prodigy, “People Are People” - Depeche Mode, “Lie-Werk” - Kraftbach, “Let Your Body Learn (Seven Inch Edit)” - Nitzer Ebb
1st “Gewalt” - DAF, “In Every City?” - Wire, “Shame ＜Mix One＋Radio＞”- Nitzer Ebb, “Cyborg” - M83, “Die Kleinen Und Die Bösen” - DAF, “Space Walk” - Komputer, “VCA” - Vince Clarke, “Goodbye 70's (Black Light Odyssey Remix) + (Live)” - Yazoo, “World In My Eyes (Cicada Remix) + (Live)” - Depeche Mode, “Single Blip” - VCMG
2nd “Lovely Head (Miss World Mix)” - Goldfrapp, “Freelove (Bertrand Burgalat Version)” - Depeche Mode, “Midnight Trip (N29 Mix)” - Fortran 5, “The Killing Ground (Ambient Version)＋(Solid State Mix)” - Recoil, “F.I.A.T.”+”tanz mit laibach (Album Version)”+ “(Umek "Upbeat" Remix)”+ “(Johannes Heil "Crucified" Remix)” - Liabach, “Murderous (Phil Kieran Remix)” - Nitzer Ebb, “20 Volts of Steel” - Motor
1st “Brixton” - Renegade Soundwave, “Eardrum Buzz (12” Version)” - Wire, “Hypnotised (Daniel Miller Remix)” - Cabaret Voltaire, “Hypnotised” - Mark Stewart, “Just Talk” - AC Marias, “Let’s Build A Car” - Swell Maps, “Persian Blues” - Fortran 5, “Plaster Casts of Everything” - Liars, “Sonic Destroyer” - X-101, “Stato Agrepo (Remix) - Delkom, “Stop! In The Name of Love” - Matador, “Twilight of The Idols” - SPK, “You Really Got Me” - Silicon Teens, “Zoo Music Girl” The Birthday Party
1st “Proud Evolution (Thom Yorke 500 QD Remix)” - Liars, “My Trancelucent Hands” - I Start Counting, “Hot on the Heels of Love” - Throbbing Gristle, “Israel” - SPK, “Nag Nag Nag” - Cabaret Voltaire, “Drill” - Wire, “Feurio ! (Remix)” - Einsturzende Neubauten, “Everything Counts (Oliver Huntmann + Stephan Bodzin dub)” - Depeche Mode
“Jack The Ripper” - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, “Iron Destiny” - NON,
“Final Countdown (7'' Euro Mix)” - Laibach, “Heathan Child (Andy
Weatherall Remix)” - Grinderman, “Side Grinder (Darkus Mix)” -
Einsturzende Neubauten, “Falshes Fullsel” - Holger Hiller, “Consumed
(MS's Voiceprint Mix)” - Mark Stewart, “Collapsing New People” - Fad