For many, Back To Chill is still synonymous with dubstep. The event, which boasts ENA and 100mado as residents alongside founder Goth-Trad, is now in its ninth year, and its current home – Club Asia, nestled centrally within Shibuya’s infamous love hotel district – is still the definitive place for bassheads looking to get their fix of low-end on a Thursday night. Always a surefire guarantee to host the lowest lows in all of Tokyo, the night has only improved sonically with the introduction of the Broad Axe custom Sound System in 2013. Its attention to detail and constant improvements are proof that Back To Chill has come a long way since its inception (and since the 2007 release of Goth-Trad’s genre anthem of the same name), and now its three biggest names are gearing up to give global audiences a taste of the Tokyo underground.
Thursday’s Boiler Room will not simply showcase three of the country’s most exciting artists, but will also show just how far Back To Chill and its stable of artists have moved on from the realms of conventional dubstep for which they are best known. In recent years, Goth-Trad, ENA and 100mado have each forged ahead with disparate styles of production that, between them, span from maximalist grime through to ambient soundscapes.
Although known abroad almost exclusively for his dubstep productions, thanks to a series of impressive releases on Mala’s Deep Medi Musik imprint through the years, the early discography of Back To Chill bossman Goth-Trad harnessed a range of styles, from breakbeats to industrial noise. His most recognisable hits in recent years – 2011’s ‘Babylon Fall’ and 2012’s ‘Air Breaker’ – might both fall within a conventional 140bpm template, but Goth-Trad has never found himself strictly limiting himself to typical dubstep tropes like many of his contemporaries. If anything, the stomach-churning weight of his trademark sub-bass is the only motif that recurs throughout his productions, and his live sets incorporate the hybrid stylings of techno, noise and dub that have coloured his unique musical style throughout his career.
If Goth-Trad has veered away from the trappings of dubstep, his associate ENA has chosen to eschew them completely. Following on from a number of releases on forward-thinking French label 7even Recordings, as well as contributing to the Resident Advisor podcast series with a well-received entry that abstracted dubstep to the point of complete unfamiliarity, the release of full-length ‘Binaural’ towards the end of last year situated ENA in a world completely of his own. A masterpiece in tension, the often beatless, nightmarish soundscapes of ‘Binaural’ proved that the Back To Chill ethos extends far beyond the confines of club constructions, and hinted at an aural maturity to the collective that had gone somewhat under-recognized.
Finally, 100mado – himself a decade-plus veteran, co-founding Back To Chill alongside Goth-Trad when the event was still at Saloon in Daikanyama – is a constant reminder that the Japanese scene continues to innovate in its own low-key, non-self-congratulatory way. Whether it’s sending for fellow domestic producers in Japan’s own take on the grimey clash of war dubs, or constructing remixes for niche micro-genre Gorge, 100mado is evidence that many of the country’s premier producers and DJs exist outside of the spotlight – although it looks unlikely to stay that way for long. Thursday’s show looks set to be a crash course introduction to Japan’s top low-end theorists, and a must-watch for Back To Chill aficionados and newbies alike.
For more information on this session, head over here.
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