DJ Rolando, Saza*E, Osaka, September 2004

This was originally published on worlddj.com when I was living in Japan and writing club reviews for free entry. I’m not sure if my review conveys how absolutely awesome this club was! Note the lady dancing on stage in front of booth: I didn’t see many of these in Tokyo but they were at both clubs I went to in Osaka.

On 24 September, Detroit’s DJ Rolando was the guest at a sleek, slick new nightclub called Saza*E. He appeared courtesy of the Club Noir promotion team and played the closing set after regulars Yoku and Astro.

As the club flyer predicted, the Japanese DJs spun a mix of hard techno, tech trance, tech funk and disco house so that Rolando was clearly placed in a position to play whatever he wanted, however he wanted, for the three hours allocated to him between 2.30 and 5.30am. Underground Resistance is hugely popular in Japan: it’s not unusual to see their accessories in shops or people wearing their clothing in clubs and it was obvious that the crowd knew exactly who Rolando was when he stepped up and immediately dropped Jaguar. From there he took everybody on a masterful trip through the darker side of house and techno – past and present – and was eventually cajoled into playing two separate encore tracks by his feverish audience.

Anyone familiar with the history of electronic dance music knows it hasn’t exactly taken the direct route from A to B but a convoluted route around the world picking up and dropping off musical forms along the way. In particular, the genre that would come to be known as house has splintered into a multitude of sub-sounds since rising from the ashes of disco and you only need to look in any record shop or read any dance music publication to see that it’s more factional than ever – tech, progressive, hard, deep, funky, tribal, gospel – the categories abound, and we mustn’t forget techno also began life as a close family member before being cast off as an austere, distant relative. Many DJs fortunately choose to operate within a fairly broad stylistic boundary but the concept of eclecticism is taken to the ultimate extreme in Osaka, where absolutely anything goes.

Saza*E is only a few months old and everything about it is impeccably stylish and of the highest quality. From the DJ equipment and soundsystem to the bathroom fittings and 4-floor spiral staircase – the club is flawless. But, remarkably, it still manages to feel intimate and be fun without seeming too flashy, and their strong underground music policy reinforces the notion that it’s more than just the latest place for scenesters to be seen. The Club Noir party was an incredible testament to the fact that good crowds want to be educated and are willing to be tested, and good DJs don’t need to confine themselves to a single genre, yet alone one style within a genre.

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