‘Where you from? What you had?’
Familiar questions to anyone who raved in England in the 1990s.
‘What’s your favourite animation?’
That was a new one to me, yelled down my ear on a packed dancefloor as a shudderingly compressed, glitched up breakbeat punched through a swell of soaring, Ninja Gaiden-esque synths.
Maybe I could just nod at the wall and say ‘that one’. Projected on all sides were spinning, neon saturated anime graphics- candy sweet and dizzying, broken occasionally by volleys of strobe lights.
This is Xi-lium at Mogra and it’s overwhelmingly brilliant. Down a backstreet in Akihabara- an area famed as the overclocked heart of Tokyo’s otaku subculture- this tidy, two floored venue hosts a reactive collision of anime, manga and club culture. Geeks and ravers must be the two most disparate squads imaginable, but this is what you get when you crush them together in a dark room with glow sticks, a stack of sub-woofers, and a unit of fearless, boundary ignoring DJs and remixers.
The music is called anison- a shortening of ‘anime songs’- and it revolves around tech-driven dance remixes of anime BGM and theme music. What that equates to is a thoroughly original club experience, incorporating elements of hip hop, breakbeat hardcore, techno and whatever else sounds good, charged and laden with the emotive, classically-influenced synths and syrup of anime. This occasionally lends a dreamy 1980s ambience, while at other moments you’ll find yourself unexpectedly shredded by a furiously technical guitar solo, but almost all of it is underpinned and shot through by bulkily convulsive beats, breaks and drops.
Conversations in the lounge bar upstairs are equally as likely to be about the Chemical Brothers, Aphex Twin and Skrillex as they are about Gundam, Cowboy Bebop and Dragonball.
Oh, and there are lots of people in costume, adding even more to a truly expressive, exhilarating display of what clubbing is supposed to be about- the freedom to be whatever you want, whoever you are, in the reckless, thrilling play-zone of the dancefloor.