Earthcore pres. Skazi @ CQ Lounge, Sydney (12/06/05)

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Skazi, yet another Israeli psy-trance act who has taken the global psy-trance scene by storm over the last few years, with a raft of high-profile collaborations and storming remixes of tracks such as The Prodigy’s Voodoo People, Infected Mushroom’s I Wish and Metallica’s Seek and Destroy, and a reputation for frenetic live shows.

Since the release of their first album Animal, in 2000, Skazi has quickly become one of the scene’s major drawcards, on a level with the seminal Infected Mushroom, GMS or Hallucinogen. Having missed his gig last year, described by many as one of the years best indoor psy shows, I was determined to be there this time. And thank goodness too, as I was privileged to witness and be party to one of the most out-of-control and ecstatic club scenes I’ve seen in many years, living up to all my expectations and hopes.

The venue was the somewhat-out-of-the-way CQ lounge, in Bondi Junction, the club formerly known as BJ’s. I’d never been there before and I couldn’t help feel some sense of reluctance at the travel and the high cover charge ($55, although limited early-birds had been available at $35 and pre-sales at $45) for a suburban venue. I was very impressed however by the spacious, well laid-out club environment. It featured a well-proportioned main room with chairs and lounges on an elevated platform along one side, which then led through to the second, smaller, room. The overall design had nice sight-lines and good flow, and three bars for rapid drink accessibility.

By the time we arrived at about 1am the main room was about 75% filled, which was perfect, plenty of people to play with but not too crowded, which is a regular annoyance at indoor psy-trance gigs (made worst by my particularly exuberant style of dancing which can, if I’m not careful, become a danger to all around me as limbs and elbows fly in all directions). The second room, where DJs such as Dr Jane and Rif Raf played dirty disco tech and electro funk, was sparsely occupied all night. It was clear what sounds people were there for.

When we arrived the evergreen Richie J was playing a thumping set and the dancefloor was already a rippling sea of gyrating bodies responding to every beat. This was one of the best set’s I’ve seen Richie play in some time, a perfect warm-up for Skazi with booming bass and twisted melodies, crashing guitars and psychedelically syrupy symphonies.

The visuals were fantastic, and remained so all night. I wish I could give respect to the VJ but I don’t know who they were. If you’re reading this – well done. They were some of the most creative and engaging projections I’ve seen in some time, with aspects borrowed from The Nightmare Before Christmas (the dancing boogieman), The Human Body and The Animatrix, intertwined with more traditional psychedelic swirls and fractals, nature imagery, anime and tribal elements. There were also copious repetitions of the name of the act playing, but perhaps that was with scattered reviewers in mind, to ensure that we got the set list in correct order in our memory.

Following from Richie J was Third Drop Reflections playing live. Third Drop Reflections have burst onto the Sydney scene recently (although the creative genius behind them has been around forever, better known for his doof photos and constant smile), playing their first set at the launch of Location: Two Hours from Sydney late last year and then delighting all present with the set-of-the-party on New Years Day. As his sound is more on the progressive wing of psy-trance his placement in the set list, between the techno psy of Richie J and turbo trance of Skazi, was not welcomed by all. As a fan though I loved it.

His music bubbles and pops, a throbbing heartbeat bassline wrapping your body in its warm embrace as the soaring, twisting, twirling melody encircles your mind, dazzles your senses. It’s exhilarating, inspiring, stuff, more suited to morning sets outdoors than here, in the bowels of a club at 2am, but delicious regardless, especially his wonderful track from the Location: Two Hours from Sydney compilation flutterby. It is, for me, as good as any progressive psy-trance I’ve heard over the last couple of years and deserves to earn him global acclaim. I repeatedly enjoyed myself so much I forgot to breathe, only to find myself out of breath and needing a sit-down. Which was probably for the best as when Skazi came on there could be no sitting down, no rest or respite from what was possibly the most massive, pounding, relentless set of music I’ve ever heard.

As soon as Skazi came on, at 3.15am, the main room was packed with more people than I’d thought were in the club, like they’d be hiding out in the air vents, strange club creatures who lurk in darkness, waiting for music big enough to draw them out. And Skazi plays music big enough to wake the dead, so huge it felt like it must surely be felt above ground all the way into the city, the ground rumbling below confused feet, an aural earthquake, an enveloping mindquake. His sound is as phat as anything I’ve heard, the rig pumped up for added effect as he caned out classic stadium rock psy, where heavy metal and dance music meet, and a room full of people rocked right out in response.

His signature is the combination of booming guitar riffs and storming trance sounds, drawing on his background in the punk and hardcore scenes. It’s bombastic, a bit silly and lots of fun. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a dance floor go as mental as the one I found myself in the middle of (going mental, of course). Limbs flying in every direction, feet pounding the floorboards, sweat falling from the ceiling, grins’ spreading faces wide, eyes flaming with desire. It was totally relentless, one intense track after another, finishing, appropriately, on his epic psy version of the pop-from-ten-years-into-the-future I Wish, accompanied by singing and hollering, stomping and clapping, hugs and cheers.

When it finished, a mere (but exhausting) one-and-a-half hours after it began some energy seeped out of the room with it, like it was the end of the night. The challenge for the next DJ, Shangri-La, seemed impossible, as people collapsed onto every seat in the room and many headed for the door, having seen what they came to see. But Shangri-La impressed many, including your humble reviewer, by starting (relatively) gently and then progressively upping the energy, rebuilding the dancefloor until it was almost full again, playing typically full-on psy-trance. Neither as epic nor as energetic as Skazi it was the perfect next step in the night, solid pounding  music to keep feet moving. We ourselves had planned to leave after Skazi, with a drive to a doof north of Newcastle on the mornings agenda, but suddenly found ourselves being turfed out of the club at 6am, having stayed, and enjoyed, his entire set.

And then the adventure continued, up the coast for another couple of days of psy, in the magical setting of a temporary village in a forest hard against miles of sand dunes. But that, my friends, is a story for another time.

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