Jeff Mills’ THE TRIP – Enter the Black Hole – A One-of-a-Kind Cosmic Journey Leaving Audiences Entranced and Amazed

On Monday, April 1st, 2024, Jeff Mills premiered his cosmic space opera “THE TRIP -Enter The Black Hole-,” it was an entrancing spectacle that meshed stage arts with a spirited rave, and illustrated Jeff Mills’ ever-evolving artistry.

Photo by Yukitaka Amemiya

When Jeff Mills announced that he’ll be descending on Tokyo to present “THE TRIP -Enter The Black Hole-” anticipation soared. Not only because of Mills’ revered status as a Techno Music pioneer but the announcement also marked 8 years since the last installment of his cosmic opera in Japan in 2016. As details emerged, the show’s themes and collaborators were revealed and it became clear that this installment would be another conceptual experience not to be missed. (see our previous post on “Jeff Mills Presents THE TRIP: Enter The Black Hole — A Spectacular Cosmic Opera Exploring the Mysteries of the Universe, Premiering in Tokyo“)

The Point of Embarkation

On the evening of April 1st, crowds of people descended into ZEROTOKYO located in the basement of Kabukicho tower. While making way to the main floor in the lowest basement, displays akin to pages from a comic were displayed complete with illustrations of Jeff Mills floating through the cosmos and providing an introduction to the show. With 4 panels displayed and extended panels in the show booklet, it invoked the feeling of opening a book and delving into a sci-fi adventure.

The story panels before entering the main floor. The manga-like illustrations depict Jeff Mills contemplating the nothingness and connectedness of space before encountering a black hole and eagerly approaching to discover what lies beyond.

Upon entering the main floor, the crowd began to settle across the room, stretching from the back entrance to the ends of the dance floor and the front of the stage. Visuals of a starry galaxy adorned the enormous screen, while spotlights softly illuminated the venue and techno music played in the background. Conversations among the crowd were audible, but as the show’s start time approached, people began to get comfortable, and anticipation for Jeff Mills’ second performance of the evening began to mount.

Eventually, the spotlights dimmed entirely, and the music faded out, prompting cheers from the crowd. As an image of a black hole appeared on the screen, music filled the room, and Jeff Mills took the stage. A single spotlight shone upon him, highlighting his gleaming spacesuit designed by Hiromichi Ochiai. Behind him stood a bulky console with circular lights, reminiscent of sets from Star Trek and retro sci-fi movies of the 60s and 70s.

With a microphone in hand and no time for pleasantries, Jeff Mills assumed the role of a captain, informing the crowd of the journey they were about to embark on through the black hole. Displaying a commanding stage presence, it was a radiant display of showmanship that immersed the crowd in the sci-fi fantasy. A countdown then commenced on the side screens, captivating the audience and signaling the beginning of the show.

Jeff Mills dressed in the spacesuit designed by Hiromichi Ochiai. Photo by Yukitaka Amemiya

An Experience of Sight, Sound, and Movement

Jeff Mills then sat at the blockish console, presumably a sound mixer, and conducted the show with his back to the audience, resembling a captain commandeering a ship. What followed was Jeff Mills’ cosmic space opera, a production that took the audience on a journey through various places in time and space, evoking a range of emotions. The ‘mission’ was divided into five chapters, each presenting a different possibility of what lies beyond the black hole:

 1. Time in reverse
 2. Black hole as animal
 3. Parallel reality
 4. Abstract time
 5. Time stands still

(Explanations of each chapter, the questions posed by each chapter, and hypotheses can be found at

Each chapter was explored and presented as a conceptual performance, with Jeff Mills playing original compositions accompanied by COSMIC LAB’s visuals. Segments of the show also featured four dancers performing choreography by Hiroaki Umeda, with vocals performed by Jun Togawa.

The soundtrack to the show, released as a digital album under the same title, ranged from experimental sounds that immersed the audience in the cosmic journey to pieces suitable for late-night techno venues. Each composition created different atmospheres to explore each chapter.

When delving into the more startling possibilities of the black hole, the music evoked the spirit of retro sci-fi movies with pads, leads, and samples from vintage synthesizers. Alongside abstract melodies and arpeggiated sequences, haunting soundscapes and hypnotizing pieces added to the immersion. The psychedelic visuals, displayed synced with the compositions, ranged from images of an approaching black hole to fractal patterns and geometric shapes, enhancing the experience. COSMIC LAB’s visuals were enthralling and added an imposing element to the show.

The four dancers performed contemporary choreography that mirrored the themes of the chapters, illustrating concepts like time in reverse or non-linearity. Their movements were graceful as they flowed in and out of the spotlight, while at other times jarring and stiff. The choreography was hypnotizing, in unison with the entrancing visuals and music. Conveying the complexities of the themes, it was a unique physical display of Jeff Mills’ vision.

The dancers performing choreography by Hiroaki Umeda. Photo by Yukitaka Amemiya

The combination of audio compositions, visuals, and physical movements conjured a range of emotions from tension to sorrow, loneliness, anxiety, or even awe—all that one could imagine when reflecting the vastness of space, approaching a black hole, and venturing into the unknown.

Transitions to the Dancefloor

Moving from chapter to chapter, following the conceptual segments, the space transitioned from avant-garde stage play to dance party. The songs played leading up to each new chapter were percussion-heavy, featuring hard-hitting drums, progressive quantized compositions, melodies, and bass lines. These compositions, fitting for the club scene, had the audience swaying and bouncing as Jeff Mills manned the boards. Complete with synced visuals reminiscent of club VJs, it was a scene that transported the audience from the cosmic odyssey straight into a DJ set at ZEROTOKYO. While these particular songs were more dance-friendly, they still remained consistent to the theme of interstellar travel, with a futuristic sound enhanced by the venue’s sound system produced by COSMIC LAB. Bass reverberated through the floors, stimulating the crowd and bringing a sense of exhilaration.

Photo by Yukitaka Amemiya

The Impactful Presence

In addition to the dance performances, a prominent element of the show was the presence of Jun Togawa, who performed the two songs she wrote for the production in the second and final chapters. Each time Togawa graced the stage, cheers from the audience could be heard, signaling recognition of her revered status among the audience. The dress designed by Hiromichi Ochiai was stunning, featuring a large cape with pleated ends, along with a transparent cloth used as a veil. The length of the train was also extended for dramatic effect, with the dancers going underneath to lift the garment smoothly over the floor as Togawa glided across the stage. Despite remaining stationary in the center of the stage during each performance, her presence was undeniable as she projected her voice and filled the venue with her distinct vocals. The performance of ‘Contradiction’ saw Togawa speaking over Jeff Mills’ production and engaging the audience with her poetry, while the performance of ‘Hole’ paired her unconventional style with the bouncy track. While the tone of the show was somewhat serious, Togawa’s playful demeanor seamlessly blended well with the other elements. Projection mapping was also used to illuminate the dress with brilliant displays that were enhanced by the background visuals. Members of the audience cheered with each performance, and it was amazing to see the legendary artist on stage this far into her storied career and despite the challenges she faced in recent decades. The culmination of Jun Togawa on stage performing with Jeff Mills at the control panel, along with the dazzling visual effects, was awe-inspiring and a standout moment that celebrated the Japanese ‘anti-icon’.

Jun Togawa gracing the stage with visuals projected onto the dress. Photo by Yukitaka Amemiya

A Master at Work

The final chapter came to an end, marking the one-hour mark of the show. The last segment proved to be a true delight for Jeff Mills fans and techno enthusiasts in attendance. Departing from the carefully structured and conceptual theatrics, for the final 30 minutes of the program, Jeff Mills rotated his chair to the right of the console and brought out his signature Roland TR-909 Rhythm Composer. Early in his career, he pioneered the use of the TR-909 beyond composition, incorporating it into a DJ setup like an instrument so this addition to the show was like witnessing a luminary in true form. What ensued was a live set that was highly improvised and set the dance floor ablaze. Sitting in front of the TR-909 and occasionally adjusting the control panel, he played patterns, triggering drum samples, and effects all on the fly. It was an impressive display that had the room in a euphoric state, dancing to the beats, applauding live drum programming, and simply in awe of the performance and visuals. The final segment was an energetic performance that solidified Jeff Mills’ status as one of techno’s greatest.

Photo by Yukitaka Amemiya

Jeff Mills has solidified his status as a techno icon, but he’s also an artist who explores the possibilities of music beyond the dance floor through various mediums. His fascination with space has always been evident in his work, and this installment of THE TRIP demonstrates that he’s still just as captivated, with a rich imagination and a love for fantasy. Alongside exceptional collaborators, it was also a celebration of the Japanese art scene, incorporating unique elements that resulted in a truly one-of-a-kind execution. With no clear script or narrative, it provided a full sensory experience open to interpretation, evoking a range of emotional states. The impressive production offered insight into the depths of Jeff Mills’ mind and presented his thoughts in a unique and tangible manner. He has maintained a consistent presence in Tokyo over the years, whether DJing or presenting artworks and films. For this premiere at one of Tokyo’s prime clubs/music venues, it marks a full-circle moment. It was a true spectacle that showcased Jeff Mills’ ever-evolving artistry and his fascination with space, seamlessly tying it all together and bringing it back to the dance floor.

The album “The Trip - Enter The Black Hole” is now available digitally worldwide. CD/Vinyl albums will be out on May 10 outside of Japan at and other retailers.

[Global release] CD/Analog LP will be released on May 10, 2024.


Vince Lee

Vince, originally from Perth, Australia, is currently based in Tokyo, Japan. With a curiosity about life and the world, Vince is fascinated by how our world is shaped by drawing from the past or looking to the future. He enjoys spending time at record bars, art museums, and by the sea or mountains, indulging his interest in culture, music, and the natural world.