The labyrinth 2010
I’ve been keeping a relatively low key ‘finger profile as of late but it would be remiss of me not to report in following the labyrinth festival – which is (or is becoming) renowned for its quality soundsystem, artist selection, and general atmosphere.
The festival runs over 3 days just outside of Naeba, a town in the mountains of Niigata, Japan. I have the good fortune to be living in Japan. Unfortunately I don’t live anywhere near there so the first day started off at 6am for me, with a train ride to Osaka, then what turned into a 12 hour bus ride up to Niigata. This was a 3 day weekend in Japan so the traffic on the highway outside of Kyoto was crazy. On the bus we listened to Donato Dozzy’s past labyrinth sets, and I was very happy and made a little homesick by hearing him playing micronism’s ‘Constructing Space‘, a beautiful tune that I haven’t heard in a long time.
I made it to the festival around 8.30pm, met up with my friend Dan, and wandered down the road into the forest already hearing the music booming out over the valley. The labyrinth site is fairly simple consisting of the main ‘teepee’/dj tent, the funktion one rig on either side, and the massive dancefloor area in front. As we arrived Scuba was booming out an old Plastikman record (possibly something from consumed) which sounded amazing. I enjoyed his set, particularly hearing more steppy numbers – such as A Made Up Sound’s fantastic ‘Sun Touch’..
I jumped around for a few hours, drinking pricey festival beers, eating chicken, chatting to people, and generally having a great time. Peter Van Hoesen played afterwards, I can’t recall a lot about his set, but I enjoyed it a lot at the time! Finally we headed back to Naeba near the end of his set, to have a bath and a sleep.
My hopes of getting out there early in time to see Move D’s ‘Reagenz’ project were severely unrealistic as a lazy sunday morning ensued.. We eventually made it onto a bus and got back to the labyrinth just in time to see steffi kicking her set off!
Steffi is a fav of a bunch of the BMP and I’m happy to report that she didn’t disappoint, working her way through bass heavy, deep house in the sunshine. I danced, had some breakfast (have to say that the food selection at labyrinth was pretty great, there were quite a few places to choose from and all had great food) and resumed dancing.
The afternoon rolled on, we relaxed during A Guy Called Gerald’s nice but a little unmemorable set, and cowered as Marcel Fengler pulled out the heaviest set of the festival. I think they had to shorten his set a little and he smashed things out for the first hour or so, pulling back a little towards the end for some deeper stuff (and err one track which was borderline trance) which coaxed me back onto the floor. Overall an enjoyable set. Van Hoesen bridged the gap between Fengler and Shackleton, with another amazing set, overall probably my favourite dj that I saw. At some point during this I heard Mathew Jonson’s ‘Marionette’ – an all time favourite of mine, which sounded fantastic over the funktion one soundsystem.
Next up came function who built things up and brought them back down over his amazing 4 hour set. I was pacing myself, we did some dancing, chilled out a bit, talked to people, danced more, went back on the floor. I could have easily danced for the whole four hours but was saving myself for Shackleton.
Shackleton kicked things off with what sounded like ‘Johnny Cash reads the old testament’! Again the sound rig came the fore as Cash’s voice boomed over the assembled masses. He was using a skippy little drum sound which reminded me weirdly of psy trance(!), but then in came the heavy bass, and then my mind kind of turned to mush as Cash’s voice looped up and into the madness.
Heard ‘death is not final’ and of course ‘blood on my hands’ in the mix – along with drums that sounded more like collapsing buildings, and lots of strange samples. It was fairly mind blowing; I wonder if there is a particular term for what Shackleton does because just lumping it in as ‘dubstep’ does him a disservice. Someone put the opening minutes of Shackleton’s set up on youtube if you want to check it out.
The following day was naturally a little more restrained – I had gotten to bed around 3, and was feeling a bit tired, and also had another lengthy bus ride home to deal with that night. We caught the end of Convextion’s set as we arrived, which was sounding amazing. I wish I’d caught more of it; I don’t have a huge amount of Convextion’s records but he is responsible for another all time favourite of mine – ‘Crawling and Hungry’
We relaxed during So’s set of tech house, and Mathew Jonson’s set. Donato Dozzy closed the set with an epic 4+ hour set which was great. I saw a few of the other djs and producers who had played during the festival dancing and enjoying the set, and briefly talked to Move D who seemed like a nice guy. I told him to come and visit New Zealand. Dozzy played the micronism track I mentioned above again! Everyone was dancing and smiling and I wished that I didn’t have to leave labyrinth (or Japan). This video kind of shows the relaxed daytime vibe at the festival:
The music finished up after dark, I had a little more food and wandered up to find my bus and prepare for the uncomfortable ride back to Osaka.
Overall this was probably the best festival I’ve ever attended. The music is obviously coming from pretty specific genres and at times I felt like a little variety would have been good but I can’t fault any of the acts that played, and the soundsystem gave everything an amazing edge. The crowd (Japanese and Gaijin alike) that I spoke to were all friendly and knowledgeable. The security was unobtrusive and as far as I could see there were no problems all weekend. There was lots of space on the dancefloor. The food was great. The toilets were like festival toilets anywhere but you didn’t have to queue for long. The festival bus back to town was convenient and we didn’t have to wait very long at even busy times.
Above all, the beautiful countryside and forest added an an awesome element to the festival. I left already scheming to come back next year.