2008 was the year that Labyrinth sort of blew over (for the rest us, anyway?). 2009 was however a transition year, a startling revival at home base and our souls firmly stuck in the that whirlwind. 2010 was when at long last, it was going to happen. A near-fantasy line-up, our tickets in hand, hotels reserved, plane tickets purchased, but our visas refused come through at the last minute: Ah, the pains (and privileges) of passports.
And in between those five years, Labyrinth had become an obsession, a distant-yet-not-so-distant dream, and our expectations were running so high they had become a fever—fervour. But come September 2012, we were men with plans: dressed in Pierre Cardin suits and armed with Braun Buffel briefcases, we finally walked out of Japanese Immigration unscathed, the reality of what just happened not quite hitting us (yet).
But we are going to fast-forward to the end here: the 12th Labyrinth was neither the life-changing event we had billed it as inside our heads, nor was it an overawed disappointment that some of those experiences turn out to be. Instead, it was something that fell fairly squarely in the middle: a very, very good festival of music. Perhaps “fairly squarely in the middle” does not do it justice (on reflection, it certainly does not). Maybe in between those years, we had grown up too much, saw things that made us more mature than was necessary, got godly corporate jobs that required us to leave impulse at the door. Or maybe we had just become jaded?
Day 1 began promisingly enough, both the gods and the forecasts promising the heavens—and delivering them—up until minutes before the festival: The Naeba Greeland suddenly started leaking like a mild Tsunami hit it, and we had to miss two of our favourites in Atom TM and Appleblim, only managing to walk in with Rene Pawlowitz halfway through. It seems Shed bemused most of the Heads and long-time Labyrinth aficionados. Beaten from the torrential downpour, we were not as hard to please, awkwardly dancing to EQD and WAX classics in the mud, yet scratching our heads a little about a rave-y, out-of-place set. Next, an organizer favourite, Bee Mask, started a million miles away from where Shed left off. And we could slowly feel him, armed with probably a mini-Hadron Collider, gradually plinking his way into an Arctic oasis, but our legs gave away and we left for bed. Words such as “epic” and “incendiary” were casually thrown around the following morning.
The sun was slowly peaking on the morning of Day 2, and the crispy stop-stutter funk of KiNK’s “Express” (the sleeper on the Hand Made 12″) sounded blissful on the Funktion Ones. So & Peter Dundov played good sets, but Steffi was a bit below-par compared to her high standards. Not the biggest fans of Ideas from the Pond, but Dundov weaved his way in to our brains with a rising but measured live set. It was a good Day 2 so far, but what came after was the real mountain-splitter: Svreca’s destroyed the valley with a burning twilight set, only for PvH to awaken the dead soon afterwards, and finish it all off around 97bpms with a sublime house track. The clear night sky’s and Outer Space’s Emerald melodies were bringing back sad memories of an old flame, and had to promptly leave for bed again (yes, up there for the worst excuse to leave a gig ever).
The Burn: Svreca
The following morning had us rushing towards the stage for an exclusive snap of Dasha Rush (about to finish her set), only to catch Fred-P also in the frame. Being brutally honest about the bias here: ever since he poured that deep, samurai-strings headfuck of that DJ Spider remix unto the eternal candescence of “Relish” on LWE podcast number 29, Fred Peterkin has been close to our favourite DJ on earth. So there we were, stuck between a godly Valley of the Dolls (and other Japanese hipsters, who are incidentally the warmest hipsters in the world) with a perennial selector. Fred did not disappoint either, creeping up on us from nowhere to hit us with just the right kind of punch, drop Maurizio one minute and a Workshop classic the next. But what seemed like an eternity in a cradle was soon over; and what did we have after 3 hours of our favourite DJ? 4.5 hours of Donato Dozzy. Donato closed his set with “Didgeridoo“, and we were a bit blazed at that point to remember the specifics in between, but it certainly felt like something a bit different this time, and that he was pushing for something more, at an axis slightly to the left, which certainly felt like the right move. It’s pointless to confuse it with even more words: those who were there, know what happened. Then as all great festivals do, Labyrinth ended with leaving us wanting just a little more.
The Cradle: Fred-you understand?-P
Moving on, if there was a misstep to the Labyrinth experience, it was the Exit party, a No-Exits (ha ha) 17th floor venue and Dundov’s closing set striking a stark contrast to the festival (maybe a reminder that even the best crews can miscalculate?). Apart from So, who closed his set with Tin Man’s heavenly “Devine Acid” (track of the year?), Exit had us scratching our heads again, as the closing sounds got more grating in to the night and we had to escape to a small hideout. Moving further on, the non-Labyrinth highlights included Eric Cloutier spinning up a storm (and refusing to leave the decks) at Dommune, a devilish, Mike-Parkerish set by Japan’s finest, DJ Nobu at Eleven and Kristian Ame at the dark underground den of Air.
A final shootout to few of good people we met along the way: including Digby Kuropatoff, Ko Umehera, the Acai girls, Englishmen Jack & Harry, Arnaud St Placid, Mr Woo on the dancefloor, folks at the vinyl goldmines of Disk Union & Technique, Sound of Thought‘s Scott Levy and countless Japanese punters we were too clouddead to remember the names of. It was a bit alarming to find out that Abdullah Rashim was in fact a super-tall Swede with a boyish face and immaculate blonde hair, but he still largely kept the mystery intact (when asked about the inspiration behind the alter ego, he simply pointed at his head). Talking to Chris from mnmlssg at Exit, he assured that this was the best Labyrinth yet. We believe him.
Until next time.
[Photo Credit: Hiroyuki Toda, Kazuhiko Kimishita]