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Top 33 of 2011

For my taste in music, 2011 was a spectacular year, so for the first time, I'm going to put together a list of my personal favorites. This is not an attempt at declaring the “best” of anything—it’s just the stuff that gives me the most pleasure within the confines of my home on my stereo. It's a personal take on 2011. If I had a different home or a different stereo, the list would be different.

Up for inclusion is anything that was released as a physical musical object in 2011. I don’t differentiate between albums, singles, or compilations, or between new music and old. I don’t care if something was recorded in 2006 and released today, or if something got a re-release this year. If it came out in 2011 and I can hold it in my hand, it’s all good.

Top Three.

For me there were three releases which carved out a special sonic zone in that space between my speakers and my couch. I think each time I put them on as a suite, because I’m so taken that I’m can’t think of playing anything else. They share the top space as one.

Bee Mask – Elegy for Beach Friday
[Spectrum Spools]

Bee Mask Canzoni Dal Laboratorio Del Silenzio Cosmico [Spectrum Spools]

Music for staring at.

Bee Mask released the most incandescent music I heard in 2011. I’m taking the easy way out and am not going to differentiate between his two releases, the collection Elegy for Beach Friday in he which he represents in different form material made in earlier years, and his new album Canzoni Dal Laboratorio Del Silenzio Cosmico, both on John Elliott’s new label Spectrum Spools.

The albums of Bee Mask show an astonishing range that best encapsulates the name of the label they appear on. These are very tightly wound spools of sound that cover the entire spectrum of sound and feeling. A track morphs from one world to another before you’re aware of where you are or remember where you're coming from.

Hearing the penultimate track of Elegy for Beach Friday for the first time, Stop the Night, did just that. I love staring at Rothko paintings, where after minutes the external details—the museum air con’s hum, the chatter and footsteps—quietly drop away likes leaves, and those edges, those lines between the red and black bands, start to glimmer, and the color contrasts shift and play with your mind. This was the kind of experience I had, as the white horns on either side of my TV faded out of the picture, and the sounds came from an impossible space behind the dark Sony square, some kind of black liquid portal. The meditating mind can conjure up all manners of wonderful and weird things. And Bee Mask is behind this year’s most intricate sonic mandalas.

He has a new album in progress for 2012 which might start to tug at the techno hints dropped at the end of Canzoni Dal Laboratorio Del Silenzio Cosmico, which is only missing a kick to devastate a floor. I would say he is on the cusp of something truly awesome, if he weren’t already there.

Imaginary Softwoods – The Path Of Spectrolite [Amethyst Sunset]

Naming your band Imaginary Softwoods is enough to put you at the top of my list. Imagined forests, in soft focus, glowing and pulsing. These majestic sounds are the soundtrack for nature's landscapes unfolding.

Given that John Elliott closed 2010 with my favorite record of the past few years, the sublime Outer Space LP, produced the most beautiful slice of sounds in 2011, released another of my favorite albums of 2011, the Mist LP, and introduced a wider audience to Bee Mask and a host of other wonderful talent through his incredible Spectrum Spools label—my label of the year—it’s pretty safe to say the man owned 2011.

Rest of the Top Ten.

#4. Nuel – Trance Mutation [Further Records]

Surprise album of the year. Donato Dozzy’s partner in crime behind the Aquaplano label, Nuel was known, if known at all, for super-deeep techno. And then out of nowhere he produces this quiet meditative gem based primarily around acoustic recordings of drums he only recently learned to play. The album sounds like a lost tape from the early 70’s conveniently rediscovered. I'm filing this under timeless.

#5. Nicholas Szczepanik – Please Stop Loving Me [Streamline]

I don't remember why I bought this, and I don't know anything about this musician. It just showed up one day, and it's gorgeous. It's a 40-minute slow-motion symphony of several themes winding themselves around each other, taking turns coming to the fore and receding. If you're into Stars of the Lid, you should check this one out.

#6. Pinch & Shackleton – Pinch & Shackleton [Honest Jon's]

This release returns to a headspace Shackleton explored in a remix he did for a band called Invasion, Wizards of Dub, parts 1 and 2, but at much more advanced levels. This is some high-octane smoker’s music removed from the dance floor. I know little about Pinch, and I'm surprised the collaboration has gone to slower tempos, and they somehow sound even more Shackleton than Shackleton.

#7. Tim Hecker – Ravedeath ’72 & Dropped Pianos [Kranky]

Plenty of praise thrown towards this one, all of which deserved. Maybe no release on this list is as deserving as a serious hi-fi as this one. The sub-bass from long organic pipes and droned manipulations demand high fidelity and big bass bins. But I might even like Droppped Pianos, a document of the sketches that became Ravedeath ’72, even more. Stripped of the burying noise, these fragile templates are even more beautiful for me.

#8. Burnt Friedman & Jaki Liebezeit – Secret Rhythms 4 [Nonplace]

The first thing my new sound system taught me was that Burnt Friedman is on another level, production-wise, from anyone in techno. His bass and kicks have incredible weight and solidity. What he does just sounds better, and what he does better than anyone is incorporate acoustic elements into an electronic mix. We’re fortunate here that his partner is Jaki Liebezeit, the beyond-genius-level drummer from Can. Unusual time signatures are intricately mapped out with machine-like timing, and the result is total hypnosis. This is the fourth in their Secret Rhythms series, and I love them all.

#9. Conrad Schnitzler – Live ‘72 [Further Records]

I’m not sure how Further got their hands on this one, but it’s a serious find. Sides A and B are the machines warming up, and then it really shoots into space on the C and D sides.

#10. V.A. – Labyrinth E.P. [Time To Express]

I’m amazed to see this on only one techno best of 2011’s list (Infinite State Machine’s Kenny has it as his “techno release of the year”). Of course I’m biased, but I’m also picky, and there is no record with four pure techno tracks out there as good as these this year. Forget about it—nothing is even close. In a way, that’s a good thing. It shows that you really have to hear the finest techno has to offer on a huge rig to appreciate its depth. Peter Van Hoesen’s Rites de Passage is a churning vortex, Mike Parker brings pure ritual abstractions, Convextion releases one of his best in a while, and Donato Dozzy summons the final day of Labyrinth with his epic yet understated masterpiece, Giusy, my favorite techno track of 2011. But you might need to borrow Funktion-One speakers to hear it.

Rest of the Top 30

#11. V.A. – Composure [Disk Union]

Yet more Labyrinth bias comes into play and proud of it. Techno label compilations are usually weak, and charity compilations even worse. I think we managed to avoid this fate on this release. In a very short period of time, the contributing artists kindly produced and donated 15 tracks of very high quality that we sequenced into a coherent story, disk one representing the more jittery weeks of aftershocks, and disc two looking forward to the process of rebuilding from more solid ground. For me there are three real tear-jerkers on this release: Donato Dozzy’s sublime S.T., Donnacha Costello’s Rebuild, and the closer, the kosmiche Mercury from Steve Good, the man behind the Labyrinth sound system every year. In addition to those, there are so many other good tracks. All the guys really came through and showed a lot of heart.

The compilation is readily available in Japan, and we will be putting up a Bandcamp page next week so people overseas can buy a copy directly from us or purchase a digital version. (Juno has copies available again here, but they are charging a really steep price for it because of shipping and the strength of the yen.) Big thanks to Disk Union for working together with us to make this project a reality.

On a related note, we will be throwing Composure, a Tohoku charity event tonight on January 7th at Unit, which also happens to be my birthday. We'll be selling the cd there, and Donato Dozzy will be playing all-night, a birthday present for us all.

#12. Ricardo Donoso – Progress Chance [Digitalis]

Pure morning trance bliss inspired by raves of yesteryore. I love this so hard. Digitalis is such a mighty label. Great respect to them for putting out this perfect gem. Ricardo Donoso is working on a follow-up to this--I'm sure that will be one of the highlights of 2012.

#13. Morphosis – What Have We Learned [Delsin]

This big-bearded fellow jams behind drum machines and synths like nobody’s business. Tribal-touched psychedelic techno jazz. I can’t see anyone not freaking to this. What he did at Labyrinth 2011 with an entire studio on stage in a torrential downpour was truly epic.

#14. Mark Ernestus Meets BBC - Version [Honest Jon's]

The production here is SO GOOD. This was one of the records we used to tune the sound system at Labyrinth this year. Rumor has it Mark Ernestus's mixing desk costs more than most sports cars, and you can hear it here. I really hope the next few years sees a string of singles and remixes from Mark Ernestus. He is a producer who makes whatever investments you make in your sound system worth it. This record is so simple, but I can't imagine ever getting tired of it.

#15. Peter Van Hoesen – Axis Mundi [Ostgut Ton]

I could make a case for this record as the techno rave track of the year. It was for us in the rain. And if that's enough, the A2 is a stellar track from Regeanz, a live recording from their set at the Labyrinth 2010, simply titled Labyrinth. I love how Marcel Fengler recognized this on a YouTube clip as his favorite track from their set and got Move D and Jonah Sharp to send him a recording.

#16. Ricardo Villalobos & Max Loderbauer – Re: ECM [ECM]

Up there with Friedman in the treatment and marriage of acoustic and electronic sound is Villalobos. This reworkinks of ECM recordings is an attempt, a wildly successful one, at raising the bar of techno production to the levels strived for by Manfred Eicher at ECM. This album is brilliant, but it really requires both close attention and silly speakers. You could say it's probably too subtle for its own good at times.

#17. Moritz Von Oswald Trio – Horizontal Structures [Honest Jon's]

I loved Vertical Ascent and the Live in New York recording, and I like the new one even more. Pretty much sonic perfection across the board.

#18. Efdemin – Chicago (Fred P remix) [Dial]

I didn't buy much house music in 2011, but this is my favorite house track of the year by far. Simple hypnotic perfection, accented by precise percussion, cushioned by the warmest of bass, all leading to a majestic finish which occurs way in the background of the track. On a huge system, the micro- will go macro-, but I think a lot will completely miss this one. The final stab of the track is immense—you don’t want to fade out this one in the mix.

#19. Perc – My Head is Slowly Exploding (Chris Carter remix) [Perc Trax]
I’m convinced that Chris Carter would pretty much wipe the floor with almost everyone if he dedicated his solo project to dance-floor techno. In one track, he shows how deeply he understands the genre. The sound of this one is so, so good. This track has such dynamic range that it actually breathes.

#20. Kangding Ray – Or [Raster-Noton]

Kangding Ray brings more of what he calls abstract bass music. My favorite of his three albums is the cathartic Autumne Fold, but this one is his first work adapted to dance contexts. His live set is amazing, and his sound production is as good as you're going to hear in a club.

#21. Regis – In a Syrian Tongue [Blackest Ever Black]

He might have come from post-punk, but Regis is the fine wine that keeps on getting better with age. He's going from strength to strength. A number of high-quality remixes have appeared in the last year or two, and this—his first single in ages—is a mature work from skills well honed.

#22. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake [Island Records]

This album is a cry for England. PJ Harvey, unlike Kate Bush, is not blessed with a great voice, but she really comes into her own as a songwriter here. I listened to her as a teenager, forgot about her for about ten years, and then refound with this.

#23. Kate Bush – 50 Words for Slow [Fish People]

I loved the recent Director’s Cut release where Kate Bush remasters two of her classic albums from the 90’s, the sound of which she found too wedded to that decades’s fondness for digital mastering techniques, and also reworks some old tracks. All three cd’s are gorgeous, and her new album is too.

#24. Nils Frahm
Felt [Erased Tapes Records]

I am a sucker for fragile piano pieces. This is gorgeous, highly textured, atmospheric music. Nils damped the sound of his piano by layering felt in front of the strings and playing very softly. If you have a transparent system, you can crank this really loud and get transported into the room, or inside the pinao itself, luxuriating inside the creaks and squeaks of the instrument and the echoes of the chamber.

#25. Steve Hauschildt – Tragedy & Geometry [Kranky]

More beautiful fragility. All three of the Emeralds guys put out fine solo works in 2011: John Elliott with Mist and the Path of Spectrolite, Mark McGuire with Get Lost, and Steve Hauschildt with this gem of an album, Tragedy & Geometry. This is a lush album not overburdened with complexity, perfect morning sounds for me waking up and looking out at the park. Music for a Moire Pattern is a quiet revelation.

#26. A Winged Victory for the Sullen – S/T [Kranky]

Continuing on the fragile tip. Anything from Adam Wiltzie or Brian McBride is a cause for celebration for me. Their non-Stars of the Lid solo projects are good but never as impressive as STOL, and this collaboration between Adam Wiltzie and Dustin O'Halloran also doesn't quite reach those heights, but it's still a wonderful release. I like the last three tracks the most, one of which has the deepest sub-bass of anything I've heard this year. And as always, the track titles are worth the price of admission: “We Played Some Open Chords and Rejoiced for the Earth had Circled the Sun yet for Another Year”, “Requiem for the Static King”, “Minuet for a Cheap Piano Number Two”, “Steep Hills of Vicodin Tears”, “A Symphony Pathetique”, and “All Farewells are Sudden”.

Dustin O'Halloran's solo album this year, Lumiere, is another highlight for piano and strings fans. The third track, "We Move Lightly", would melt hearts in a movie theatre.

#27. Plaid – Scintilli [Warp]

I think this is a greatly underrated return for Plaid. Yes, they haven’t innovated in extreme new directions like their fellow mid-90’s Warp/IDM mates Autechre, but refinement has its own charms. The sound production here is superb, and the vocal processing out of this world. The sounds on this album shimmer unabashedly.

This slot could have gone to Autechre's EP's 1991-2002 collection, but I don't like the way it's presented: just anonymous sleeves with scarcely legible track titles printed on the back. I can't even listen to them in chronological order without effort. I would prefer to gain more from a collection like this than just a collection.

#28. Phoenecia – Demissions [Schematic]

These guys made an important IDM album back in 2001 with Warp. Or so I hear. But actually I’ve never even heard of them. What I do know is that this album is serious business. The whole thing stands tall as one coherent piece. The beats bounce around with a level of complexity that is stimulating but not oppressive, and the bass sounds as influenced by Tibetan liturgical music and soundtracks as anything I’ve heard in a club. Another “made for big bass bins” album.

#29. John Maus – We Must Become the Pitiless Censor of Ourselves [Upset! The Rhythm]

This album sounds like the soundtrack to a yet unmade sequel to Donnie Darko starring John Maus, preferably as some kind of manic teacher who has a band.

#30. Jeff Mills – 2087, The Power, Fantastic Voyage [Axis]

Not much pitiless censorship going on with Jeff Mills in 2011.

I never went through an early Jeff Mills period, so I’m talking from a position of complete ignorance, but I think the recent output of Jeff Mills is massively underrated in comparison to his back catalogue. I’m not interested in putting on his old records (he does enough of that already), but I love all three of his albums of 2011. He’s gone a little down the Namlook route of obscurity through over-production—four albums that sound very similar is a lot for twelve months (the three above plus The Occurrence from late 2010), especially when they followed numerous singles, the Something In the Sky series, that also sounded very similar. But I don’t care if they sound like this. His spaceman shtick doesn’t have the marketing appeal it once had, but his bass, kick, and beats just sound so much better than all these young producers you’ll find at the top of most charts.

There’s a handful of older producers who just run rings around the rest of the techno brigade when it comes to pure sound: Donato Dozzy, Luke Slater, Chris Carter, and of course, Jeff Mills.

#31. Planetary Assault Systems – The Messenger [Ostgut Ton]

Luke Slater’s The Messenger is the most Jeff Millsian album he’s put out so far. Some of these tracks could fit in easily on any of the three Mills albums above. I don’t think The Messenger is an amazing album—amazing would be an album that sounded like 2010’s singular masterpiece, L.B. Dub Corp’s Take It Down release on Ostgut, a real mind-melter. I think Luke Slater is a more interesting producer the slower the track, even though his live set seems to be geared for fast and hard big room sets. With two strong Planetary Assault Systems albums under his belt for Ostgut, I now vote for a 7th Plain or L.B. Dub Corp long-player.

#32. Petar Dundov – Distant Shores [Music Man Records]

The moment I stop dancing to tranced-out happiness bombs like this will be the Labyrinth's end.

#33. Mist – House [Spectrum Spools]

Let’s end where we began, with Spectrum Spools and another John Elliott project, the epic Mist. I heard this for the first time driving back home from Labyrinth two days after the festival ended. We crossed a series of long bridges in the mountainous north of Japan, the weather clearing after a number of days of hard rain, the valleys below shrouded in mist. We didn’t talk much.




Composure: 1/7 @ UNIT

Mindgames Presents

Composure : Tohoku Benefit Event

January 7 (Sat.) @ UNIT

Open: 23:30 / Start: 24:00

Door: 3,500 yen (no guest or discount)


[ Unit Floor ]

Donato Dozzy : All-Night Set

[ Saloon Floor ]

So : Mindgames , Labyrinth

Hiyoshi : Labyrinth , Global Chillage


渋谷区恵比寿西1-34-17 ザ・ハウスビル B2F


 ※ 未成年者の入場不可・要顔写真付きID


Mindgamesによる震災被害への支援活動の一環として発売された「Composure: Ambient Techno for Japan」。このコンパイルに楽曲を提供した後、Donato DozzyからMindgamesに、もしチャリティイベントを開催して、震災や津波被害への寄付金を増やすことができるのであれば、無償で協力したい、という提案がありました。今回のイベントは彼のこの希望を形にしたものです。数ヶ月が経ち、ようやく開催の準備が整ったところで、本チャリティイベントを開催できることはMindgamesとしても非常に意味のあることで、皆様と共にここから2012年のスタートを切ることが出来れば本望です。




After Donato Dozzy submitted his track for the Mindgames benefit compilation, "Composure: Ambient Techno for Japan," he wrote to us with a personal request. He asked us if he could come to Japan to play for a charity event, free of charge, to help raise money for people whose lives were impacted by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Now many months later, we are happy to make this possible. The Mindgames crew thinks beginning the new year with a charity event is the perfect way to start 2012, and we hope you can join us and Dozzy.

All money raised at this event will be donated to "Smiles & Dreams: Tohoku Kidsユ Project". This project is providing immediate and long-term support to children in orphanages in Tohoku. Support includes delivering basic necessities and services to help children who lost their parents regain stability in their lives. Material support includes clothing, footwear, toys, books, school supplies, and bikes, while emotional support includes counseling and therapeutic activities, such as field trips, mentoring, yoga, and camping trips. 

Because of the nature of the event, there will be no guest list or discount list. Everyone will be contributing equally.




V.A. : Composure -Ambient Techno for Japan-

label : MUSIC 4 YOUR LEGS (diskunion)


Labyrinthを主催するMindgamesによる初のコンピレーション”Composure”が2枚組CDとして発売。東日本大震災を受け、その物理的被害と同時に、多くの人が精神的にも平穏を求める中、音楽を聴き、瞑想することで得られる安心感を促すアンビエント曲集。彼らのフェスティバルへのこだわり同様に、そのクオリティも去ることながら、Alex Smoke、Deepchord、Donnacha Costello、Donato Dozzy、Mathew Jonson、Minilogue、Peter Van Hoesenなど、過去のLabyrinthへの出演アーティストの中から、今回の呼びかけに対して賛同した蒼々たる顔ぶれが、この活動のために新たに楽曲を制作。全ての楽曲が無償で提供されているということもまた特筆すべき点である。更にCD生産コストはMindgamesとdiskunionよって出資され、諸経費を除いた利益の全てが東北地方の復興支援活動に寄付される。


LABYRINTH 2011 バスツアー決定!

LABYRINTH 2011へのバスツアーの決行が決まりました。

バスツアA : 東京発

チケット込み: 26,000円
バスツアー(チケット無) : ¥10,000

9/17 13:00 集合 @ 東京駅八重洲口 鍛冶橋駐車場
9/17 18:00 現地到着

9/19 19:30 現地発
9/19 23:00 東京駅着 解散

バスツアB : 大阪/京都発

チケット込み: 31,000円
バスツアー(チケット無) : ¥15,000

9/17 07:45 大阪駅集合
9/17 09:00 京都駅集合
9/17 17:00 現地到着

9/19 21:00 現地発
9/20 05:15 京都着
9/20 06:30 大阪着





FAX : 03-5909-8110
郵送先 : 〒163-1066 東京都新宿区西新宿3-7-1 新宿パークタワー27 階
           (株)JTB 法人東京本社営業部  第五事業部営業一課


TEL : 03-5909-8102
e-mail :

9:30~17:30 土日祝日休業


Labyrinth 2011 Bus Tour

Labyrinth 2011 Bus Tour

There are bus tours directly going to Naeba Greenland from both Tokyo and Osaka/Kyoto.

TOUR A : from TOKYO (26,000 yen bus + Labyrinth ticket / 10,000 bus only)

9/17 [13:00 gather / 13:30 depart] Tokyo station (Yaesu exit, Kajibashi parking area)
9/17 [18:00 arrive] Naeba Greenland

9/19 [19:00 gather / 19:30 depart] Naeba Greenland
9/19 [23:00] arrive Tokyo station

TOUR B : from OSAKA / KYOTO (31,000 yen bus + Labyrinth ticket / 15,000 yen bus only)

9/17 [07:45 gather / 08:00 depart] Osaka
9/17 [09:00 gather / 09:15 depart ] Kyoto
9/17 [17:00 arrive] Naeba Greenland

9/19 [20:30 gather / 21:00 depart] Naeba Greenland
9/20 [05:15 arrive] Kyoto
9/21 [06:30 arrive] Osaka

※ Bus tours are limited to 45 people--first come first served
※ The tour does not come with food or accommodation
※ Please see the .pdf below for more details


Please apply by contacting the email address below.

Yoshihisa Tanaka:

In your email, provide the following information:

Email address:
Ticket type: tour-only / tour with ticket
Departure: Tokyo / Osaka / Kyoto
Number of people:


If you have any questions, please contact the JTB Information Desk:

TEL : 03-5909-8102
e-mail :


Labyrinth 2011 Tickets

A limited number of early bird discount tickets for Labyrinth 2011 are now on sale at Lawson's tickets.

The L-Code is 72535. Please check here for all ticket information and prices.

Update: Labyrinth early-bird discoun tickets have sold out!

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