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2023 Review of the Year

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2023 Review of the Year

A link-frenzied review of the year in music, including 2023's 'Bests'

What a year 2023 has been for music! Vast quantities of quality music bombarding me from every angle, an uncontrollable audial onslaught in which I admittedly revelled gleefully. To clarify, when I say vast I mean I devoted my time to just under 300 albums and EPs that were released in the last twelve months. And when I say devoted I mean ~5 full listens to each (with a few of my favs clocking more than thirty!). Some of those releases were big, like the gargantuan charity compilations (for Turkey & Syria and Palestine) and the celebratory 7 Years Of Shall Not Fade LP from the Bristol-based outpost. Across 25 tracks and two hours, The Creative Technology Consortium {CtC} gave us Panoramic Colorsound, a contemporary ode to eighties film and TV with vintage synths, drum machines and Miami Vice melody.

A similar filmic vibe was felt emanating from The Allegorist and her fifth album TEKHENU. Kangding Ray gave us an actual OST with Wann kommst du meine Wunden küssen (an original film score for the film Kiss My Wounds) as did Mark Jenkin for his own film Enys Men. Galcher Lustwerk surprised many with his contribution to the OST club, for the science-fiction short Adaptation (eleven tracks of free jazz, drones and bleeped-out Ambient). Fans of these scores will love Echoes, Spaces, Lines, the first three albums by Pauline Anna Strom, collected and presented as a soothing punch to the synapses. My fav OST was produced by Tomer Baruch & Alex Brajkovic who composed an excellent new soundtrack to Fritz Lang’s classic 1927 sci-fi film Metropolis.

Electronic music with a meaningful concept always wins in my book. Violinist John Metcalfe gave us a day in the life of a Tree, while pianist Mary Sutton, aka Saloli, delightfully depicted a bear's daily occupation in Canyon. With Teghnojoyg, Babe, Terror painted an arresting self portrait while Philipp Johann Thimm decried environmental change with Birds Singing Till The World Ends. Phonographies proposed a new concept for classical music remixes. Luke Seomore, aka Blessed are the Hearts that Bend took us on a wistful trip back to his childhood on Edgelands. Bass-head Kevin Richard Martin gave us an album inspired by Amy Winehouse (although I preferred the other album he released this year: Above the Clouds).

Between The Father of Libyan Reggae Ibrahim Hesnawi, a 50 year review of Reggae legend Augustus Pablo, the first solo work in a decade from Paul St. Hilaire, Hostile Environment, the first album in over forty years from the On-U Sound house band Creation Rebel, Ahmed Ben Ali's nearly forgotten tracks and the weird and wonderful Dub-inflected concoction of Holy Tongue (Al Wootton, Valentina Magaletti and Susumu Mukai) I often found cathartic solace within the confines of a simple Reggae rhythm, which in turn lead me down new and exciting Jazz-related paths, discovering bands like Groundation, Brain Damage, Justin Walter, Edredon Sensible and Kalia Vandever. Related: although more Ambient than Dub, Brendon Moeller's Pathways also hit my contemplative sweet spot.

Despite Dub/Reggae taking a pleasantly firm grip on my lugs, Ambient continued to prevail as the key categorical splinter of electronic music that consumed my listening attention in 2023. The list of highlights (not already mentioned above at least) is ridiculous in length so here's just a few beauties: Carmen Villain, Cabbaggage, Camp of Wolves, Russ Young, Arovane, Tobias Preisig, Kali Malone, These Liminal Days, Field Lines Cartographer, Orbital Patterns, Faten Kanaan, Dorisburg & Sebastian Mullaert, Penelope Trappes, Henrik Lindstrand, Civilistjävel!, Loris S Sarid, Jozef De Schutter, Shida Shahabi, Rumpistol, X.Y.R., Lisa Lerkenfeldt, Christine Ott and The Black Dog.

On the reverse side of my brain, Ambient relief was found in the fine work of Dasha Rush, Pangaea, Creep Show, clocolan, Deena Abdelwahed, Croatian Amor & Scandinavian Star, oqbqbo & Scandinavian Star, Surgeon, Buildings and Food, Boombass, µ-Ziq (twice), Fit of Body, Grand River, James Holden, Nadia Struiwigh and Overmono.

I rarely listened to podcasts and free mixes at all this year (compared with ten years ago)... too much of everything else I think! A couple that I downloaded were Truancy Volume 301 by Kassem Mosse and FBM 222 by 1-800 GIRLS. In terms of paid-for mixes and compilations I absolutely loved Helena Hauff's fabric mix and Kompakt: Total 23. And I'm confident I'll be returning to the no-filler 49 tracks of Next Wave Acid Punx DEUX again.

Now onto the best moments of 2023 (note: not my favs of the year, that's coming in the next post).

2023 Electronic Music 'Bests'

Best opening track: The Cry - Fire of Love

Best banger: Pangaea - Installation

A close-fought sprint to the banger finish line saw Pangaea with Installation and Minor Science with Workahol cross in a photo-finish, with the former prevailing by a baw-hair.

Best album about another planet: Runningonair - Ceres

Best album by Shackleton: In The Cell of Dreams

Sam Shackleton gave us four albums this year and they were all pretty decent. Beginning in March with the first of three collaborations was Death by Tickling with Scotch Rolex. Mortality followed in July, with Heather Leigh. Then in September my fav fav In The Cell of Dreams, this time with Wacław Zimpel and Siddhartha Belmannu. Finally, in November we had the first solo effort from Mr Sam in the form of The Scandal of Time

Best remix: Sara Parkman - Mammakroppar (Aasthma Remix)

Best falseto: Olof Dreijer + Mt Sims - Liten Karin

Best reissue: Chris & Cosey - Technø Primitiv, Trust and Pagan Tango

The ex-Throbbing Gristle pair prove their Pop authority with a special vinyl re-issue of their best best 80s albums.

Best song about a dog: Everything Shook - Toy Shitzu

From the Irish trio's second album of spunky electronic Pop songs

Best novelty track: Young Marco – What You Say?

Best library music-inspired album: Fabien Guiraud - La Prise Electronique

Best vinyl-only release: Om Unit - The Canopy (Armageddon Style)

Jim Coles released a lot of music in 2023, including Acid Dub Versions II, In The Afterworld (with TM404) and Atlantis but this vinyl-only release turned out to be my fav. And as it was limited to just 800 copies (obvs now sold out) you'll need to hope it gets a digital release if you want a copy!

Best album that made you want to visit the toilet: Eomac - Water Tracks

Best OST: Deena Abdelwahed - Flagranti

Not just music that accompanied a groundbreaking play that addressed homosexuality in the Arab world but really bloody riveting music too! I actually I preferred this release to her debut album proper Jbal Rrsas ج​ب​ل ا​ل​ر​ص​ا​ص (also released this year).

Best track that sampled The Monkees: Moscoman - Can You Dig It

Best album over five hours in length: Kali Malone (featuring Stephen O’Malley & Lucy Railton) - Does Spring Hide Its Joy

Monumental work by American composer Kali Malone featuring guitarist Stephen O'Malley and cellist Lucy Railton, exploring the effects of the pandemic through nine long form drone pieces. I thought Jonathan Williger's review for Pitchfork was excellent.

Best track title containing the word vagina: André 3000 - The Slang Word P(*)ssy Rolls Off The Tongue With Far Better Ease Than The Proper Word Vagina . Do You Agree?

From his lauded debut album, nearly 90 minutes of Ambient music made with a flute and some very intriguing track titles.

Best track to stir your cockles: Tobias Preisig - Roamer

Best cover version: Shit and Cheap - Don't You Want Me

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