2023 Winter Music Preview ~ Electronic

The winter electronic slate sounds more upbeat than it has in years; we’d like to believe that it’s a reflection of the human spirit.  In hard times, hopeful music can nourish the soul.  While the world continues to bend beneath a plethora of problems, the music community continues to encourage and uplift, channeling help to hearts sunk in depression and nations under siege.  If we dance in the midst of disaster, it may mean we’ve found a reason to live.  Last year, many clubs closed; this year, in many places, they have been destroyed.  But the dance, the beautiful dance, goes on.

Our cover image is taken from The Light Surgeons’ LP SuperEverything*, which can be found in the Expanded Horizons section below.

Ambient Electronic

Amon-E started the new year right, releasing the OOOO EP on New Year’s Day.  Some tracks are gentle, others loopy; who knows what kind of year it will be?  Piano, tape loop and rhythm can all be found on BlankFor.ms‘ In Part, which may or may not refer to Corinthians.  The album heads in some surprising directions; to add to the intrigue, it’s available on “galaxy colored vinyl” and fittingly released by Mystery Circles (January 24).  We love the fact that Elskavon released “North Sole” as a winter single.  The timing was perfect, as Origins won’t be out until February 17 ~ but we can play the single while it snows (Western Vinyl).


Tomas Hallonsten goes analogue on Monolog, paying tribute to ambient music pioneers.  There’s a sense of peace over the proceedings, a timbre of the heart translated to tape (thanatosis, January 27).  A Strangely Isolated Place has gathered all of the Earth House Hold releases in one location, packaging them as the deluxe 32-track, 4-disc box set How Deep Is Your Devotion.  The moniker represents the more ambient side of bvdub.  Those with multi-disc changers may experience an extended period of bliss (February 10).  The covers are similar and the vibe is the same; fans of enjoyed Sunroof‘s Electronic Music Improvisations Vol. 1 will enjoy Vol. 2 (Mute, February 17).


Featuring prominent saxophone and beats, Bandler Ching‘s Coaxial exudes a cool, jazzy vibe.  A touch of chill hop can also be heard, like ice cubes in the snow (Sdban, January 27).  Boom bap returns on Sweatson Krank‘s Reverie EP, a throwback to a more innocent era (Friends of Friends, January 13).  Some World of Warcraft references, instrumental hip hop, ambience and even a pop single can all be found on Release Spirit, a warm, reflective set from Khotin (Ghostly International, February 17).

ILLUITEQ‘s Reflections from the Road may be loosely based on Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, but sounds less ominous than thoughtful.  The beauty is too meaningful to discard (n5MD, February 17).  The discovery of his mother’s diaries led Neil Cowley to compose the deeply personal Battery Life, which delves into nostalgia and self-doubt.  Piano is a central instrument, mining the vein of modern composition (Mute, March 24).


Happiness Is a Warm Drum

Carmen Jaci‘s Happy Child is so contagiously perky it’s hard to resist.  Three early videos already exist, exploding with color and verve.  The artist’s oversized personality is a perfect match for her clothing, or the other way around; we can see this album making a splendid Crayola splash (Noumenal Loom, March 2, pictured left).  Kate NV returns with WOW, multiple guest stars in tow.  The artist is as ebullient as ever, bringing trippy toybox rhythms, synth stabs and an arcade-style video about feeding baby birds (RVNG Intl., March 3). We can imagine these two in the same playroom someday.  Yet another happy album comes from Rena Jones & KiloWatts, rife with Rhodes, tongue drum and glockenspiel, but not too busy for strings.  Force Multiplier is released January 13.  Field recordings meet forest grooves on Refuge, a relentlessly upbeat set from Toh Imago.  The artist tunes his instruments to the resonance of the earth and composes a celebratory dance (InFiné, January 20).


Fine‘s Pachamama EP is like a Miami sunset; a short time to watch, then back to the beach.  The EP is part of the artist’s series Grandad’s Grooves, which is a lot more funky than one might think (January 20).  After a long wait, we’ll finally be able to hear the rest of Le Millipede‘s Legs and Birds project, a double album from the trombonist.  The first record is electronic (with birds), while the second is exclusively birds, a bold move that we wholeheartedly support (Dhyana Records, Gutfeeling Records and Hausmusik, January 20, pictured right).  Footwork and IDM mingle happily on Look Mum No Hands, the debut EP from Yushh.  The cover looks like a Magic Eye painting, but we can’t see anything specific when we blur our eyes (Wisdom Teeth, February 3).


Here’s an album we didn’t see coming: Say Hi has recorded fourteen albums over twenty years, but Elocution Prattle is his first instrumental opus ~ and it’s a double.  We’re already enamored with the chirpy, upbeat, synthesized sound (February 3).  Music boxes and gauzy percussion dance on Neuro … No Neuro‘s Compartments as the abstract artist makes the jump to Mille Plateaux.  As odd as the music gets, the instruments stay in the happy room, content to play (January 20).


Expanded Horizons

If you name your album SuperEverything*, you’d better bring the extras ~ and that’s exactly what The Light Surgeons do.  The album was born as the score to a traveling cinematic extravaganza, an exploration of history and culture in Malaysia.  Many South Asian instruments and rhythms are threaded throughout, lending the project an air of authenticity, while the vibe is consistently positive (Utter, February 3).

Grand River is Aimée Portioli, a pianist whose sonic palette is greatly expanded on this diverse set.  All Above incorporates guitars, choirs, and of course, pulses and beats.  The album is a tribute to Editions Mego founder Peter Rehberg, a reflection of an avid experimental mind (Editions Mego, February 24, pictured left).  Bono / Burattini blend synthesizer, percussion and experimental voice on Suono In Un Tempo Trasfigurato. The album bounces delightfully from fantasy to sci-fi, exuding a cinematic vibe (Maple Death, February 24).


Harmonius Thelonious knows that sometimes Cheapo Sounds can be appealing; his album is retro-minded without sounding old (Bureau B, January 20).  Minju‘s Mani Mani is a straight-up club set, made for the hours when the dancers are beginning to arrive (Public Possession, January 27).  Lumière Noire’s From Above Vol. 3 is a compilation of warm, unreleased tracks that sound good together: a friendly techno excursion (February 3).

The Black Dog‘s repress of Music for Real Airports is met by the sequel, Music for Dead Airports.  The dark music honors Sheffield’s doomed airports, now closed, in one case sold for only a pound.  Would Eno be petrified or proud?  (Dust Science, January 6).  A fine pairing is Ano Tan‘s Renaissance Supersonic Carrier, a tribute to the speed and volume of supersonic flight (Portals Editions, January 20).


Pump Up the Volume

We like the second Orbital single more than the first, though we’re unsure about the title: “Ringa Ringa (The Old Pandemic Folk Song).”  The presence of Mediaeval Babes is a big plus, and the video is pleasingly weird.  Optical Delusion is released February 17.  Following his scoring work for the documentary Les Délivrés, Maxime Dangles revisits, extends and amplifies the original tracks for maximum dance floor impact.  The results can be heard on the album of the same name, from new Astropolis imprint Lifeguards (February 17).  Copenhagen’s SØS Gunver Ryberg launches her own Arterial label with SPINE, a concept album about the beauty and mystery of our environment and how it might be saved.  It’s got a point, and you can dance to it! (February 7, pictured left).

Live percussion makes a difference on Samuel Rohrer‘s Codes of Nature, on which the artist uses mallets to communicate mood.  The tonal variety is great, the attention to detail sublime (Arjunamusic, February 10).  While we don’t normally list vocal albums, the beatwork on Evita Manji‘s Spandrel? is incredible, and their debut album is released on the reliable PAN.  If this is pop music, bring us more (January 30, pictured right).  Ugandan rave meets Acholi fiddle on Saccades, a unique percussion work that honors multiple musical scenes at once.  Rian Treanor & Ocen James may not have been a natural combination on paper, but they certainly are on wax (Nyege Nyege Tapes, January 20).


Cairo’s 3Phaz steps out on Ends Meet with a set of percussive workouts.  The press release calls them “dj tools,” but the tracks, fleshed out by flute tones and dangerous rhythms, stand on their own (Discrepant, February 24).  Pump up the energy to EBM levels, and you’ll find Autumns with an all-out banger.  Still in the Thick of It is designed for dance floors, its heavy drums, synth and distorted samples reminiscent of classic industrial stompers (Antibody, January 10).  Also on the industrial circuit, albeit with a hint of Sherwood, Tolouse Low Trax presents the deconstructed dance of Leave Me Alone (Bureau B, January 27).


plygid looks back to breakbeat and the spirit of rave, which never really went away.  Sensory Shell is rapid and loose, an invitation to find one’s glowsticks and dance again (Big Tent, February 24).  We think those are blueberries on the cover of Acalenta, the bubbly, swiftly-paced product of Touda; if so, this would mark the second use of blueberries in the electronic field in the last 12 months.  The tracks are brief, the album is happy and the vibe is light (Plūma, January 26).

Giant Swan returns with Fantasy Food, their techno workouts as tight as ever.  “Sugar and Air” is an early favorite, as well as a great club snack (KECK, January 13).  Worg offers pounding techno on the Il Piano di Medea EP, inspired by Jason and the Argonauts, who of course loved techno (Lykos, January 13).  The vibe is shared by Decades of Influence, an EP from Prspctv AKA Xentrix.  A generous amount of remixes turn the EP into a full album (Arkio, January 6).  Seven Davis Jr. has a thing for puns, and another for tributes, as “Wendy and Lisa,” from the savedbythebell EP, is a potential crossover hit (Secret Angels, January 13).  For more in this vein, try Flechtheim‘s Transition EP, a techno release with industrial art, seen to the left (Distrakt, January 27).

Richard Allen

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