BEST ELECTRONIC The Best Electronic Music of November, 2023 By Joe Muggs · December 01, 2023

Funny how these things come around. This month give us not one, not two, but three records explicitly influenced by the turn of the millennium “braindance” scene around Aphex Twin and his compadres. Each is very different, but all definitely orbit the same (very) strange attractor. And there’s more overt head music to boot: “fifth world” explorations from Chinese-Australian duo Mindy Meng Wang 王萌 and Sui Zhen; cosmic jazz from the one and only Hieroglyphic Being; clockwork eccentricity from Kassem Moss and friend; and some of the weirdest electronically enhanced Congolese vocal acrobatics you’ll hear this year. There’s also Venezuelan and Surinamese party-starters; Swiss-British broken beat; Canadian jungle; and a whole lot more. So, something for everyone, as long as they’re willing to have their synapses tweaked.

Last Nubian & Sweet Fruity Brunch
Babylon Shuffle

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP

Errol and Alex Rita’s label Touching Bass has always been about emphasizing the Black roots of dance music, about community and shared values. But above all else, it’s been about throwing a real, welcoming, vibey party. And this UK-Swiss collaboration EP is one of the finest encapsulations of that spirit. Jamaican dub reggae, London broken beat, Detroit house, and Brazilian jazz-funk all flow together into a hot dancefloor stew that radiates images of people clapping, hollering, facing one another—not the DJ—and properly dancing.

Mindy Meng Wang 王萌, Sui Zhen
Origin of You

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Vinyl LP

Melbourne, Australia is a creatively fertile town, but even by its giddy musical standards, this is a very special record. The two artists here examine Chinese heritage and philosophy; sisterhood and motherhood; their musical palette combining the traditional and the ultra-futurist in a way that feels like a kind of advancement on “fourth world” styles (does that make it fifth world?). It’s very rarefied and full of space, building towards the simultaneously mind-bending, disturbing, and hilarious flex and bounce of “I Don’t Speak Your Language” which we hereby challenge adventurous club DJs to play.

It’s a Bomb

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Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)

This is a gloriously peculiar record. Congolese singer Bony Bikaye will switch from a baritone purr to a querulous whine on a dime; he’ll croon heart-stopping melodies one moment, then jump to arch chanting, yelping and droning. Yet there’s always some sort of internal logic to this eccentricity, in the way that a Björk or Captain Beefheart makes sense on their own terms. Incredibly, French band TONN3RR3 stay with him the entire way, making dubby, jazzy post-rock one minute, stripped back house the next; now ragingly camp Italo disco, now dreamlink thumb piano soundscapes. It feels like it could dissolve into chaos any second, which makes it even more brilliant that it remains compelling to the end.

DJ Babatr x Chico Blanco
Enamoradode (DJ Babbatr Rapacious Mix)

Need something to blow away the cobwebs? This slab of gloriously, wilfully dumb Venezuelan hard house should see you right. Its chanted lyrics translate as “From the party in progress/ Of money and sex/ Of spending it too much/ In love with fashion,” which should give you a hint of the archness and hedonism going on here. This is music to dress up and strike poses to—to get elegantly, stupidly wrecked. With its one-note riff, it’s the kind of thing that’s absolutely infuriating unless you go with it. If you do, it’s full of delight, peaking when it periodically breaks for a silly beatboxed cymbal bar.

Marla Kether
All That We Have

Marla Kether has to be one of the most exciting talents to emerge this year. She’s already well established as a successful session bassist, but her own productions are a revelation, joining house, disco, post-punk, and heavy doses of Afro-Brazilian groove into something completely her own. Her first full EP kicks off with a quirky vocal from jazz:refreshed singer Sofia Grant that feels like it’s doing a partner dance with Kether’s bass, each bobbing and weaving around the other, and around the percussion. Elsewhere, there’s dub poetry, Afrobeat, hypnotic jamming, and—on the airborne “Revolve”—the purest of acid house disco jazz euphoria.

Renegade Android
The Good Times

It’s a while since we’ve had any proper braindance, but here’s an absolute cracker. Oklahoma producer Shawn J Shackelford is unashamedly indebted to late ’90s Aphex Twin, μ-Ziq, Squarepusher, and related acts—even using primitive “tracker” software to get closer to the source. But the title of the EP is telling: This isn’t about whimsical nostalgia or nerdy replication of complexity for complexity’s sake. Though the beats are constantly glitched out and the resonance of the gurgling acid tones often ludicrous, this is about wild, trippy good times. It’s ridiculous, but also ridiculously fun.

Marcus Visionary
Prophecy” b/w “Super Sunday”

With its large Caribbean population, Toronto was one of the earliest cities to adopt jungle outside the UK, and it maintains a serious passion for the form. These two tracks are absolutely ‘90s throwbacks, but, wow are they fantastically well done. “Prophecy” is, as the artist puts it, “big and bashy.” But the real treat here is “Super Sunday,” which goes right back to the very birth of jump-up. Very different from the rowdy, noisy, highly produced 21st century jump-up, the early iteration was all about stripped-back menace, hip-hop-derived funk, making space for MCs to inhabit, and offering the silliest, bounciest basslines in history. This revisitation is done just so.

Ich Sehe Vasen

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2 x Vinyl LP

Will Bankhead’s The Trilogy Tapes has always specialized in quirky music, and Kassem Mosse and Mix Mup’s alias MM/KM is archetypal TTT music. Over 19 tracks, they traverse a mixture of radiophonic weirdness that sounds like The Clangers engaging in Transcendental Meditation and outsider house music that sounds like it has been made from clockwork devices that were constructed by some mad emperor’s in-house alchemists. Like all the best oddities, it builds a world that operates only according to its own rules. And it’s one that’s easy—and enjoyable—to get lost in.

Joshua Idehen
Reach for the Stars

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Vinyl LP

Nigerian-British poet and vocalist Joshua Idehen has gone through dozens of collaborations over the years, but has only just started releasing under his own name. This single, as with much of his recent work with Ludvig Parment, has elements of the most upbeat ‘90s UK stadium rave and trance, with Idehen in the mode of a motivational speaker with a wry smile, channeling David Byrne, Mike Skinner, and Maxi Jazz as he speaks of the hard-won wisdom of age. It’s accompanied by “Learn to Swim Pt. 1” from his recent mixtape, which has more of the same kind of musings with a more muted, piano-house groove.

Sven Von Thülen
Body Music

The original here is warm and lovely, a funky bit of good-old-fashioned dancing techno with a soulful organ riff modulating away—big 909 snares, and a bit in the last third where robot gospel voices open up a portal to joy. On the remix, René “Shed” Pawlowitz speeds it up, hacks it into jagged bits, and turns it into a harsh heads-down workout while retaining the original’s character and funk.

Jerome Hill
Crude Appraisal

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Vinyl LP

As well as being a “DJ’s DJ” and rave music historian, Jerome Hill is an increasingly prolific producer, having dropped his debut album and a couple of EPs of typically fun-times raving music. It’s basically sweat-drenched acid house all the way, though “The Warning” and “Harlesden Shuffle” replace the kicks with shuffling breakbeats, and “House Thing” dials back the synths in favor of a big fat organ.

Pearl River Sound & The Horn
Top Shelf Material

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You wait ages for some fresh braindance, then a torrent comes along. This Anglo-Italian collaboration—The Horn and Pearl River Sound tracks each with solo tracks, remixes of one another, and one joint track—is very much on the laid-back, post-rave chatter on sofas side of classic electronica, with fizzy, low-bitrate chords, meandering melodies and a generally genial feel. There’s some giddy rave breaks in the mix, too. And, most fascinatingly, the collaborative lead track “Modular Grime” does what it says on the tin: The weird tonalities of grime are mixed with advanced synth swoops and chirps to make a techno-ish concoction that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

Steven Julien

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7" Vinyl

A one-off track from the artist formerly known as Funkineven, and it’s…acid trap. Well, kind of trap—it’s got a few modernist hi-hat flourishes, but the beat actually looks back a bit further through Southern trunk-rattling, 808 styles all the way back to Miami bass. Then a hyper-resonating 303 giggles and squirms its way through, and some sunrise-y Yamaha jazz chords float in later on. That’s it. That’s all it needs. An incredible record.

Universal Harmonies & Frequencies
Tune IN

In among Chicagoan Jamal Moss’s vast catalogue of tripped-out and distorted house there’s already some pretty intense jazz collaborations: Hieroglyphic Being and J.I.T.U. Ahn-Sahm-Buhl’s 2015 We Are Not The First, for example, included no less than Marshall Allen in its stellar list of players. But this sprawling album, made in an intense five-day session with Polish saxophonist/composer/producer Jerzy Maczyński, is every bit the equal of that excursion. It squawks, it crackles, it glitches and it honks—but just as often, it reaches moments of transcendent groove or burbling bliss, as on the ecstatic centerpiece “Call of the Wild.” Frankly, majestic stuff.

Global Goon

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP

Of all the braindance releases this—by an artist who was actually on Aphex Twin’s label Rephlex back in the day—is the most focused. As you’d expect from Sheffield’s outrageously consistent Central Processing Unit, it cleaves tightly to its electro, techno and, especially, Kraftwerk-ian influences—at various tempos, but always with the robo-funk groove paramount. For all that, it’s varied in feel, taking you on quite the odyssey through digital emotions.

Stella Remota

You don’t need to know the long story behind this album to grasp that it’s a huge achievement. Over 19 tracks, Guglielmo Barzacchini crackles with the raw and authentic primal energies of dubstep, hardcore, dancehall, and a dozen genres beside—even though he’s not beholden to the actual rules of any of them. Two collaborations with fellow boundary-liquifier Loraine James in particular are glorious, but every track on here is hair-raising—a huge release, in more ways than one.

Mina & Lamsi
Backie Riddim

DJing solo, or as one third of Boko! Boko!, Mina consistently joins the dots between the rudest and rowdiest of global dance styles, and her productions do likewise with laser focus. Here, she teams up with Surinamese star producer Lamsi to make a straight-up banger. Huge, off-beat kicks build the tension towards a four-to-the-floor groove, as deep horn stabs and the swerving pitch bends of “bubbling”—the dancehall-meets-rave style created in the Netherlands in the ‘90s by mainly Surinamese youth—all work together to build breathless momentum.

“Screwball Scramble” b/w “Double Dutch”

Manchester’s always-busy Chimpo is a guarantee of good-times sounds, whether he turns his hands to garage, grime, dancehall, hip-hop, or drum & bass, as here. The GutterFunk label—run by Bristol jungle veteran DJ Die—also swerves around genres, but is also a guarantee of good times. So guess what?! These two crisp, boiled-down-to-essentials drum & bass cuts are the absolute most fun. For all their minimalism, there’s always a little twist, or swoosh, or DJ cut coming up at any given moment to keep you on your toes and keep the party going.

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