BEST OF 2023 The Best Club Music of 2023 By Gabe Meier · December 15, 2023

With each passing year, the task of assembling a year-end list that is both representative of the global breadth of club music, yet also speaks to the cutting edge of the respective threads, gets harder and harder. At this juncture, a number of record labels have surfaced to catch wind of the best and brightest from this global milieu, yet much of the cultural resonance of dancefloor music evades both classification and the strictures of a traditional release catalog. It tends to be strewn across streaming platforms, struck down by copyright notices, and produced in both a deliberately and accidentally opaque manner. We are lucky that some of this vast jumble of club music lands on Bandcamp, although it could hardly be representative of the font of talent, hits, and novel stylistic gestures that arose this past year.

This said, 2023 was another massive year for the music I, and others, uneasily aggregate as club music. Cairo and Chicago, Rio De Janeiro and South London, New York and Lisbon; these connections really do exist through both the internet and a touring network, albeit one that still geographically limits artists from the Global South. Projects from 3phaz, DJ JM, and fiyahdred effortlessly mediate between dance sounds both niche and universal, casting their respective traditions into the flames. Over on the East Coast, expansive efforts from Byrell The Great, SlickGoHam, and Uninamise point to the vibrancy of ballroom, Bmore club, and flex dance music by fine-tuning them for a multitude of contexts beyond the traditional club.

DJ RaMeMes and VANYFOX, meanwhile, point to two very different ends of the Lusophone dance music spectrum, RaMeMes coming from the cauldron of Brazilian funk metamorphosis and VANYFOX arriving at a more purist vantage on Lisbon’s kuduro sound. Jlin, likewise, summons a duality wherein the Midwestern footwork auteur both exceeds and continues to reinvent that genre and cultural designation. Chuquimamani-Condori’s DJ E also exceeds whatever designations are put to it, linking together a number of stylistic, geographic, and spiritual moments—from E+E’s The Light That You Gave Me To See You to “Moth” b/w “Lake” under Elysia Crampton—of the storied artist’s life. While hardly derivative, Hayden Kolb’s lost in my room also follows in the spirit of E+E, recomposed from the mossy, internal spaces of its producer’s mind. Lastly, aya and BFTT’s latest collaboration on their YCO label calls forth everything that I love about club music: silly, full of hooks, and spectacularly arranged.


Cairo-based artist 3phaz has spent the past several years developing the city’s Mahraganat and Shaabi musics. 2020’s Three Phase and March 2023’s Ends Meet began to draw out a dense, energetic dialogue between Cairene dance forms and other broadly rendered hard-drum sonics. It was on May’s DrumTraTrax, released on in-vogue Colombian label TraTraTrax, that the 3phaz approach really came to fruition, lacing the global dance music massive with three impossibly humid Mahraganat-meets-rave peak time soundsystem bangers. Perfectly curated remixes from OMAAR, E-Saggila, Amazondotcom, and ZULI build out the release; the latter’s take on “Slomo Strut” is a personal year-end favorite.

aya and BFTT
Up And At Them!

Any one of YCO’s three 2023 releases could have ended up in this spot, so this is something of a group plaudit, which is not to take away from Up And At Them!, but more to shine a light on the greatness of georg-i, Henzo, and the entire crew. That said, aya and BFTT’s latest collaboration is an absolute menace, packed with extremely tight rhythmic contortions, exuberant hooks, and patient songwriting that can and should be played just about anywhere. “Planet Of The Vapes” could easily be a windows-down summer hit, while the slow, almost turgid, bassline-led “Beam Me Up Stotty” alternates between lightweight and hefty from section to section. The title track, on the other hand, is a brilliant exercise in pace and tension, effervescent in its palette yet overflowing with sonic pressure. A release as expansive and impressive as expected from aya and BFTT.


Despite the general functionality of its approach, Tsvi and Wallwork’s Nervous Horizon label is full of releases with a ton of character, ranging from the sweltering hand drum beats of DJ Plead’s Pleats Plead to the serrated bubbling of Dj Missdevana’s Brass. Lithuanian producer DJ JM debuted on Nervous Horizon with 2019’s sleek No Days Off, and has gone on to release material for Goon Club Allstars and Maloca in the years since. Released in September, Abnormal is, without reservation, a massive hit: industrial in ethos, if not aesthetic, rife with sumptuous riffs. Each track deserves a paragraph of its own, but it’s the wobbly, quasi-electro number “Pepper” that keeps me coming back, thanks to a trance-inducing chant that simultaneously dissolves and drives the track forward.

DJ RaMeMes

The past several years have seen an explosion of Brazilian funk music, and while much of it has yet to arrive on Bandcamp, 2023 had plenty to offer. (For Anglophone insight into the broader scene, check out the Billdifferen blog for regular round-ups—see 2022’s Best of Baile Funk—as well as the Living Gatlato and Vhoor shows on NTS Radio.) That said, despite the crowded field, RaMeMes had a calendar year for the ages. The Rio De Janeiro artist released two albums and three EPs this year, each unrelenting in velocity and an almost fanatical dancefloor energy. We highlighted Sem Limites earlier this year, and TAMBORZIN DE VOLTA REDONDA, self-released in November, continues to distill the RaMeMes sound. The album is made up of 12 sub-two-minute songs and a series of marathon “bonus” tracks, including a remarkably blown-out 10-minute epic to close out the package. No one is doing lunatic vocal processing and speed run drum programming quite like RaMeMes.

Byrell The Great
The Triggers

Timelessness is a quality more often stated than demonstrated, but Byrell The Great has been churning out timeless, in both sound and reception, ballroom productions for more than a decade. Tracks like “Bubble Drip,” “Funny Munny,” and “Da Function” sit in an echelon of ballroom classics, and the New York artist continues to release heat to this day. The Triggers exemplifies this trajectory, full of unadorned, ruthlessly efficient tracks that, in a world oversaturated by edits and kitsch, hold true both to the requirements of the dancefloor and to Byrell’s own constellation of reference points and sonic histories. Opener “The Triggers” and closer “Look of Love Performance Tool” synthesize everything great about New York-area vernacular dance history and ballroom culture: sleek, emphatic numbers where nothing is out of place. The middle three tracks are more frenetic, interpolating familiar samples across raucous drum work and forceful basslines.


Prior to the release of DJ E, it had been a fantastic year for those lucky enough to catch fleeting glances of Chuquimamani-Condori in various IRL and digital spaces. I was lucky enough to be present for a series of summer events in New York: first, a lecture by Silvia Rivera Cusiqanci introduced and hosted by Chuquimamani-Condori, followed by a performance of their duo with Joshua Chuquimia Crampton, Los Thuthanaka. In between were fleeting Kelela edits, DJ mixes, and odds-and-ends blends (many characteristically released on Mediafire) that could only come from the E+E school of collage. This felt like enough but then came DJ E, described by the Aymaran artist as the “sound of our water ceremonies, the 40 bands playing their melodies at once to recreate the cacophony of the first aurora and the call of the morning star Venus.” The album, which unites the various phases of Chuquimamani-Condori’s life and career, should be taken as a whole, but I’ll point to “Engine” as an immediate dancefloor epic that should be treasured for generations to come.

Overtime / Wining Train

Few artists synthesize the London sound better than fiyahdred. Overtime / Wining Train, a two-part single released on Club Djembe, is concise and to the point yet liquid in its relationship to genre. Bits of funky house, amapiano, gqom, and garage enter the field of action, all tied together by a sultry, understated vocal performance. Compared to the hodgepodge tendencies of most hybridized club music, both “Overtime” and “Wining Train” operate as totalities that express a complete relationship to genre history and vernacular culture. Of the two, “Overtime” is a slow burn, while “Wining Train” is more rambunctious, each a perfect pit for different points in a night out.

Hayden Kolb
lost in my room

In a year that Chuquimamani-Condori released the, let’s be honest, album of the year (see above), it almost feels facile to point out the indescribable tradition that has sprung up in the wake of early E+E mixtapes like Promise and The Light That You Gave Me To See You. Yet, a flowering of (epic) collage and geological musics have emerged in the past decade, none better than Hayden Kolb’s self-described “post-Elysian” lost in my room EP. Released in March on London’s always excellent TT, lost in my room is made up of four delicately constructed arrangements that layer watery synths, breathy woodwinds, and languorous guitars atop cumbia and baile funk-inspired rhythms. See projects grrid and Lilic, also released in 2023, for more in this vein.


Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)

Generated across a series of performances and collaborations that have seen Jlin extend well beyond traditional dancefloors and footwork battles, Perspective is a characteristically challenging work. The accompanying press blurb provided by Planet Mu argues that the Gary, Indiana artist is more composer than producer and can’t be contained by genre tags like footwork and IDM but Perspective is also an undeniable riff on those sounds, and this is a club music column, so I am going to focus on Perspective as a dancefloor record despite the fact that it is so obviously in surplus of that designation. “Obscure” is a good place to start, squelching out of the gate with madcap bursts of feverish percussion, thumping sub bass and a cantankerous lead synth that adds levity to an otherwise monstrous production. On the other end of the spectrum, “Fourth Perspective” and “Dissonance” take a spartan tact, the former trance-like and progressive, the latter’s hand drum foundation stuttering into life. Perspective will likely end up on a number of year-end lists and deserves to be feted as a whole work, yet the producer, who I heard for the first time on 2011’s Bangs & Works Vol​.​2, remains one of the most compelling dancefloor artists anywhere.

Sorry4The8 – 3

A new wave of Baltimore Club producers has pushed the city’s dancefloor tradition into novel directions in recent years. Aurora, a collaborative project released on the storied Night Slugs label (which had a quietly excellent year in 2023), highlighted up-and-comers like S.Dot, Kade Young, CalvoMusic, and SlickGoHam. The latter’s Sorry4The8 – 3, in particular, hasn’t left the proverbial iPod since its release in June. Effortlessly catchy, SlickGoHam leans towards the R&B-and-breaks end of the club spectrum on this nine tracker, looping in familiar hooks without losing the project’s emphasis on expertly-cut breaks and patient song progressions. Tracks like “Bad,” “Down,” and “Mine” contain subtle homages to Bmore traditions of yore yet evade pastiche in a push towards heavenly soundscapes and sensual atmosphere.

Fear Flex

Uninamise is part of a small set of producers in the Tri-State area that continue to define flex dance music (FDM). Fear Flex is an expansive collection of sparse beats, martial drum programming, and creative textural work, highlighted by experiments with minor-key basslines and organic drums (see “Brooklyn” with Epic B and “Virginia White” with Yokai The Deity). Epic B, HMXGOD (Flexgod), Dj Aaron, Yokai The Deity, MvstermindMuzik (OMNI), Davincii Productions (SHIFT), and Eion The Producer (EIONS UNIVERSE)—more or less the entirety of the FDM school of producers—contribute to the 20-song effort, which links artists, samples, and traditions from across the Black Atlantic into a sonic crucible that blurs the lines between individual creativity, Black music history, and self-possessed dancefloor production.

Sonho Azul

It was another banner year for Lisbon club music and, despite a crowded field, I’ve repeatedly come back to the at once lush and powerful sounds of VANYFOX’s Sonho Azul. One of the city’s more prolific artists, VANYFOX oscillates between muscular polyrhythms, slick basslines, pillow-soft synths, and smooth vocal arrangements. Tracks like “Alegria Da Velha,” “Sonho Azul,” and “Final Feliz” point to the softer side of VANYFOX, all rounded corners undergirded by hyper-melodic sub bass and pittering wooden and mechanical percussion; “Lifestyle Dos Enjoados” and “Puto Estranho,” on the other hand, spin drill basslines and Lusophone rap into a whirlpool of contiguous, overlapping beats that contain an undeniable charisma.

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