2023 is over, and it’s sadly safe to say these remain very challenging times. Despite the sometimes spoken, sometimes unspoken uncertainties that colour the day-to-day realities of many, music continues to function as a shared communal space and a source of collective solace. In the wake of the pandemic’s lockdown years, the global music community faces ongoing economic challenges around touring, releasing, and promoting music. Regardless of the difficulty setting of the moment, new and under-discussed talents from the worlds of underground music continue to use community and craft to find a way.
For the final edition of our quarterly roundup for 2023, we’re continuing to reflect and acknowledge musicians, artists, producers, and DJs from across the globe, all with strong communities, real visions, and important statements to make. Here are ten essential Q4 releases, all available on Bandcamp. You also can read our Q1, Q2 and Q3 recaps here, here and here.
AYESHA, RHYTHM IS MEMORY
WHO: The New York producer/DJ making highly organised club music that renders the internal and external as one.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: With her debut album, Ayesha downloads a lifetime of musical experiences lived between India, the US, and the UK. In the process, she uses the physical heft of dubstep, techno’s machine beat, psychedelic sound design, and perfectly poised percussion to fold space and time before stepping out of the stargate at the intersection of braindance and body music. Although her hypnotic tracks can feel like a high-wire act, they never collapse into chaos, revealing Ayesha for what she is: a virtuoso of organised noise. From the explosive rhythms of “V7” to the squelchy bounce of “Buzzz”, Rhythm is Memory keeps on giving.
FOR FANS OF: Piezo, Karenn, Sister Zo.
ONIPA, OFF THE GRID
WHO: A London-based collective using a deft array of dance rhythms to connect the dots between countries, cultures, and genres.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Across their second album, Off The Grid, ONIPA draws from a dazzling and dizzying array of musical influences from across Africa, America, and the UK. Flowing effortlessly, they tie together sunkissed Ghanaian highlife sensibilities, proto-boogie/early electro hip-hop rhythms, classic house, Saharan desert blues, UK bass-jazz, South African Kwaito, and more. Over 14 richly detailed and undeniably dancefloor-friendly songs, Onipa expresses the complexity and beauty of how musical styles use shared cultures to communicate across borders. Released through Peter Gabriel’s Real World Records, Off The Grid sees the group collaborating with Moonchild Sanelly, David Walters, Dele Sosimi, and Theon Cross.
FOR FANS OF: Fela Kuti, Ebo Taylor, Tinariwen.
MARY LATTIMORE, GOODBYE, HOTEL ARKADA
WHO: An American harpist and composer who effortlessly conjures up vivid memories through her magical music.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Since the late 2000s, Mary Lattimore has lent her expressive harp skills to a range of musicians, ranging from Kurt Vile to Kesha. She’s also used her gifts for improvised playing and composition to turn out a series of albums that render her core memories as Elysian dreamscapes. Across the six wonderfully immersive and wordless tracks that make up Goodbye, Hotel Arkada, Lattimore is supported by a considered cast of collaborators that includes Lol Tolhurst (The Cure), Rachel Goswell (Slowdive), Roy Montgomery, Samara Lubelski, Meg Baird, and Walt McClements. Whether recalling a hug from Big Bird or soundtracking backstage makeup application, the music makes for a memorable experience.
FOR FANS OF: Julianna Barwick, Alice Coltrane, Laaraji.
DJ RAMON SUCESSO, SEXTA DOS CRIAS
WHO: A Brazilian beatmaker and DJ bringing the futuristic sounds of Rio De Janeiro to the world.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: If you are tapped into the music algorithms on social media, chances are you’ve seen some of those insane baile funk videos that make the Brazilian party scene look like it’s being broadcast to us directly from the year 3000. The 21-year-old DJ Ramon Sucesso has had a few live performance clips go viral in recent years, wowing the internet as he works his DJ controller with high-octane fingerwork that approaches warp speed. Across Sexta Dos Crias, he transforms his live energy into two extended, hyper-energised, and euphoric jams that feel like the soundtrack to the last party on Earth.
FOR FANS OF: Araabmuzik, M.I.A., DJ Zullu.
DANCE MANIACS, BUILT LIKE THAT
WHO: The red-hot producer/DJ trio lighting up dancefloors across Los Angeles.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: After concluding their influential, decade-long JBDUBZ compilation series, the Juke Bounce Werk collective reloads with the debut album from the Los Angeles trio of Oak City Slums, Avi Loud and Liano, aka Dance Maniacs. In the studio and behind the DJ booth, they crib influence from the vibrant, trans-Atlantic histories of late 20th/early-21st-century US and UK dance music, blurring house, techno, breaks, footwork, and jungle into eight sturdy floor-filling tracks. Coming off the back of a stellar Boiler Room after-party set and landing a Resident Advisor Mix of The Day via an equally stellar Dublab set with DJ Noir and Jae Drago, Dance Maniacs are dialled in.
FOR FANS OF: Kush Jones, Sherelle, DJ Rashad.
NATTY WYLAH, WILLOWWISP
WHO: A spoken word artist, rapper, guitarist, and producer who mixes jazz, post-punk, and hip-hop in South London.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: There’s a tradition for this, introspective, half-rapped, half-spoken-word vocals drifting over jazz hip-hop meets neo-soul beats that skew more towards the avant-garde side of jazz than the coffee shop side of rap. That said, that’s not a complete picture of what’s going on here either because, across the Willowwisp EP, Scenic Route signee Natty Wylah also taps into the visceral intensity of post-punk, alt-rock, and dub on cuts like “Lotus Flower”. As the story goes, Wylah named Willowwisp after the Jamaican artist John Dunkley’s painting of the myth of the Will-’o-the-wisp, a ghostly light that leads travellers to their demise in bogs and swamps at night.
FOR FANS OF: Nabihah Iqbal, Christoph El Truento, Kryptonyte.
WHO: A Toronto-based, Xi’an-born producer, DJ, pianist, and composer with an ear for the future and the past.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: The debut album from Parallel Minds co-founder Ciel, Homesick, is a glorious confluence of Chinese folkloric music, tech house, techno, breaks, and beyond. Draped in dreamy textures, her bouncy machine beats, airy melodies, and swirling synths feel suspended mid-air on tracks like “Bamboo”, essentially levitating over the dancefloor. Named after the eight types of traditional instruments in China (silk, bamboo, wood, stone, metal, clay, gourd, and hide), Ciel conceptualised Homesick in a creative burst during Canada’s 2021 COVID lockdowns, embellishing her productions with session instrumentalists. The end result is a set of songs you can’t help but drift away with.
FOR FANS OF: D. Tiffany, Anthony Naples, Broadcast.
WHO: The cult New Zealand vaporwave, future funk, and ambient producer taking his sound on a high-speed elevator to the clouds.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Over the last decade, Eyeliner’s polished synthesisers, twinkling lullaby melodies, and uptempo machine funk grooves have found favour in countless corners of the internet. Released by the My Pet Flamingo label, BRB came together during the pandemic while Eyeliner was living in Hong Kong. Trapped inside an apartment by restrictions, he let his imagination soar, taking influence from 1980s Cantopop, British Sophisti-pop, and Japanese exotica along the way. Songs like “Baby” and “Uptown Virtual” could be stand-ins for the sleekest skyscrapers on Earth, but beneath their high-gloss facades, they ripple with life, character, and tradition. More importantly, though, they really bounce.
FOR FANS OF: Software, Haruomi Hosono, Dâm-Funk.
VARIOUS ARTISTS, MALOCA, VOL. 2
WHO: A vital compilation album pointing the way towards the next wave of global club music.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Over the last four years, Le Motel’s Maloca Records have built up an open-eared, border-crossing vision for what it sounds like when the international leftfield dance music scene sonically cross-pollinates. Across their second compilation album, Maloca, Vol. 2, label regulars Farsight, Griffit Vigo, and DJ JM share tracklist space with Tristan Arp, NVST, De Grandi, Neida, Cheb Runner, and nine other talents. Stylistically sliding between abstract club music, gqom, UK funky, breakbeat house, percussive techno, and beyond, Maloca, Vol. 2 is energised and engaging. You’ll feel it in your body, but it also sparks something in your mind.
FOR FANS OF: Bambounou, Flore, Space Drum Meditation.
CHUQUIMAMANI-CONDORI, DJ E
WHO: The Woodland, California-based Bolivian musician and poet chopping and screwing cumbia and Andean folk until it melts into utopian psychedelia.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: In a recent interview with Fact Mag, Chuquimamani-Condori – who has recorded in the past as Elysia Crampton – described their new album DJ E as “…the sound of our water ceremonies… 40 bands playing their melodies at once to recreate the cacophony of the first aurora and the call of the morning star Venus”. Over seven remarkable pieces of music, they build up layers of sound and symbolism until they rise and fall, like a wave of ecstatic noise washing over everything in its path. Chuquimamani-Condori is no stranger to contrast, but the joy that shines through the devastation here is truly a wonder to behold.
FOR FANS OF: Klein, Oneohtrix Point Never, Luzmila Carpio.