2023: sets of the year

James Holden – Bandcamp Weekly 640

Bad news, it’s another James Holden year, so you have to hear about everything single thing he’s done. Lucky for you, this set has not only a bunch of excellent “ambient” records in a row, but also James’s lovely, borderline-ASMR voice talking you through each record. On a scale of 0 to “vibes”, this one is a “super deep maaaaan”.

Kvanchi – Zenaari Mix 001

Staying ambient, this set out of Georgia is both generally great and has another occuance of this year’s “weird pitched percussion” subtheme, with an overlay of an old American folk tune over some serious gamelan music.

Horse Meat Disco – Rinse FM, April 2023

Very much not ambient: I recall I put on some random things from Rinse.fm in the spring, and found some of my favorite sets of the year. This one, a casual set of great disco records, was maybe my favorite uptempo set of the year, and one of my favorite disco sets since that whole thing that happened in 2020.

CCL – Liquidtime No. 9 – Cape Fear

Only 15 years too late, I am finally really enjoying “bass music” and “dub-step”.

JLin x Mike Paradinas – RA 903

JLin continues her campaign to not-so-secretly be the best composer of the last 10 years, as complied and mixed by the boss of Planet Mu.

Honorable Mentions to the following greats:

  • Ben UFO – Live @ Pitch Perfect; b-a-n-g-e-r-s, what a set.
  • Heiroglyphic Being – RA 888; deep weird house music.
  • Colored Craig – RA 898; just plain wonderful deep house.
  • Mori-Ra – Japanese Breeze Vol. 15; another Rinse find of city pop and early Japanese house..
  • DJ Voices – Live @ Nowadays Nonstop, Nov 2023; DJ Voices!

2023: concerts of the year

Lucrecia Dalt @ National Sawdust

I did not know what to expect going into this one – Dalt has made both sideways torchsongs and geological ambient, among other things in her catalog. This was her with a synth + effects, and then a … dude … who I have learned is named Alex Lázaro, on a kit that looked like some sort of demented mobile. Dalt, doing mostly things in the “sideways torchsongs with electronics”, can sell you on the intimacy that National Sawdust often lacks. Lázaro, on the other hand, looks like a cross between Harpo Marx, an NBA shooting guard, and Ginger Baker — and plays enough like whatever that combination would play like to perfectly balance both Dalt and the venue.

Oliver Messiaen – Turangalila Symphonie @ NY Phil

The NY Phil came very committed to playing Messiaen’s literally gigantic Turangalia, with Jean-Yves Thibaudet on piano and Cynthia Millar on ondes martenot. The piece is so much that it is hard to know what to say about it, but let’s try: this was a monumental thing and I am still thinking about the sixth (out of 10!) movements, and I highly recommend it.

Kate Soper’s The Hunt @ Miller Theatre

Wry and haunting and wondrous and modern and medieval, Soper’s chamber opera for three sopranos was very strong. The MacGuffin is “three medieval virgins passing the time while they wait for a unicorn”, while sending updates back to the King and his Court via Instagram – which means that Soper can lean into her intertextual magic, re-cut old plainchant, and so forth. I came out of the performance a bit unsure of how the plot landed … but having now seen more opera in The Magic Flute, perhaps the plot is not really the point of opera, when the vocal writing is this good.

The most honorable mentions to:

  • Julianna Barwick at National Sawdust; lush and beautiful and overwhelming.
  • Steve Reich’s latest at the NY Phil; which was notable not in the least because the guy himself walked by me and asked NY Phil staff which way to the men’s room.
  • The Magic Flute; in English by Julie Taymor and The Met – featuring not only Kathryn Lewek’s laserbeam-brillant Queen Of The Night, but also the most “sexy flamingos” I have seen on stage at once.

winter is coming



Manchester’s finest came through Nowadays, as part of Voices’ residency, and was really excellent.

Some highlights stand out: going from a 160 bpm quasi-hardcode uplifting piano track straight into booty house … and then after 15 minutes of straight fingergun bassline bangers, pulling out a hardcore / fast techno edit of early James Blake, which had folks losing their minds.

She also played Missy Elliott’s Get Ur Freak On, just letting the original roll on between bass music monsters (Minor Science – Workahol, among others). Well worth staying up late for.

down east

Mr. Sunday

A dance intensive came to the club early and cut it up like crazy; I had a borderline out of body experience when the mist system came on for the first time; lots of beautiful deep Detroit techno; two feral cats in the back yard; I saw a man sharpening machete on the way home.

america, america

le grand west

city city city