Lists be damned, we thought it was more fun to bundle a whole heap of our favourite tunes of the year into three mammoth mixes for your listening pleasure. Ambient, midtempo and fast gear contained within.

As the human experience trucks on past the finish line of another trip around the sun, we’re left with yet another insurmountable mountain of music to wade through. As someone who dedicates an inordinate amount of time to seeking out new music, it feels like a fools errand to even try and sum up the tiny fraction of sound I myself encountered out there on the teeming plains of sonic content. That said, it was too much fun sifting through and picking out highlights from various trusted egg-nests of digs, which left me with a modest 10 hours of tracks cut down quite ruthlessly from the larger body of 2023 music within my immediate reach.

Divided between three mixes, these 95 tracks were just some of the sounds which cut through the noise and made an impression. It’s a silly amount of music to wedge together like this, and there’s a greater focus on range than aesthetic consistency, but it’s an honest representation of how much incredible music is being made, from pitch-perfect genre studies to the weirdest, most innovative abstractions. There was so much more that could have been included, but for now, dive in.

Thanks for tapping up International Orange through 2023 – it’s a pleasure to be just one small voice in the cacophony of music coverage, and if anyone is reading it and getting something from it, then our job is done. A huge shout out to the amazing artists who contributed to the IOMix series this year, and to all the fantastic writers who submitted pieces to the site, and generally all the lush people we have the pleasure of engaging with in the orbit of this venture. Here’s to more great sounds and generally ranting about them in 2024.

Much love,

Oli @ IO x

Splayed Out In The Lobby

Ambient and experimental figures continued to manifest in all sorts of intriguing ways, from all manner of sources, in 2023. From the surreal delicacy of California’s Leaving Records to Azu Tiwaline’s Tunisian rhythm mantras, veterans Pierre Bastien and Michel Banabila creating charmingly odd, tactile mechanics to Nondi_’s mesmerising slant on footwork, the possibilties felt endless. There was space for some trip-hop slanted head-nodders as much as exquisite neo-classical, jazz and drone inversions and a healthy amount of cross-cultural exploration proving our differences can also be our strengths when coalesced with the right intentions.

  1. J Foerster / N Kramer – Catalog (Leaving Records)
  2. Wild Terrier Orchestra – Observed In Nature (Extended Techniques)
  3. Shackleton & Wacław Zimpel with Siddhartha Belmannu – The Ocean Lies Between Us (Radio Edit)
  4. Nadia Struiwigh – hLOW (Dekmantel) 
  5. Natalia Beylis – Afloat in Fog and Feathers (Touch Sensitive)
  6. Laurel Halo – Sweat, Tears or the Sea (Awe)  
  7. Sofie Birch & Antonina Nowacka – Pripugale (Mondoj)
  8. Greg Foat & Gigi Masin – Your Move (Strut)
  9. Monopoly Child Star Searchers and Sun Araw – Lava Tube Solos on Horseback (Pacific City Discs)
  10. Sanam – Mou3athibati (Dais Um)
  11. Jay Glass Dubs – Wild Terrier (feat. Christina Vantzou) (Extended Techniques)
  12. African Head Charge – Push Me Pull You (On-U Sound)
  13. maya ongaku – Approach (Guruguru Brain)
  14. Niecy Blues – U Care (Kranky)
  15. Lamina – Soupire (Twin System)
  16. Roger Robinson – Feel Bad Smile (Do You Have Peace?)
  17. Dijit – Leban (Youth)
  18. Hoodie – Scorpio (AD93)
  19. Notte Brigante – Simplists inna hate trk (Notte Brigante)
  20. Nat Birchall – Heart-Spirit-Love (Ancient Archive Of Sound)
  21. GAF y la Estrella de la Muerte – Pyramids 2 (Discrepant)
  22. AshTreJinkins – You Were Not Space Base Approved (Leaving Records)
  23. Caveman LSD – Hurrian Hymn H6 Remix (Isla)
  24. Ziur – Nontrivial Differential (w/ Elvin Brandhi) (Hakuna Kulala)
  25. Karkossyn – All This Hate (UVB-76)
  26. Moufang – Czamanski – Ruby Rudy (Source)
  27. Brigitte Barbu – Bonnes nouvelles des étoiles (Circus Company)
  28. Civilistjävel! – Louhivesi (ft. Cucina Povera) (FERN)
  29. Nondi_ – Floaty Cloud Dream (Planet Mu)
  30. Purelink – Stadium Drive (Peak Oil)
  31. Kurvenschreiber – Doppelwortbefehl (Udacha)
  32. Azu Tiwaline – Amen Dub (I.O.T)
  33. Mister Water Wet – Born To Lose (Soda Gong)
  34. Pierre Bastien & Michel Banabila – At The Party (Pingipung)
  35. A.L. Viktor – Delicate (Hypno Discs)
  36. DJ Nature – Follow Your Dreams (Jazzy Sport)
  37. RAMZi – all ball (Music From Memory)
  38. Wave Temples – Blue Bermuda (Possible Motive)
  39. Universal Frequencies & Harmonies – Call Of The Wild (Yeyeh)

Midtempo Rollers

In the midtempo realm, the continued progression of deep techno felt like a pervasive force in 2023, moving beyond purist 4/4 to encompass more rhythmic exploration and crooked sound design. There was still some great electro being made that stood apart from the glut of imitators knocking out Drexciya and B12 rip-offs, and in some places you could still find artists perfecting the well-worn deep house formula. Not everything has to be an innovation – sometimes a great tune is just a great tune, regardless of when it came out.

  1. Katatonic Silentio – To (Delsin Mantis)
  2. Purelink – Stadium Drive (Peak Oil)
  3. The Other Others – Our Daily Bread Battle (Jahtari)
  4. DJ ojo – Speckled (Oneiric)
  5. Notte Infinita – Ion (Tool Mix) (Oscilla Sound)
  6. Toulouse Low Trax – Ossia (Bureau B)
  7. Landstrumm – Minimoo (Swamp81)
  8. Si Begg – MS10 Machine Funk (CPU)
  9. JTC – The Pounce (Bopside)
  10. Annie Hall – Unparalleled Comfort (CPU)
  11. John Heckle – 7C (Intrinsic Rhythm)
  12. Pursuit Grooves – Immaculate Threads By Ancestors (Self-Released)  
  13. Jenifa Mayanja – Second Time’s The Charm (Hardmatter)
  14. Byron The Aquarius – Mr. JX-8P (Clone Jack For Daze)
  15. Moufang – Czamanski – Tea For 2 (Source)
  16. Nico Lahs – Keep On Groovin’ (Quintessentials)
  17. Henzo – A Healthy Fear Of Snakes (YCO)
  18. Rrose – Spore (Eaux)
  19. Memotone – Canteen Sandwich (Impatience)
  20. oma totem – ER – 4 (Hivern Discs)
  21. Cousin – Overpass (Mood Hut)
  22. New Jackson – Sanyo Shinkansen (+ELLLL & Lumigraph Remix)
  23. James Bangura – Witness Dub (!K7)
  24. Bobby Donny Soundsystem – Fidelity (Bobby Donny)
  25. Eddie Fowlkes – AHYEE (Extended Mix) (Classic)
  26. Sinethemba Mahlangu – worn out black hoodie (Third Ear)
  27. HVL – Collective Genius (Organic Analogue)
  28. Celine Gillain – Peer Pressure (cortizona)
  29. Karpenkov – EvpaTrans + (Gost Zvuk)

Jogging On The Spot

Even if there was plenty of cause for nihilistic fast-tempo oblivion on dancefloors this year, there were also plenty of meditative and soul-enriching sonics in the upper tempo realm. From slamming, invigorating techno to dyed-in-the-wool dubstep and an abundance of needlepoint jungle and breakbeat, there was a lot to celebrate past the 130 BPM mark. It feels like so many amazing releases aren’t even shouted out here, but in the face of the sheer volume you have to make do with just a snapshot. Hold tight for the Yazmin Lacey swerveball, proving UK soul can still have teeth and cut it with the soundsystem gear.

  1. Boofy – Boomer Technology (Self-released)
  2. Semtek – Denny Island (Rubadub)
  3. Jackson Ryland – Hyp Gruuv (Peach Discs)
  4. Nadia Struiwigh – Parcel 33 (Dekmantel)
  5. Sami – Twin (1432r)
  6. Ben Pest – Think Again (Co-Accused)
  7. Yeti Mind Tricks – We Ain’t Like Them (DJ Bone Remix)
  8. DJ Spence – No Fan Needed (Doo)
  9. Frequency – Space Dub Work (Repetitive Rhythm Research)
  10. Yazmin Lacey – Tomorrow’s Child (Own Your Own)
  11. Dolenz x Sumgii – Nill Feels (Exit)
  12. Kahn & Neek – Sho Off feat. Mez (Kahn & Neek)
  13. Dubamine feat. Nazamba – Cool & Relax (Dub Stuy)
  14. Elijah Minelli – Gradually Verzion (ZamZam Sounds)
  15. V.I.V.E.K. – Her (System)
  16. Batu – For Spirits (A Long Strange Dream)
  17. Black Rave Culture – Ama Beat That (Self-Released)
  18. Double O – Probe (Rupture London)
  19. Laksa – Soulz (RE:LAX) 
  20. Piezo – Cutest Kitty Contest (Ansia)
  21. KW – Midnight Run (Ilian Tape)
  22. Emily Jeanne – Ao Sen (Peder Mannerfelt Produktions)
  23. Mantra – Ala (Sneaker Social Club)
  24. Suzy Analogue – Nice To Meet U (Join Remix) (Self-released)
  25. Gent1e $oul – Heat Map (Fast Castle)
  26. Pev – Pulse VIII (Livity Sound)
  27. Hooverian Blur – Skatterbox (WNCL)
  28. Warlock – Rush Rush (Peder Mannerfelt Produktion)