In difficult times, paying attention to music can be an act of humanity. We turn to music not because it attracts attention, but because we want to fill our ears and souls. From Indonesia-to-Mexico collaborations to resurfacing legends, Mongolian hip hop to rethought AI, David Abravanel is back with a personal set of selections to round out the year.

As someone with a voice far less grating than mine once proclaimed, it’s me again. Yes, I’ve been out for a bit, but it’s that end-of-year time again, which means it’s time for another of my last-minute roundups.

I’m not going to touch a larger thought on the year this time. I think we all know about where we’re at, what we’re afraid of, and which blessings we’re counting. One of those blessings is the continued presence of music and the privilege we have to hear more of it than we can possibly fully process.

For anyone reading this, I truly wish you peace. Please be patient with the people in your life – everyone is going through something right now. Let’s let music bring us to grow.

Ed.: If you see some releases missing here, fret not – finishing off my list, too, so if you’re wiped out after New Year’s Eve you can basically listen to music and reemerge some time in July.

Everyone is going through something right now. Let’s let music bring us to grow.

Playlists – top pics for 2023

All lists in alphabetical order

Ed. – after David so nicely make this completely fair, I’m going to highlight one or two with more music embeds of some releases that hit me hard that he doesn’t mention below – apologies. -PK

50 Albums

3Phaz_ – Ends Meet (Discrepant)
Actress – LXXXVIII (Hyperdub)
Alison Goldfrapp – The Love Invention (Skint)
Angel Bat Dawid – Requiem for Jazz (International Anthem)
As One – AsOne2 (De:tuned)
Bodikhuu – Tokyo (Farsi)
Ceephax Acid Crew – Baddow Moods (Waltzer)
Clark – Sus Dog (Throttle)
Daniel Rotem – Wave Nature (Colorfield)
Deadbeat – Kubler-Ross Soliloquies (BLKRTZ)
DJ Bone – Further (Subject Detroit)
Dorothy Moskowitz & The United States of Alchemy – Under an Endless Sky (Tompkins Square)
Duncan Forbes & Mr G – All Under One Moon (49North)
Earth – Earth 2.23 Special Lower Frequency Mix (Sub Pop)
Erika – Anevite Void (Interdimensional Transmissions)
Gacha Bakradze – Pancakes (Lapsus)
Grey Corp – Global Control (Grey Corp)
Groupshow – Greatest Hits (Faitiche)
Isolée – Resort Island (Resort Island)
John Zorn – Parrhesiastes (Tzadik)
Kirk Degiorgio – Robe of Dreams (Neroli)
Kool Keith – Black Elvis 2 (Mello Music Group)
LA-4A – Apparitiana (Delft)
Meemo Comma – Loverboy (Planet-Mu)
Melati ESP – hipernatural (Carpark)
Om Unit + TM404 – In The Afterworld (Acid Test)
Orbital – Optical Delusion (London Records)
Oval – Romantiq (Thrill Jockey)
Panda Bear & Sonic Boom – Resent in Dub (Domino)
Patten – Deep Blue (555-5555)
Paul St. Hilaire – Tikiman Vol. 1 (Kynant)
Purelink – Signs (Peak Oil)
Roisín Murphy – Hit Parade (Ninja Tune)
RP Boo – Legacy Volume 2 (Planet-Mu)

Scotch Rolex & Shackleton – Death by Tickling (Silver Triplet)
Scuba – Digital Underground (Hotflush)
Strategy – The Wet Room (Community Library)
Suzanne Ciani – Improvisation on Four Sequences (Week-End)
The Brian Jonestown Massacre – The Future Is Your Past (A)
The Orb – Prism (Cooking Vinyl)
The Veldt – Illuminated 1989 (Little Cloud/5BC)
Tobor Experiment – Available Forms (Bearfunk)
Tom Thiel – Album (Arjunamusic)
Tomer Baruch & Alex Brajković – Metropolis (Hamseen Sounds)
VC-118A – Waves of Change (Delsin)
VHS Head – Phocus (Skam)
Vince Clark – Songs of Silence (Mute)
WaqWaq Kingdom – Hot Pot Totto (Phantom Limb)
Wata Igarashi – Agartha (Kompakt)
µ-Ziq – 1977 (Balmat)


20 Reissues

Abstract Thought – Hypothetical Situations (Clone)
Arovane – Lilies (Keplar)
Autechre – Draft 7.30 (Warp)
Black Dog Productions – Bytes (Warp)
Bowery Electric – Bowery Electric (Kranky)
De La Soul – first seven albums (AOI)
DJ Shufflemaster – EXP (Tresor)
Experimental Audio Research – The Köner Experiment (Space Age)
Hiroshi Yoshimura – Surround (Temporal Drift)
Sandwell District – Feed Forward (The Point of Departure)
Suicide – A Way Of Life (35th Anniversary Edition) (Mute)
Suzanne Ciani & Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – FRWKYS Vol. 13 – Sunergy (Rvng.)
Tatamax – Fairy Glen Appearances (Skam)
Techno Animal – The Brotherhood of the Bomb (Relapse)
The Black Dog – Spanners (Warp)
The Breeders – Last Splash (30th Anniversary Edition)
The Durutti Column- Time Was Gigantic…When We Were Kids (Factory Too)
The Orb – The Dream (Liquid Sound Design)
The Vision – Waveform Transmission Vol. 2 (Tresor)
Tricky – Maxinquaye (Reincarnated) (Universal)

15 EPs/Singles

Andi – Compelling Evidence (aufnahme + wiedergabe)
As One – The Unveiling (De:Tuned)
Barker- Unfixed (Smalltown Supersound)
Black Asteroid – New Flesh (Pls.UK)
Danny Daze – Broenecia (Schematic)
Dean Blunt – Give Me A Moment (World Music)
Deepchild – The Black Atlantic (Deepchild)
Dynasonic – Dynasonic (Instant Classic)
Hecq – Form (Mesh)
Inigo Kennedy – Seasonal Debris Two (Asymetrik)
Max Cooper – Motif (Mesh)
MOY – Dark Frontier (Analogical Force)
Nate Mars – In Time (Nate Mars)
Pole – Tempus Remixes (Mute)
The Purge of Tomorrow – The Other Side of Devastation (Modern Obscure)

Selected notes

Actress – LXXXVIII (Hyperdub)

Seemingly a sequel of sorts to mixtape 88 (which saw its debut release on vinyl as part of a deluxe bundle), LXXXVIII took Darren Cunningham’s new passion for game theory as architecture for some classic delicate Actress sounds (“Chill (h2)”), chopped soul (“It’s Me (G8)”), classic pressure Actress sounds (“Memory Haze (C1)”), and a lot more. Stare at a chessboard while you listen to this one.

As One – AsOne2 (Detuned)
Blue Binary – Origins (Firescope)
Kirk Degiorgio – Robe of Dreams (Neroli)
Kirk Degiorgio – Modal Forces/Percussive Forces (BBE)

Techno and IDM legend Kirk Degiorgio was a very busy bee this year, with four new albums on four different labels released within two months. As One’s AsOne2, the debut full-length for As One as a duo between Degiorgio and Catherine Siofra Prendergast, was one of my favorites from this year. If you’ve spent any time thinking about techno or kosmische or electro, please go hear it. Degiorgio’s diverse facets showed in other releases – exploring ambient textures as Blue Binary on the ever-reliable Firescope, a beautiful avant-jazz tribute to Pharaoh Saunders with Robe of Dreams, and focusing on jazzy breaks and hip-hop with Modal Forces/Percussive Forces

Tomer Baruch & Alex Brajković – Metropolis (Hamseen Sounds)

The imagery and story of Fritz Lang’s silent classic Metropolis have influenced the cold sounds and alienation prevalent in industrial music. It’s a treat to now have a full-length rescore with prominent field recordings of industry-forming loops and weighty bass stomps that communicate the overwhelming and isolating nature of a sprawling mechanical dystopia. Of a legacy with John Cage’s “Fontana Mix” and Yellow Magic Orchestra’s Technodelic

Clip from Metropolis featuring Tomer Baruch & Alex Brajković’s rescore.

Bodikhuu – Tokyo (Farsi)

Soundtracking a place you only know through pop culture pieces can be a risky idea – see the lazier side of vaporwave – but Mongolian hip-hop producer Bodikhuu captured something special with Tokyo, an album celebrating the imagined mundanities of the Japanese metropolis as much as the glossy highs of City Pop samples.

Clark – Sus Dog (Throttle)

Chris Clark has always had an impactful voice on the occasions he put it on record, but I definitely didn’t see an album of songs in a beautiful tenor coming. Full of aching beauty and with a very appropriate Thom Yorke collaboration, this album and its companion Cave Dog suggest that Clark touring with The Smile would be a great way, deservingly, to widen his profile.

Czarface – “All That For A Drop Of Blood”

Czarface – Czartificial Intelligence (Silver Age/Virgin)

The prolific and inventive Czarface keep getting tighter with their formula and their rhymes, and Czartificial Intelligence includes some of the best one-liners and call-backs Inspectah Deck and Esoteric have dropped over the retro-futuristic production from 7L, aligning perfectly with the comic book artwork. 

Deadbeat – Kübler-Ross Soliloquies (BLKRTZ)

This one tracks as Deadbeat’s most personal album, which is saying a lot. Emerging from challenging circumstances, this is an album that is desperate to progress and bring listeners to the light. It’s also eight tracks of dynamite dub techno – put it on with the nicest headphones you have.

Dorothy Moskowitz & The United States of Alchemy – Under an Endless Sky (Tompkins Square)

This was easily the most unexpected and elating comeback of 2023. Dorothy Moskowitz, best known for her frequently ring-modulated lead vocals in the groundbreaking psychedelic group The United States of America, returned my grateful ears with this reflective epic, created with collaborators Francesco Paolo Paladino and Luca Ferrari. The subject matter is far from light – get ready for some intimate thoughts on god, death, and human attachment, soundtracked by Paladino’s frequently droning and chiming instruments. It’s the kind of album you’d love to hear performed live while sitting on a carpet in a neon-lit room.

Alison Goldfrapp – The Love Invention (Skint)

If you’re just not as correct about everything music as I am, you might think that Goldfrapp’s best album was anything other than 2010’s pop perfection Head First. Thankfully, Goldfrapp (flying this time without long-time collaborator Will Gregory and under her full name) revisited this mood for a set of excellent disco pop that…well, I sound like a broken record but really should have taken off more.

Isolée – Resort Island (Resort Island)

I know I said I would try to focus on albums that didn’t get quite as much press elsewhere, but this one was positively slept on, and it beats the hell out of me as to why. This is Isolée in fine form, breezy and warm, bringing that altogether human feel he always had to his calculated house. 

Kool Keith ft. Marc Live & Ice-T – “The Formula”

Kool Keith – Black Elvis 2 (Mello Music Group)

It’s Kool Keith, he’s back as one of his best characters, it’s aqua funk, and also Ice-T delivers one of his best verses of the past decade. Long may the Spankmaster reign!

Melati ESP – hypernatural (Carpark)

I spoke to these fine folks for Ableton earlier this year, and what I said then should help pique your interest if you haven’t heard this unique gem yet:

Drawing on influences from jungle, pop, ambient, and other forms of music, Melati ESP also sees Melati performing lyrics in Bahasa for the first time. Enlisting Tristan Arp as an international collaborator, the story of Melati ESP’s recently-released debut album, hipernatural, presents another triumph of creativity over the challenges of distance and lockdown.

Om Unit + TM404 – In The Afterworld (Acid Test)

When Om Unit started releasing his Acid Dub Studies series, it took a couple of minutes for the social media tags to come in, linking him to Andreas Tilliander’s similar TM404 project. A natural fit, this album ties with Paul St. Hilaire for brilliant use of space on synths in the 2-3.

Patten – Deep Blue (555-5555)

Patten released a couple albums diving headfirst into AI composition as both a weird virtual partner and a kind of problem child to be tamed into uncanny tracks. With the second release, Deep Blue, you can hear a new level of mastery over the cold clangs and spectral dust. Augmented human sounds point a way forward, twisting AI’s alien understanding of music rather than simply giving it the reins.

Augmented human sounds point a way forward, twisting AI’s alien understanding of music rather than simply giving it the reins.

Scuba – Digital Underground (Hotflush)

Technically a mixtape, this presents Scuba in a loose and fun-loving mode paying tribute to classic rave auras. Everything flows just right, the stabs hit you right in the tasty place, and the breaks should get your emotions flowing through history even if you’re 2 years old.

Paul St. Hilaire – Tikiman Vol. 1 (Kynant)

It’s hard to come down fully on just one single album of the year, but much of the time, my top contenders are LA-4A’s Apparitiana and this work of dubbed-out beauty. Paul St. Hilaire, Tikiman, a legend in dub techno, and this album is a long time coming. Demonstrating his versatility, Hilaire shines with his unmistakably honeyed vocals, echoing soundscapes, and some surprises like his guitar prowess in the extended solo on “Keep Safe”. Dub on, rock on, sing on.

Strategy – Graffiti in Space (Constellation Tatsu)
Strategy – The Wet Room (Community Library)

Few artists have been as all over the map as Paul Dickow, whose output ranges from joyous house and 2-step to ambient meditations for rainy days to aural graffiti. Dickow stayed busy in 2023 with several releases, including these two full-length highlights. While Graffiti in Space has the distance, noise, and coldness you’d expect from the title, The Wet Room plays on the other sides of dub for what is a deceptively relaxing listen thematically tackling climate catastrophe and what is, in the most complimentary way possible, is the best album The Orb never made. 

Tom Thiel – Album (Arjunamusic)

I’d say that it’s a massive question why this album didn’t receive more fanfare, but honestly, it’s a bit appropriate given these pieces’ sparse and focused nature. Taking the playfulness of Thiel’s background in Sun Electric to a focus on a few evolving sounds, this difficult-to-Google release is a must for anyone wondering what might have happened if Suzanne Ciani had spent some time with Anthony Manning.

The Veldt – “Everlasting Gobstopper”
The Veldt – Illuminated 1989 (Little Cloud/5BC)

By rights, this should be a deluxe re-release in the reissue section – but alas, industry BS prevented The Veldt’s gem of a first album from seeing a proper release for 34 years. This is dream pop and shoegaze at its finest, with soulful singing taking things into the atmosphere. Recorded by Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie and even featuring a collaboration with Elisabeth Fraser, there’s just no reason this didn’t drop in 1989 to match the ascendance of Ride and Lush. But it’s here now – and The Veldt are still going, so see them!

VHS Head – Phocus (Skam)

VHS Head albums can be a long time coming, understandably given Ade Blacow’s process of digging through VHS tapes for all source material. Phocus was well worth the wait, continuing the eerie hauntological cutups with a loose narrative of a lost film which doesn’t exist but also makes my year-end film list. On the off chance Blacow sees this – please do more weekend streams from your archive!

John Zorn – Parrhesiastes (Tzadik)
John Zorn – The Fourth Way (Tzadik)

2023 was a banner year for avant-garde legend John Zorn, with beautiful guitar compositions on Nothing Is As Real As Nothing, meditative tributes on Bill Laswell’s collaboration Memoria, two albums of compositions for his Chaos Magick band, and many more I’ve probably lost track of. My two favorites were Parrhesiastes, a set of Chaos Magick pieces darting between funk, metal, jazz, and ambient, and The Fourth Way, a mainly piano-based set dedicated to the mystic Georges Gurdjieff. May Zorn never release only enough albums to keep track of!


Blur – The Ballad of Darren (Parlophone)
The Streets – The Darker The Shadow The Brighter The Light (Warner)

These were both great albums that I enjoyed, but more importantly, it’s nice to have a tie in the award for British Artist Who Got Famous Affecting A Cockney Accent/Persona And Released A Comeback Album That Addresses Middle Age And Growth While Still Finding A Lot To Celebrate In Life Even If They Can’t Party The Same™.

The author

David Abravanel is a long-time friend, musician/producer, and journalist, and has been our resident tastemaker and resource for making playlists on CDM for some time. Previously: