It is hard to fully reflect on a year that is ending with the immediacy of ongoing atrocities and such harrowing weight. Music, however, continues to provide not only an expressive and cathartic balm but also a unifying presence; the dancefloor holding potential as a space of shared grief and solidarity, as well as euphoric release. And so, we highlight some of the sounds and names we’ve had on heavy rotation this year – that have soundtracked both our personal and collective joys, and our anguish. From club heat to introspective headphone moments via important expressions of protest – this is a look back at 2023 through 25 mixes.
UNFOLD 24/24 (NYD 2023): Manni Dee
The year kicked into gear – literally, with kick drums aplenty – with Manni Dee’s incendiary New Year’s Day set at renowned queer techno haven UNFOLD. Sexy, sassy and climactic, you can almost feel the sweat emanating from this live recording of the moment. And this is an energy the DJ and producer has very much kept up, with his new EP dropping this coming January, continuing to bring us some much needed warmth during the winter months.
Juanita’s 082: 8ULENTINA
We love an introspective main character moment (especially during the winter months) and 8ULENTINA’s entry into Juanita’s mix series felt like a suitably atmospheric soundtrack for such a thing. “This mix reminds me of zoning out and looking out of the window on the bus,” 8ULENTINA said of the set, “and other rare moments when transportation feels cinematic / romantic.” A perfect sonic travel companion that we've kept close with us all year long.
Midland at Group Therapy, Copenhagen
“This was my love letter to everyone we lost to AIDS,” Midland wrote of his four-hour set for the World AIDs Day fundraiser at Copenhagen’s Group Therapy, “and a chance to play some of my most cherished records.” Not only a striking tribute and a celebration of the dancefloor’s communal potential, Midland’s mix also tapped into the narrative power of a set – an intricately curated journey featuring vocal clips from ACT UP’s Larry Kramer, Audre Lorde and James Baldwin interwoven with music spanning ambient, downtempo selections through to disco, house and techno.
Deep South 112, Black History Month: Alexis Curshé
Deep South Podcast
For Black History Month, Deep South resident Alexis Curshé provided a history lesson in Black house music fuelled by pure, groove-driven joy. A DJ deeply immersed in Atlanta’s dance music scene, Curshé’s mix celebrated house and techno’s roots, featuring OG pioneers like Frankie Knuckles, Ron Hardy and Mike Huckaby alongside contemporary innovators.
Otaku: Valentine Mix
Mario and Princess Peach, Sora and Kairi, Tidus and Yuna… love comes in many forms. For this year’s Valentine’s Day, the NTS show Otaku devoted itself to romantic soundtracks from video games, providing an atmospheric, magical listen that whisked us away to fantastical lands and through epic love stories. Dreamy.
Sunday Mix Live 45: Salamanda
Salamanda excel at crafting intricate, atmospheric soundworlds. Which is exactly what the pair delivered with this live set for Seoul’s verdant Greendaroom, making for a truly transcendent and immersive listen abounding in otherworldly ambient and crystalline electronics.
International Women’s Day: Iranian music by women – Mixed by Nesa Azadikhah & AIDA
For this year’s International Women’s Day, Apranik Records founders Nesa Azadikhah and AIDA put together a genre-spanning mix bound by mood and feeling. The Iranian artists behind charity compilation Woman, Life, Freedom – raising funds and awareness for the ongoing women-led uprising in Iran – the pair’s multi-genre mix spans “ambient and experimental to jazz, rock and electronic”, shining a light on the breadth of electronic music being produced by women from Iran.
Soup to Nuts w/ Anu: Ryuichi Sakamoto
On 28 March 2023, pioneering composer and musician Ryuichi Sakamoto passed away. In the days and weeks that followed, we found ourselves turning to this special edition of Anu's regular NTS slot – which was dedicated to Sakamoto, and initially broadcast in celebration of his final album 12 as well as his 70th birthday. Offering a deep dive into the Japanese artist’s career, spanning his vast discography and interspersed with interview clips, the two-hour mix stands a beautiful testament to his incredible legacy. Essential.
Akanbi says Yes.
“I hope you’re feeling your body, I hope you’re ready to warm up tonight”, Brooklyn-based DJ and GROOVY GROOVY boss Akanbi says into the mic at the beginning of this mix, which was recorded at New York’s Nowadays. And he truly kept the groove-driven heat simmering throughout the three-and-a half-hour-set, during which Akanbi showcased both the exceptional fluidity to his craft alongside the pure communal joy of a dancefloor journey. A heady sonic trip, this one goes deep.
10 by PC Music
This year, PC Music turned 10 and announced that after 2023, it would no longer be putting out new releases. Along with this end-of-an-era news, the A. G. Cook-founded imprint shared a suitably chaotic and high-octane mix celebrating a decade of the influential and genius label and collective. PC Music forever. And ever. And ever.
Cinco de Mayo: Mixed by Santa Muerte
To mark Cinco de Mayo, Hyperdub signee Santa Muerte put together a mix interpreting the annual holiday – celebrating Mexican culture and heritage – through an underground club lens. Centred on “dark and loud” sonics, this one provided a potent hour of heavy and hypnotic storytelling.
Sketches for Summer by JD Twitch
Originally released in 2021 as part of Optimo’s mixtape series on cassette, in July JD Twitch made his Sketches for Summer available online. With time-travelling and globe-spanning selections, the laid-back mood here captures the languid, romantic reverie of long summer days and nights. “I hope you get to enjoy this on a glorious day,” JD Twitch wrote of the two-part mix, “but even if it is the depths of winter where you are, maybe it will brighten your day?” It certainly did.
Crack Mix 500: Hannah Holland & Josh Caffé
In June, our Crack Mix series hit the big half-century milestone. Naturally we had to do something extra special to mark the occasion – teaming up with Block9, who also had their own sweet 16 at Worthy Farm to celebrate this summer, too. As part of our landmark link-up, queer rave luminaries Hannah Holland and Josh Caffé provided this iconic moment from their unforgettable 2014 link-up at Block9. Big.
Daisychain 284: Angel D’lite
Tagged as “cute n’ sexy uk bubblers”, Angel D’lite’s joyous entry for Chicago’s Daisychain landed at the perfect moment in summer. Carrying an ebullient energy throughout, the London-based DJ’s selections – spanning euphoric rave selections, breaks, house and UK garage bounce rounding off with a No Scrubs edit – provided non-stop fun when we craved it the most.
Windrush 75 mix: Fabio and Grooverider
22 June 2023 marked the 75th anniversary of Windrush. As part of Mixmag’s series commemorating the legacy of the Windrush generation, Fabio and Grooverider – a.k.a the godfathers of drum 'n' bass – took jungle back to its roots with a strictly 90s mix celebrating the genre’s origins, and highlighting artists including Roni Size, Goldie and Krust. A truly legendary set.
FACT Mix 916: Slim Soledad
Then we had this swaggering, sweltering mix from Berlin-based DJ and producer Slim Soledad. A full-bodied excursion through baile funk, techno, gabber and hard bass that delivered a heady, out-of-body trascendence, we blasted this one loud.
TANK Mix: dogheadsurigeri (2000 Ibiza Trance Mix)
Three words: pure trance bliss. Oramics member and hard dance icon dogheadsurigeri took the euphoria to new heights and transported us to sun-kissed beaches with this pure Ibiza trance hedonism.
Introduction to Shatta: Mixed by GЯEG
Another mix delivering the utmost summer vibes, and one we had on heavy rotation, is this 45-minutes of heat courtesy of GЯEG. Delving into shatta, the dancehall-inspired French Caribbean sound, the mix offered an introduction to the musical style as well as a celebration of its recent burgeoning global popularity.
Fighting The Real Enemy: RIP Sinéad O’Connor by Shampain
The world lost a powerful and radical spirit with the passing of Sinéad O’Connor this year. To celebrate her iconic brilliance and musical legacy, Galway DJ, label boss and Rinse FM resident Shampain – who also released his documentary series Éire Eile in 2023 – put together this tribute. “I hope that if anybody learned anything, myself included, from Sinéad’s time on earth,” Shampain added at the end, “is to speak up for those who don’t have a voice, always be proud of where you’re from and don’t ever, ever compromise”; an astute ode to an inspirationally uncompromising artist.
Sister Midnight FM launch: Shovel Dance Collective
Sister Midnight FM
Amid a time where many beloved grassroots venues have shut down or are under threat of future closure, Sister Midnight – which is working towards opening Lewisham’s first-ever community-owned music space – is a vital project. And in August, the collective also launched a new online community radio station. To celebrate the beginning of Sister Midnight FM, they broadcasted a series of shows including this one from Shovel Dance Collective. Described as “thirty minutes of the strangest mixtape gift you ever received – akin to tuning an FM radio” it’s an intricate, atmospheric collage stitching together lilting and hearty folk arrangements, field recordings and live clips.
Liquidtime for Palestine by CCL
For this instalment of CCL’s regular Refuge Worldwide slot, the Berlin-based DJ, producer and visual artist dedicated their show to Palestinian liberation, platforming Palestinian artists they met through Exist Festival. Ranging from downtempo rhythmicism to industrial beats, the mix featured the likes of Oldyungman, Muqata’a and the late Oddz, who co-founded the festival and event series in Palestine.
Love For Palestine
Another important dedication to Palestine, and highlighting of art as a form of resistance, in light of the ongoing devastation in – and attack on – Gaza, Bethlehem’s Radio Alhara hosted this 12-hour stream to “express solidarity and love for the Palestinian people”. The broadcast coincided with Palestinian Independence Day and featured music, poetry and sounds of protest in support of a free Palestine.
Issue 139 Cover Mix: TraTraTrax Sound Sistema
In November, TraTraTrax – the Colombian label that has taken the global underground (and Crack HQ) by storm – featured as our penultimate cover stars for 2023. Alongside this, the label’s founders Verraco, Nyksan and DJ Lomalinda brought a near three-hour mix that showed exactly why their experimentation and innovation has been causing such a stir, with a rhythmic odyssey through destabilising techno, murky bass music, guaracha, dubstep and much more. We aren't just saying this – this one's a blast.
Blush 005: Jaye Ward
Providing the restorative balm we needed as we approached the end of 2023, Jaye Ward came through with this incandescent mix abounding in hazy ambient and downtempo electronic textures. A new series, Blush “aims to help soothe the queer spectrum” and take listeners “on a meditative journey”, which is exactly the kind of tranquillity the PLU resident and mainstay of UK underground dance music delivered with her mix. Pure bliss.
FACT Mix 937: Chuquimamani-Condori
To round off the year we have the fittingly turbulent yet cathartic timbre of Chuquimamani-Condori’s ‘Bethlehem’ mix. Building on the singular magic of their DJ E album, here the artist – a.k.a Elysia Crampton – crafted a hypnotic ritualism with fragmented rhythms and trill melodies cruising amidst cacophonous, blown-out distortion that ends with the Beach Boys’ Morning Christmas. A hauntingly sublime sonic excursion for the end of another year – and another list.
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