2023 Highlights – DEF Wrapped

We recap some 2023 artist highlights for the traditional end of year DEF blog.

Fever Ray

Fever Ray’s 2023 continued as their previous year ended with the release of new music leading up to their third album, Radical Romantics. Early January saw the release of ‘Kandy,’ another co-production with Olof Dreijer, who also made a cameo appearance in the accompanying video directed by Martin Falck. Watch that below. Paper Magazine were among the website’s covering this “strange and impeccable” video, publishing a Behind The Scenes article that interviewed both Fever Ray and Falck.

In the run up to the release of Radical Romantics, Fever Ray released the first of several-album themed merchandise items in the shape of Hocus + Pocus Intention Socks. These would be complemented by tote bags, bucket hats, long sleeve shirts and sun fans.

A music video for ‘Even It Out’ was released to coincide with the arrival of Radical Romantics. The video introduced yet another character in the shape of Demona Lisa and also featured a cameo from Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor. Among the press coverage for Radical Romantics were interviews in The Guardian, Them, Vogue and The Fader’s podcast as well as reviews in Pitchfork and Resident Advisor.

Post-album release, the focus swung to a series of spring and summer Fever Ray tour dates, commencing in late March in Olso and ending at Rock En Seine Festival in Paris. Included in this tour was a headline appearance at Glastonbury Festival (watch a clip of Kandy from the Glasto set below) and multiple dates across the US. 

In the midst of this tour, Fever Ray contributed a Resident Advisor podcast – co-mixed by Aasthma – that teased several remixes from the Radical Romantics album. The first of these remixes, a trance take on ‘What They Call Us’ from the artist Nifra, arrived in June – watch the video below. Further Radical Romantics remixes arrived throughout 2023 from DJ Haram, Equiknoxx, God Colony, Ivory, Logic1000, LSDXOXO, Avalon Emerson, Frost Children, Sylvere and I. JORDAN. A playlist collating them all can be found here.

August saw Fever Ray release a new music video for ‘North,’ directed by Martin Falck set in the Scandinavian tundra. Watch it below. With it came news of further US tour dates in November as well as a performance at Corona Capital festival in Mexico City. Always open to the different ways of speaking to their fans, Fever Ray participated in an AMA with the IndieHeads Sub-Reddit in late September; you can read through the exchange here

The Fever Ray Instagram has proved a central tool to document the Radical Romantics campaign and associated tour and the series of US shows in November coincided with the number of followers surpassing the 100k mark (at the time of writing it stands at 118k) as well as a Reel from the Portland show accumulating over 1m views. Pure data fans: the Fever Ray Instagram account has gained over 59k followers over the course of the Radical Romantics album campaign to date with a growth rate of 101.5%.

In late November, it was announced that the Radical Romantics show has been filmed in its entirety for the first time at the unique location of Uckange Blast Furnaces in Northern France as part of the critically acclaimed ARTE Passengers series. The session was live-streamed on the ARTE Concert YouTube channel on December 1st and can be watched below.

At the time of writing, both Radical Romantics and the singles that preceded it have featured in end of year coverage from Pitchfork, The New York Times, NPR, The Wire Magazine, The Quietus, Crack Magazine, Time Out London and The Fader.

A further series of European dates for Fever Ray’s There’s No Place I’d Rather Be tour will take place in March next year – tickets for those are available here.

M83

M83 spent either side of the late December ’22 and early January ’23 divide teasing some new music. This soon came to fruition with the release of ‘Ocean’s Niagara,’ the first single from the new M83 album, FantasyThe album itself was slated for release in March. A music video directed by M83’s brother, Yann Gonzalez, set the tone for what to expect from the new album. Speaking about the single and music video M83 stated the following:

“Very proud to present the first track of my new album ‘Fantasy’. It’s called ‘Oceans Niagara’ and it’s the very first collaboration between my brother Yann Gonzalez and myself on a music video. I wanted to create this sense of friendship. Listening to that song, I imagine people running, driving fast, or riding spaceships together. It’s this sense of going forward, like a magic potion that you take to discover new worlds. Beyond Adventure!”

Watch the video below. 

News of Fantasy was accompanied by an extensive touring schedule across Europe and the US throughout 2023. The album itself was released in two chapters, with Chapter 1 arriving on February 10 and concluding with Chapter 2 on March 17. Reviews for Fantasy came from Stereogum who named it their album of the week, NME, Rolling Stone UK, Wall Street Journal and mxdwn, whilst M83 was interviewed in The Ringer, Consequence, Paste and Far Out.

With such an instantly recognisable album cover, it’s no surprise that the monster adorning Fantasy’s artwork played a central role across the campaign, starring in a typically individual album unboxing video which you can watch above as well as regular appearances on M83’s Instagram. That platform offers a neat snapshot of the Fantasy tour as do a series of Fantasy Tour Archive videos culminating in a short for fan favourite ‘Sunny Boy.’ You can watch that below. 

October saw ‘Mirror’, a fan-favorite track from the Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming era get a proper release due to popular demand after it had become a highlight of the live show throughout the Fantasy tour. In an interview with Billboard, M83 stated the following about his decision to release the track: 

“Simply because it’s a track that never came out digitally and we close our shows with that song. The response of the audience has been great so far, and it’s an unknown song that deserves to be properly released in my opinion.”

Outside of the Fantasy campaign, the Felsmann+Tiley rework of Solitude continued to have its moments throughout 2023, soundtracking the first trailer for the final season of Netflix hit Top Boy as well as the title sequence to the streaming platform’s true-crime documentary series Escaping Twin Flames.

moby

A typically busy calendar year for moby kicked off with a new ambient album , appropriately titled ambient 23, which dropped on January 1st. In his own words, moby described ambient 23 as “2 and 1/2 hours of analog ambient music. Made to help anxiety (my own, and hopefully yours, too). For 2023 may we all be less anxious (and may we all stop looking for validation from a culture we don’t respect…)”

This was soon followed by ‘Oh My,’ a collaboration with Australian drum & bass artist Luude and vocalist Issey Cross based around the central refrain  from Moby classic ‘Porcelain.’ On the song, moby says the following: “I’d love to say something smart or insightful about ‘Oh My,’ but honestly when I first heard it I simply thought, ‘fuck, this is great!’ At the time of writing, ‘Oh My’ has garnered over 21 million streams on Spotify alone. Watch the video for ‘Oh My’ here.

The first activity of 2023 on moby’s always centered at night project saw him release ‘transit,’ a track with Sudanese-Dutch singer Gaidaa in mid-January. An accompanying music video directed by Segraphy was shot on location in Peru and can be viewed below.

January also saw moby launch a podcast, moby pod, with co-host Lindsay Hicks. Irreverent in tone, the inaugural episode featured among other topics touring with david bowie and the story of when it’s cold I’d like to die. Subsequent episodes have featured special guests from the spheres of animal rights; veganism, politics and celebrity with Hunter Biden the most recent. Listen on your preferred podcast service here.

First announced in late 2022, moby’s documentary Punk Rock Vegan Movie was released online and available to watch for free online in mid-February. Among the reviews for the film, Louder Than War said of Punk Rock Vegan Movie, “If you’re punk rock curious or vegan curious then it will be a great eye opener.” The full film is available to watch below.

February also saw moby announce a new album, Resound NYC, the 20th studio long-player of his musical career, which continued the approach of his 2021 album Reprise in revisiting, reworking and orchestrating some of his previous work. This time the focus was on music originally produced during his time in New York. As with Reprise, this new album saw moby working with the world’s oldest record label Deutsche Grammophon and also featured a stellar cast of guest artists. Lady Blackbird, Gregory Porter, Ricky Wilson of Kaiser Chiefs, Danielle Ponder and Amythyst Kiah are among the artists that contributed to Resound NYC. News of the album was accompanied by a new rendition of ‘In This World’ featuring Marisha Wallace.

Further singles in the lead up to Resound NYC being released included “Walk With Me” featuring Lady Blackbird and “South Side” feat. Ricky Wilson of Kaiser Chiefs with music videos shot and directed by moby himself accompanying each. The animated video for “South Side” can be viewed above and the video for “Walk With Me” can be seen here. Expanding on the world-building around Resound NYC, moby released short films entitled ‘the story behind the song’ for each single. You can watch the story of “Walk With Me” below and view the remainder as well as all the music videos from Resound NYC in this playlist.

The release of Resound NYC in May coincided with a new music video for Gregory Porter collab “In My Heart” and also celebrated with a live moby pod recording at Neuhouse in Hollywood in front of an intimate audience of special guests – you can watch that here. Beyond the reviews and online press interviews for the album, moby also veered into daytime US TV with an appearance on Good Morning America which you can view here.

Subsequent to its release, Resound NYC was also blessed by several high profile remixes, with Carl Cox and Paul Woolford both taking on moby and Gregory Porter track ‘In My Heart’ which was also given a Confession 2023 version by moby and French artist Tchami. 

After a summer of focusing on his podcast, moby returned with some fresh music in September with ‘Should Sleep,’ a collaboration with vocalist J.P. Bimeni which he described as “100% a tribute and an homage to the era when Larry Levan and David Mancuso played iconic tracks by Loose Joints and Brass Construction.” In addition to a music video directed by moby himself – which you can see above – the release also featured a trademark Diskomiks version from Norwegian artist Prins Thomas.

‘Should Sleep’ was the first in a series of releases that will lead up to a full always centered at night album from moby in 2024. A further taste of that planned project arrived in November with ‘We’re Going Wrong’ featuring vocals from Brie O’ Banion and an animated music video that once again highlighted moby’s dedication to animal rights.

In December, moby was invited to perform at one of Deutcshe Grammohphon’s 125th Anniversary concerts, joining The Philadelphia Orchestra, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, María Dueñas and Hélène Grimaud on stage at Philadelphia’s Verizon Hall. moby performed ‘Everloving,’ ‘Hymn,’ ‘Sarabande’ & ‘Porcelain,’ with Hélène Grimaud joining him for the latter song.

Olof Dreijer

As first revealed in 2022, Olof Dreijer contributed co-production to Radical Romantics, the new album from Fever Ray. Credits for the album revealed Olof worked with his sister across the first four tracks and he also had a prominent role in the music video for Kandy – as discussed above. Speaking about working on the track, Olof said the following: 

“It was really nice working on Kandy! I think I tried to tune in as much as possible into Fever Ray vibes and tried many different styles, or clothes as I usually say when I talk about different music production suggestions. But in the end we took out the same synthesizer used for the track The Captain with The Knife, the SH101, and it just worked, i think.”

2023 was a year when we saw new music from Olof himself. Firstly, in late April he announced the release of Souvenir, a long-gestating project with American artist Mt Sims that centres around the rich harmonics of the steel drum. The project was revealed with a lead track, ‘Hybrid Fruit,’ and a dedicated website that explores Souvenir in great detail. Watch a visual for ‘Hybrid Fruit’ below.

June saw the news of fresh dance-floor material from Olof in the shape of ‘Rosa Rugosa,’ released through the UK label Hessle Audio operated by Ben UFO, Pangaea and Pearson Sound. “I’ve been trying to make some colorful, energetic music with emotional melodies, I hope there is room for that out on the dance floors” is how Olof described the track. Amongst the critical praise for the track, Pitchfork’s Philip Sherburne described ‘Rosa Rugosa’ as a “portal to another world, with twirling, flute-like synths” in his Best New Track write up. Watch the visualiser for it below.

Upon announcement of this track, Olof stated there was more to come. After a summer of DJ dates at Dekmantel Festival, Malmo Festival, Panorama Bar and Club 2 Club London as well as starting his own Stockholm club night Club Bamaba, Olof announced a full EP with Hessle Audio. Also entitled Rosa Rugosa, the three-track release featured two further productions that he hoped “capture a joyous part of my life coming back making my own music again.” Reviewing the release for Resident Advisor, Andrew Ryce stated it “signals that one of the best producers in 21th century dance music really is back, and means business.”

In late November, Olof was among the first slate of names announced for the 2024 edition of Sonar Festival, whilst Resident Advisor included ‘Rosa Rugosa’ in their favourite tracks of the year feature. For a taste of what a current Olof Dreijer DJ set sounds like we will direct you to the guest mix he made for NTS Radio in October. The hour-long selection features his new productions and current favorites. If you prefer your mixes to be captured live, a recording of Olof’s set at Dalston Superstore in May was broadcast on Hessle Audio’s Rinse FM show and can be streamed below.

Olof is now represented by Unfold Artists for all European bookings and Awesome Agency in North + South America. Head to the Olof Dreijer website for contact information.

Planningtorock

Planningtorock shared several remixes across the first few half of 2023. First up was a Planningtofruit Version of Oliver Sim’s ‘Fruit,’ released via y-o-u-n-g in February. This was followed by a ‘Planningtosun’ version of ‘Sun’ by Charles Jeffrey’s LOVERBOY project, released alongside a Hercules & Love Affair remix for a NEKO ((ECHOED)) project in late April. London-based singer and producer Jagara was blessed by a Planningintothenight version of ‘Into The Night’ in early May, followed by a Planningtostar version of ‘Star Earring’ by Brooklyn-based Air Waves and Shivum Sharma’s ‘Steel’ got the PTR dancefloor treatment on July’s ‘Plannningtobefull Steel.’ All remixes can be heard on the below Remixes Spotify playlist.

In April, Planningtorock featured alongside British producer I. JORDAN on an edition of Abbey Road Amplify x Pitchfork London Sessions video series which documented the pair working on some music together at the famous London recording studios. Watch it here. The first fruits of this would arrive with TNB, a double single from I. JORDAN and Planningtorock which was released on Ninja Tune in October. 

Speaking on this project, they had the following to say: “Two versions (day and night) just under a year in the making and tracks that marked the start of a very beautiful & loving friendship, as well as being connected to important times in our lives and our transition.” A visualiser for the ‘Day Version’ of ‘TNB’ can be viewed below.

Around this time, Planningtorock was invited to curate Mary Ann Hobbes’ New Music Fix show on BBC Radio 6, playing music by Russel EL Butler, FAFF, Babyweight, Star and others.

2023 was a busy year on-stage for Planningtorock, as they fully embraced DJing in a way that reflected their current dancefloor-focused production style. MELT and Manchester International Festival were among their festival appearances, bolstered by DJing at queer clubs through Europe and the US including Buttocks in Berlin, INFERNO in London, Helsinki Pride, A Club called Rhonda in LA and San Francisco and the I. JORDAN and Friends show in London.

Planningtorock’s status within the queer community saw them invited to speak about their art and experience across the year. In October, Planningtorock was interviewed by the Trans TV writer, Comedian, Performance artist, Theatre maker Krishna Istha for Their Stories at The Standard in London. The Barbican hosted an Encounters discussion between Planningtorock and Turner Prize-nominated artist Sin Wai Kin in November. The same month Planningtorock was invited to speak at an AMPLIFYING TRANS+ VOICES IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY panel discussion at the 2023 Boudica Music Conference.

Rex The Dog

2023 saw the release of some keenly-awaited new music from Rex The Dog, with Change This Pain For Ecstasy released on Kompakt in April. It was celebrated with a Twitch live stream that can viewed here. The title track had quite the impact as the year went on, starting with being anointed Essential New Tune by Pete Tong on release, and garnering multiple more plays from the OBE broadcaster. Rinsed by the likes of Keinemusik, Azzecca, Danny Howard and Colyn, “Change This Pain For Ecstasy” became one of the summer anthems. An animated music video made by Rex The Dog for the title track can be viewed below:

September saw Rex The Dog’s ‘Korgasmatron’ reworked by Clüb De Combat on ‘Time – Korgasmatron II’ for the duo’s EP on Diynamic Music. Rex The Dog later made his debut proper on the Hamburg label run by Solomun with ‘Your Wish Is My Command,’ the lead track on the 32nd Four To The Floor split release from Diynamic. Continuing the peaky euphoria of his aforementioned Kompakt release, the track also betrayed a sly nod to pre-Rex era JX. Rex The Dog’s artistry was on full display with the accompanying music video that includes a nice reference to Diynamic’s geographic location.

Towards the end of the year, Kompakt announced a series of Change This Pain For Ecstasy remixes that commenced with a rework from labelmate Jonathan Kaspar. This was soon followed by a remix by US producer Azzecca – the latter was included in Magnetic Magazine’s Best Techno Tracks of 2023 – with further versions planned for 2024. 

Rex The Dog is now represented by Jackmode Agency for all DJ and Live bookings – more info here.

Röyksopp

After a monumental triple album campaign spread across 2022, Röyksopp’s focus this year was on their True Electric live shows, commencing a new programme of album reissues and releasing a series of Profound Mysteries remixes. The True Electric concept was first established in October last year with the following statement:

“With «True Electric» we want to bring the pure and immersive Röyksopp experience of our studio productions to the live stage. This means synths, samplers & sequencers, in a performance where the hero of the show is the music itself. Expect an eclectic set where energetic beats meet vast, transcending soundscapes. True electric – what it says on the tin.” 

An initial tour of Europe in February sold out before those dates commenced, with the below video captured at the Oslo show by RYXP ally Stian Andersen offering a good measure of what a True Electric show is like to experience. June saw the True Electric extended with another run of shows in Europe throughout October as well as a North American tour which marked their first live shows across the Atlantic since 2017.

Included in the October run of shows was a headline performance at Amsterdam Dance Event. Whilst in Amsterdam, Svein and Torbjorn also performed a special one-off ambient DJ set to a seated audience, as well as participate in a panel discussion. A number of Profound Mysteries shorts from the partnership with Bacon were also displayed at a video installation. A neat video recapping this 48 hour adventure can be viewed here. Ahead of the shows in Norway that capped off the True Electric tour, it was announced that Susanne Sundfør would be joining Röyksopp as special guest for all three homecoming events. Some photos by Stian Andersen from the Stavanger show are below.

The aforementioned programme of reissues from the Röyksopp discography was announced in the summer, with a new orange vinyl edition of 2010 album Senior. Arriving in October, that reissue was complemented by new editions of ‘Junior’ and ‘The Understanding.’ head to the ‘Röykshopp’ to pick up a copy of these reissues. Further reissues are planned for the new year. 

With such a sprawling project as Profound Mysteries, it is no surprise the series of remixes were spread out across the majority of 2023. Early January saw Japanese producer/DJ Qrion remix ‘Breathe,’ whilst French artist NTO delivered two versions of the Susanne Sundfør collaboration ‘Oh, Lover.’ February saw ‘Unity’ remixed by Siberian-born, Italian-based Anfisa Letyago and Ninja Tune artist/Rinse FM resident Salute. In March, the same track was reworked by US artist Baauer, whilst April saw Afterlife and Diynamic favourite Innellea bless ‘Let’s Get It Right’ with his melodic techno touch.

A similar vibe abounded on Mind Against’s version of ‘The Next Day,’ which was accompanied by a specially-commissioned visualiser from Profound Mysteries art director Jonathan Zawada. You can watch that above. Dutch artist Mees Salomė stepped up to remix ‘Me&YouPhoria’ in May and was followed by Jan Blomqvist’s take on PM I favourite ‘How The Flowers Grow’ later that month. Rising star LP Giobbi had been teasing her remix of ‘Feel It’ for several months before it finally landed in June, dropping it at her Coachella residency multiple times to huge acclaim. This was followed by a remix of PM closer ‘Like An Old Dog’ from old RYXP friend Maceo Plex and Massano remixing ‘Control.’

Perhaps the most eagerly-anticipated remix as the year continued was Enrico Sangiuliano’s remix of ‘Like An Old Dog.’ The booming remix had become an integral part of Röyksopp’s True Electric live show – more on this shortly – so fans had developed a sense of eager anticipation over the course of 2023 before it finally landed in late July. A typically Gallic, glitchy take on ‘Me+Youphoria’ from the trio of Le Frequency, Ino and Fille De Minuit was the penultimate entry in this series of Profound Mysteries remixes which ended with a bang in the form of Fideles’ club-ready rework of ‘Stay Awhile.’ All of the remixes can be heard in this Spotify playlist.

Susanne Sundfør

In February, Susanne announced a very special new album, blómi, treating fans to an early taste with the release of double single alyosha /leikara ljóð. Amongst the coverage for the announcement of blómi, Brooklyn Vegan described alyosha as “a sprawling anthem with lyrics celebrating optimism and seeking joy in a challenging world” and stated leikara ljóð was “striking in its art-folk arrangement.”

Meaning “to be in bloom” in Norse, blómi takes very unique aspects of Susanne’s life story, like the academic work of her grandfather (pictured alongside a young Susanne on the cover art) who is a linguist specialising in Semitic languages, and her own life-changing experiences as a new mother, to weave together a colourful tapestry unlike anything she has released to date. Some behind the scenes photos from the recording sessions for the album can be seen on Susanne’s Instagram here. A music video for ‘alyosha’ released in April was directed by Norwegian film-maker Magreth Olin and features footage from Susanne’s wedding day, painting an honest and beautiful portrait of love. You can watch it below.

Released in late April, press coverage for blómi saw the album reviewed across The Guardian, Arts Desk, Bandcamp Daily and Slant Magazine, whilst Susanne was interviewed by NME, Stereogum and The Line Of Best Fit. The Arts Desk review perhaps summed up the unique nature of blómi and Susanne’s creative approach best with the following closing paragraph:

“As with each of her albums, the multi-layered Blómi is unlike anything she has done before. Equally, it is yet another landmark album from this resolutely peerless, singular artist.”

Over the summer months, Susanne embarked on a Norwegian tour with a 14-piece band in support of blómi. A live version of the title track featuring Norwegian jazz artist Rohey Taaalah and recorded on stage at a show in Trondheim was released in October due to popular demand. You can hear that below.

At the time of writing blómi has featured in End of Year coverage from MOJO, NPR, BPM, The New Scientist and The Economist.