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  • Xavier Farrow-Francis

The Groove Garden

 Xavier Farrow-Francis (any/all)


Fountain Baby by Amaarae (Ghana/USA)

Handily one of the most dynamic and vivacious albums released in 2023. It’s a straightforward record about enjoying life’s simple pleasures: love, money, sex, lesbianism. You know, all the best parts of living. But it’s one executed like no other of its sort. Amaarae’s girlishly sweet and silky voice is the glue that fuses some terrifically masterful production. Thumping afrobeats + lushly arranged beds of instrumentation = an undeniably arousing album that I guarantee will have you moving. If you’re a fiend for R&B, you seriously can’t let Fountain Baby slip under your radar.

Listen if you like: Doja Cat, Burna Boy, Rema, Victoria Monét

Genres: Afrobeats, pop rap, alternative R&B

Esoteric by Kiss Facility (UAE/Egypt)

Sensual, melancholy, and full of intrigue, the debut EP from Kiss Facility – vocalist Mayah Alkhateri and producer Sega Bodega – is as beautiful as it is wistful. Almost entirely in Arabic, Alkhateri sings of loss and self-discovery across gossamer tracks with reverb-soaked vocals and guitars, sexy downtempo drums, and sweeping synths. Despite how mournful the subject matter can be, Kiss Facility steadily keeps the music graceful and alluring, tapping into the sound of alt-rock and trip hop from the late 90s and early 00s. Esoteric is ethereal, luscious and sincere, and is among the most fulfilling listening experiences 2023 had to offer.

Listen if you like: Massive Attack, Cocteau Twins, Eartheater

Genres: trip hop, alternative rock, shoegaze, dream pop

SUPERNOVA by Ralphie Choo (Spain)

Trying to encapsulate the whirlwind of an album like SUPERNOVA is a bit of an impossible task, but I’m gonna do my best here. It’s probably the most instrumentally eclectic thing I heard last year. From the production side of things, Ralphie turns all these sharp corners yet none of them feel half-baked or too odd. It makes for a super fun listen and in the process, gives the album a sublime surprise factor. And he knows exactly what he’s doing too, as he swaggers all over each and every track, never wasting a moment to constantly flex his superb musicianship. Essentially, this album is just really really cool and if you’re looking for something familiar but perhaps with a twist, I couldn’t recommend SUPERNOVA enough.

Listen if you like: ROSALÍA, BROCKHAMPTON, Frank Ocean

Genres: neoperreo, glitch pop, experimental hip hop, Latin electronic

Heavy Heavy by Young Fathers (West Africa/UK)

As someone who wasn’t particularly well-versed with much African music, Young Fathers’ 4th LP completely blew my mind. Not to say that this is straight up classically-minded West African music, because that really isn’t the case. Heavy Heavy is a bit of art pop, a bit of psychedelic, with a lot of inspiration from gospel music and spirituals, and some industrial sprinkled in for good measure. Using West African music as a jumping point, Young Fathers crafted a record that is pretty special. It’s magnificent in size and sound, utterly awe-inspiring, touching at times, and completely powerful.

Listen if you like: Algiers, billy woods, U.S. Girls

Genres: post-industrial pop, West African music, neo-psychedelia


classics by charmort

This may only be one song in a list of full-length releases, but don’t let that dissuade you. charmort’s single released in March last year is quite simply divine. Its energetic and pulsating beats and synths wrap you up with a whoosh, as if they were whispering the secrets of the underground electronic scene to you. Chuck in a sample of Tom Hardy and we’ve got ourselves a wonderfully glitchy and futuristic dance track.

charmort’s new Viewfinder EP expands on the musical ideas presented on “classics” in fresh abundance. You’ll find yourself traversing techno, trip hop, club, and ambient realms just to name a few. Truly one of Welly’s finest creative young producers working now.

Listen if you like: Burial, Four Tet, Boards of Canada, Autechre

Genres: future garage, ambient techno, IDM

Holding Patterns by Grayson Gilmour

Shimmering, wondrous, and exuberant are words that come to mind when I think of Grayson Gilmour’s fantastic Holding Patterns. This record, released via the iconic Flying Nun Records, feels and sounds so full of life. Even when removing the meditative/introspective lyrics from the equation, the instrumentation has a distinct quality to it that breathes experience. One of my favorite qualities of this album is its seamless ability to blend electronics with acoustics. The synths and bass all throughout strike you with awe, and paired with effervescent live drums and Gilmour’s soft and lilted vocals, Holding Patterns is an inspiring listen.

Listen if you like: Bon Iver, Japanese Breakfast, Rostam/Vampire Weekend

Genres: art pop, indie rock, folktronica

Unearthed & Obsolete: Recordings from the Akai GX-4000db by re:ruby

Completely self-written, produced, engineered and recorded in part via a tape machine from the 70s, re:ruby’s Unearthed & Obsolete is a creative and technological feat. The 7 track project is a concept album written from the perspective of, and about the life of, the titular machine. The recordings are often frail and lo-fi, as Ruby explores themes of obsolescence and rebirth amongst flittery guitar and piano, and delicate vocal passages. It’s an introspective little album that packs an unexpected amount of universality despite its specific topic.

Listen if you like: beabadoobee, Mount Eerie/The Microphones, Big Thief

Genres: indie folk, bedroom pop, singer-songwriter

(Soliloquy) & (Soliloquy) Remixes by TOČKA

Released in 2022, the debut album from experimental producer TOČKA is a mechanical, abrasive and wild ride. Spanning from harsh glitchy electronics to eerie ambients, it showcased the musical perspectives of an entirely unique up-and-comer. In 2023, a remix EP of the album aimed to showcase more electronic acts throughout Aotearoa, combining a slew of eclectic styles. With a bonus remix from TikTok ‘brain scratch’ sensation Galen Tipton, TOČKA’s (Soliloquy) projects were a sharp breath of crisp air, and allowed a platform for a collection of innovative new artists.

TOČKA’s brand new project Sarcologue is out now. Taking the caustic sonics of (Soliloquy) and inserting them into classical instrumentation, Sarcologue is complexly atmospheric and emphasises emotive piano arrangements.

Sarcologue is out now.

Listen if you like: Arca, SOPHIE, Aphex Twin

Genres: experimental, deconstructed club, IDM


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