2023 in review

Residents Reyk and Joris reflect on the past year in electronic music, share their favorite releases and coin some predictions for 2024.

What was the release of the year 2023?

REYK: I've dabbled in and mixed more styles than ever before, recognizing the need for different tracks to suit varying moods. So, there are many tracks that I could mention. Nevertheless, the recollection of my initial encounter with Sleeping Streets (Odopt & Lipelis Space Bootleg) in a mixtape by Joris Heijkant remains as vivid as if it happened yesterday. Hence, if I were to pinpoint a singular track, it would undoubtedly be this one. It instantaneously transports me back to that specific moment, when I was on my holiday driving a car through the impressive mountains of Georgia.

What sets it apart is the seamless integration of compelling percussions, an infectious bassline, and a melody that invites you into the night. All in all, it mirrors the ideal soundtrack for navigating a club night with the force of a relentless steam train.

JH: That’s a title shared between two releases for me. My all-time favourite producer James Holden put out a stellar album this year, so I kind of have to go for that one. But I also really enjoyed Martinou’s album Chiral, which arrived on Nous’klaer this year. Both are super emotional, but Holden’s album is all-out kraut mayhem while Martinou’s is very sleek and minimal.

How do you reflect on the musical trends of 2023 and what are your predictions for 2024? 

REYK: In all honesty, 2023 has prolonged some of the trends I wasn't particularly fond of from 2022, causing the post-Covid energy to persist longer than I expected. The music scene seemed to accelerate even more, often featuring hastily produced techno or trance renditions of pop songs. This trend appeared tailored for a younger (TikTok-oriented) audience seeking sets that are swift, intense, with easily recognizable hooks, and devoid of the gradual build-up of tension. The primary objective seems to be: generating as many euphoric peak moments throughout the night as possible.

A few years ago, a search for techno or trance on YouTube would yield meme-like tracks attempting to represent these genres. However, it seems that today's majority of sets and tracks align with this approach, masquerading as 'the sound of the underground.' Yet, it bears little resemblance to an underground sound. Rather, it caters to the masses and those who can now purchase 'underground rave outfits' at mainstream stores like Zara. To me, underground music involves being challenged by distinct sounds in sets and inviting the audience on a unique journey through a cohesive track selection, while telling an artist’s story. While it may not appeal to everyone initially, with time and exposure, one can develop an appreciation and personal taste within the underground electronic music scene. Analogous to classical music, it may not resonate with everyone initially, but with repeated exposure, one begins to develop an appreciation and develop a personalized taste within the realm of underground electronic music. Contrastingly, the trends of 2023 appear to prioritize immediate satisfaction and an easy-going sound. Simultaneously, there is a continual increase in BPM, which makes one wonder how individuals manage to sustain hours of dancing to such energetic beats other than a continuous activity of fist pumping. There's also a notable resurgence of genres like bubbling and grime in the techno scene, bringing an experimental vibe that, though not to my personal liking, it does add diversity to the scene.

However, amidst these trends, Italo is experiencing a resurgence in popularity, particularly in Berlin. Additionally, it's encouraging to observe certain artists, organizations, and promoters returning to a deeper and groovier sound. Also, the increased popularity of African electronic genres in Amsterdam provides a fresh and enjoyable countermovement to the quick and snappy genres discussed earlier. 

Looking ahead to 2024, I anticipate that the quicker sounds will persist, but there may be a gradual shift toward deeper and slower sounds. I'm eager to see fresh concepts emerge, focusing on resetting the BPM count and the introduction of new sub-genres that add to the pallet of the electronic music scene.

JH: When looking at the overall picture, 2023 wasn’t my favourite year in electronic music, especially on the dance floor. I’m very done with these juggernaut tempo’s and infiltration of EDM in the underground clubbing scene. It feels like we kind of forget why we’re here somehow. I also really hate that a lot of event and music gear companies are being bought by venture capitalist firms, that won’t help in fighting this trend of bland, quick-scoring music. Luckily there’s still a lot of good labels and smaller nightclubs that can carry the torch. I hope for a bit of a return of old school deep house and electronica, as an antidote to the fast and hard-hitting stuff.

What was the most exciting performance you saw this year?

REYK: I recall a few noteworthy performances, each leaving a lasting impression for distinct reasons. One that stands out in my memory is a live show by Schwarzmann (Henrik Schwarz & Frank Wiedemann). The setting was a closing party at The Distillery in Leipzig, and it had been quite some time since I had experienced such an intimate party filled with both fun and profound vibes.

Frank and Henrik showcased their exceptional skills, creating a night filled with slow, deep rhythms that carried the audience on a captivating journey. By doing so, the occasional peak-hour tracks ignited the entire venue. This blend of elements struck a perfect balance, and I found myself texting the TANK Kollektiv crew, expressing how I had finally satisfied a craving that had been building up during months of attending high-BPM parties in Amsterdam.

Another memorable performance that comes to mind is the live set by Sandwell District at Draaimolen Festival. While I may not consider myself a huge techno connoisseur, this performance stood out as a quintessential example of a flawless old-school techno live show that one rarely encounters. The ambiance at Draaimolen Festival was nothing short of epic, with ideal and warm weather, an enthusiastic audience, and the incredible stage design enhancing the overall experience.

What made this live performance truly exceptional was its perfection. Even in comparison to some of the DJ sets I heard that day, this live set by Sandwell District exhibited a level of precision and tightness that surpassed many.  I would like to add that the entire Draaimolen Festival weekend stood out as a significant highlight in this year's festival season.

Finally, I'd like to highlight the live show by Arnaud Rebotini that I attended at Urban Spree in Berlin. Arnaud has such a charismatic and sick stage performance to the point that he could perform Polka, and it would still be a sick performance! The gritty atmosphere of Urban Spree as a venue just adds that extra layer to the live experience, you can only get in Berlin.

JH: That has to be Fantastic Man playing the morning stage at Wildeburg. I caught the end of his 6 hour after-hours set, which was full of his trademark atmospheric house and some nice zeroes trance. It fit the mood so perfectly, with the sunbeams coming through the trees and the festival slowly waking up (or still there, depending on the person). Before I knew almost two hours had passed and the set was over, one of those perfect festival moments.

I agree with Reyk on the Sandwell District show at Draaimolen. I remember hearing Falling The Same Way for the very first time when it came out in 2011. I was blown away by that track, and it's one of those records that really got me into techno. Hearing them opening their set with it at the amazing Draaimolen was nothing short of magical.

What are your personal plans, and the plans of TANK, for 2024?

REYK: With TANK, we're keeping the mixtape series alive on TANK Radio. 2023 turned out to be a stellar year for our podcast, boasting numerous highlights: a record number of episodes, a growing fanbase, the discovery of fresh musical talent both local and international, mixtapes from heavyweights in the scene, and the kick-off of our new mixtape series: The Tarka Tapes. On top of that, we delivered sets at some of the coolest radio shows, did guest mixes for other online platforms, and started to write more content for our website. All of which we're excited to keep rocking in 2024.

Not to forget, we had a blast hosting rooms at clubs and doing gigs in and around Amsterdam. Looking ahead to 2024, we're gearing up for new club hostings, gigs both in The Netherlands and internationally, and a brand-new community that we are launching in January (keep those eyes peeled on our socials for the official announcement)!

On a personal note, witnessing the growth and accomplishments of TANK over the past few years has been a truly humbling journey. Seeing our music reach an expanding audience and receiving appreciation for the hard work we've poured into the platform has been heartwarming. Also meeting more and more creative and awesome people from the scene in real life has been a blessing, and I'm hopeful that 2024 will bring even more of these experiences.

In the upcoming year, my focus remains dedicated to the TANK Platform, especially with the launch of our new community and continued efforts on TANK Radio. I'm actively seeking new venues to showcase our music in Amsterdam and being able to highlight local talent, as well as artists we admire globally. While finding suitable options in Amsterdam remains a serious challenge, I'm pushing myself to make these things happen in 2024.

Moreover, I'm diving deeper into music production, and with some luck, 2024 might see the release of my first few tracks. The dream is to play these tunes live in clubs or at festivals, so hopefully these opportunities will grow in the coming year. Lastly, I look forward to simply continue with having a blast with my friends from TANK and other musical friends. Sharing a profound passion for music while enjoying genuine friendships makes dedicating so much free time to TANK truly worthwhile. 

To conclude, I extend my heartfelt best wishes for 2024: may it be a year packed with good health, musical highlights, and success!

JH: As a dj I will take it a little slower in 2024, trying to put out fewer but better mixtapes that are really what I want to express as an artist. I'll focus a bit more on music production as well, since that is the thing that still excites me the most. I hope we can extend the range of the mixtapes a bit in 2024, and look a bit beyond the dark disco spectrum. It would be very nice to have some fresh perspectives in the music we put out on our channel. So if you have some good tips for dj's in the electronica and techno spectrum, let me know!

I also wish everybody the absolute best for next year and hope the scene does well :).

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