From Paul Gauguin to Joseph Conrad, artists have always drawn on their experiences of visiting foreign lands to create new hybrids of art with a cultural inflection different from the domestic norm. While this cultural fusion is widespread in pop music, much more interesting than cheesy pop pastiche is the extended foray into another culture in the name of artistic experimentation. Here is a quick look at a couple of examples of full-length electronic records from 2012 centred on immersion in non-European cultures.

The recent release of Mala in Cuba on Gilles Peterson's Brownswood Recordings has been one of the most anticipated of the year. What would happen, wondered fans and critics alike, when one of dubstep's pioneers, a dyed-in-the-wool South Londoner, made a record steeped in Cuban influence – and in Havana Club rum, sponsor of the "global initiative"? While some may have pondered the cultural implications of Mala's visit to a country where his style of music has virtually no presence, the prevailing sentiment was simply, would the record actually be any good?

In an interview with XLR8R, Mala says he is "really at home in Cuba," yet the track title 'The Tourist' would seem to suggest otherwise. By recording in Cuba but primarily writing and producing the record in the UK, he compounds this ambivalence – and perhaps it's this that is the record's main shortcoming. For while Mala occasionally incorporates the polyrhythms and melodies of Cuban music into his own dubstep blueprint gracefully, the lasting impression is of a tourist dabbling a little myopically in Cuban music from firmly within the dark recesses of the club, rather than immersing himself in Cuban sound.

When the incentive for musicians to visit a different country is purely artistic, experimentation in multicultural sound is more successful. The production trio LV released their sophomore album Sebenza on South London label Hyperdub about a month ago. It's a marriage of slick production with the skills of South African MCs Okmalumkoolkat, Spoek Mathambo and Ruffest. Sebenza achieves the rare feat of parity between musical cultures. Its musical palette incorporates kwaito house, kuduro rhythms and South African hip hop, but it's by playing on these styles' intersection with UK funky, garage and bass that LV avoid cliché and achieve balance.

A large part of Sebenza's success lies in the marriage of vibrancy, punning playfulness and tight, crisp production; LV create a space where garage beats and analogue synthwork let the witty, self-referential vocals (in English, Afrikaans, Zulu and Xhosa) speak for themselves. There's no sense of artistic superiority, just the purity, irrespective of nationality, of the relationship between producer and MC.

Débruit also avoids the traps of cliché with his experimental hip hop album From the Horizon, by using his deft production chops to interpret West African music in a way that shimmers with fun. Perhaps because Débruit chooses to pay homage not to one particular style or even nation, but to West African music throughout history and across cultures, the result feels at once reverent and celebratory.

The grooves that run throughout the album are central to both its overall vibe and the musical cultures it visits. From the Horizon retains Débruit's signature off-kilter hip hop aesthetic; drum machines, synths and vocals complement the tribal-influenced percussion and samples of West African music, from afrobeat to highlife. The resulting record offers an insight into West African music, which, while not comprehensive, is certainly accurate in the warm sense of soulfulness it captures.

Débruit didn't actually visit West Africa to make this record – which probably accounts for its unspecific, all-embracing quality. Yet From the Horizon avoids superficiality as Débruit's love and respect for West African music is obvious in every percussive clap and vocal sample. Compared with the starting point for Mala's album, From the Horizon feels more genuine, needing no impetus but the artist's admiration for musical influences beyond his backyard.

Electronic music, with its use of samples and varied percussion, lends itself particularly well to multicultural explorations. Visiting another culture for inspiration only to add a multicultural flavour to an established style can result in a weak pastiche, cliché, or fusion that sounds perfunctory. Of course, there's a fine line between inspiration and appropriation, and it's important that musicians retain their own sound. But when gifted musicians revere an international influence, and treat the musicians they sample and collaborate with as equal in significance to their own musical culture, the result is quite often a triumph.