Optimo/Various Walkabout

The Scottish DJ duo of JG Wilkes and JD Twitch have been running weekly Optimo nights at Glasgow’s Subclub since 1997. In those ten years, their night’s international reputation has taken a major jump, thanks to the pair’s relentless worldwide touring schedule and also to three remarkable mix albums, which have in their own way perfected the art of genre-hopping for the three a.m. crowd. Other DJs like the Glimmers, James Murphy and Cut Copy have each made names fusing unlikely examples of dance music history — both proper and associative — but none have crates so deep, tastes so wide or ears as imaginative as Optimo at their best. Thus far, that high point for the duo was 2005’s Psyche Out, which streamlined the most ambitious qualities of the occasionally overstuffed 2004 mix, How To Kill the DJ, Pt. 2, into one cohesive, thematically driven rollercoaster ride of kosmiche, Detroit techno, and post-disco. Walkabout finds Optimo’s sets streamlined even further by veering away from multi-track layering to mere track-to-track sequencing; it’s a disappointment, given that their unparalleled knack for mashing up on the fly is what separated them from other DJs. At 17 tracks, Walkabout is their leanest mix yet; Psyche Out featured 24 tracks and How to Kill an astounding 42. Featuring Throbbing Gristle, Wolfgang Voigt’s Grungerman, Pan Sonic, Lenny Dee, Suicide, Thomas Brinkmann, Marc Houle and Black Dice, Optimo here appear to be pushing into darker, more strident territory, a kind of severe yet organic minimal dance music that approximates the current minimal techno, minus the clean lines and predictable direction. A murky and propulsive mix, Walkabout works best as an evil, more stunted twin to Psyche Out’s interstellar reach. This time out, Optimo are still more disciplined and free-associative than many of their peers but, unfortunately, not as imaginative as they have proven to be in the past. (Mule)