Review : Optimo - Fabric 52
PitchforkOptimo is no more, but as Bob Dylan (or was it Alec Empire?) once said, death is not the end. True, the Scottish DJ duo's long-running Glasgow club night of the same name was put on ice this past April, but Optimo-the-partnership soldiers on into the second decade of the 21st-century with remixes, a label, and yes, new mix CDs. So don't go into Fabric 52 thinking it's some kind of valedictory, or a summing up of Optimo's decade-plus journey across club culture's fringe. Instead, in keeping with the restlessness that continues to define their career, it's another sideways leap away from their previous mixes.
Fabric 52's perhaps the most techno-centric mix of Optimo's career. On the other hand, it's probably the only techno mix of the year whose Discogs.com entry features a prominent credit for a Chapman stick player. The wild in-track edits and multiple song mash-ups seem to be a thing of the past, but Optimo still range widely across the history of synthetic club music. Fabric 52 moves from the warped proto-techno "pop" perversions of Fad Gadget to some bracingly crude early acid house, from the 1990s days of German high minimalism to a smidge of 21st-century UK funky.
And as always, Optimo slip and slide between subgenres and decades with a startling ease. Some of that's down to the track selection. Much of the first half of Fabric 52 sounds straight from the days of acid wash and polka dots and smiley faces. Without researching the tracklist, it's tough to tell the difference between true old-school acid house and modern producers trying to ape the limited technology of the mid-80s. And when a mix features a 21st-century act called the Tyrell Corporation, which takes its name from Blade Runner and sounds like a revved-up (and shameless) homage to classic New Order, you know to expect a certain amount of synth-centric classicism....full text
ResidentadvisorCoinciding with the climax of their dedicated run at Glasgow's Sub Club, Fabric commissioned the two Scottish DJs best known as Optimo to record a mix for their famous ongoing series. Judging from the tracklisting itself, it actually seems Fabric 52 would be more in sync with the FabricLive spirit, considering how all over the place it looks at first glance. But Optimo have taken the diverse, anything-goes attitude to track selection and applied modern day techniques to the results, turning Fabric 52 into their most seamless and forwardly dance mix so far.
JD Twitch and Jonnie Wilkes have always had a distinctive approach to mix CDs. 2007's Psyche Out merged, for instance, vintage acid house and psychedelic rock, while Walkabout verged into noise and drone territories and the more recent Sleepwalker compilation gave us access to the slower, moodier and darker corners of their vision of the discotheque. This is no different: Fad Gadget's "Lady Shave" imposes an early '80s, dark synth-pop vibe, only to rapidly give way to Prins Thomas' Balearic yet relentless take on Discodromo's "Cosmorama." We are then rapidly treated to a 1993 proto-minimal techno cut from Basic Channel which is followed by a more contemporary house offering from Rekids' wonder boy Spencer ParkerâÄ¦ and that's just in the first ten minutes.
The back-and-forth movement from one era to another and from one style to the other is quintessentially Optimo, but here it sounds totally natural and adroitly polished. The track-14-to-19 sequence is nothing short of impressive. Contemporary Italo from The Tyrell Corporation (the pounding "Together Alone") rubs shoulders with vintage Bobby Orlando-produced hi-NRG (Roni Griffith's spooky "Spys"). It then goes into Levon Vincent's acidic "Love Technique" before Oni Ayhun's circumvallating "OAR003-B" imposes the rhythmic backbone to a mash-up with Italians Do It Better's recent recruit Desire and their breathless disco torch song "Don't Call." Taken individually, Ayhun's cut is demandingly unorthodox, while Desire's comes across as slightly anemic. Their telescoping creates the kind of experience that radically modifies the two tracks to the point where it's almost impossible to go back to the originals without feeling there is now something missing on both of them....full text
EarpipeItís pretty dark times for our northern breadrin in Glasgow. Their football club can barely scrape together the costs for an open top bus trophy tour; then thereís that ridiculous stat you always hear that a good proportion of the city lives in poverty at a level which rivals Zimbabwe and to add insult to injury their easterly sister Edinburgh gets voted the best place to live in the country. But these things are the least of the cityís worries. Itís more so the dark cloud that hangs over the legendary Sub Club since Optimo announced they were ending their Sunday night tenure. Their weekly blend of eclectic samplings will be sorely missed, I for one am gutted that I never made it that far up north to witness these legendary nights first hand.
Luckily they immortalised some of what goes on at the Sub Club with their recent 20 Years of Sub Club mix. That mix ducked and dived through so many shades from electronic and acid to new wave and disco. It had a beautiful flow using some very disparate music making it a brilliant home listening CD. This extensive repertoire of legendary club nights, DJ sets and mix CDs means the bar is set extraordinarily high for their Fabric 52 mix. I wonder if they can pull off another great mix CD bottling that essence that has made them much loved in Glasgow and across the country.
From the press release the duo mentioned that they set out to capture a dance floor driven mix which reflects what they would normally do in Fabricís Room 2. And that it is. The first half especially is a driving mix of chugging electronic basslines and loopy hooks. Prins Thomas, Spencer Parker and Rebolledo all weigh in with their interpretations of chuggy, yet whilst theyíre different in their own ways they all seem to trundle along in the same way and offer little in terms of a sharp turn in proceedings which we have come to expect.
Itís not until the second half where the dancefloor guard is let down, allowing the mix to open up and explore those different avenues. The way they interject Thomas Brinkmannís bleepy shuffling Walk With Me with the 90s German New Wave of Rheingold at the half way mark is exactly the kind of magic I was hoping for throughout this mix. Itís how they bend tracks from different genres to fit in with a dancey flow. We see more glimpses of this throughout the second half as Optimo weave in flavours from across the board. They give a quick head nod to the burgeoning UK Funky scene with a track from Roska where his syncopated beats allow it to blend perfectly with the Columbian folk dance rhythms on Shacalao. We also get detours into luscious synth washes such as the Joy Division-esque Together Alone or the camp 80s Donít Call on Italians Do It Better....full text
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