- Though best known for their exhilarating, eclectic mash-ups, Keith McIvor and Jonnie Wilkes have always been masters of slower scene-setting, too. One of the great things about their now defunct Glasgow party, Optimo (Espacio), was their ability to build an exquisite sense of expectation for the night ahead. In an age when the warm-up DJ too often bangs out inappropriate 4/4 beats, Optimo would start the night with a dramatic, quasi-ambient collage of techno, industrial classics and bizarre soundtrack material.
Dark Was The Night, Optimo's sixth commercial mix, is in that vein. Aptly timed to drop in January, it's a dark, cold-weather mix that avoids the clichés that suggests. It starts out lost and lonesome and peaks in waves of nuclear winter sonics. More often than not, the beats provide texture rather than momentum.
As DJs, Optimo are utterly in command of their material and deploy it with counter-intuitive brio. QX-1's "I Won't Hurt You" is an anomalous sex track, but its sinister nature adds another dimension of darkness to the fraught, ethereal tone of the opening section. From there you're pitched into the tribal night terrors of Roberto Auser's "Eclipse," and then into a stretch of relatively straight techno from Recondite and Byetone before Optimo stymie the gathering pace. They do this, brilliantly, with Kode9 and Space Ape's "Sine Of The Dub," a track whose Massive Attack-meets-Berghain aesthetic both complements and subverts what has preceded it.
By constantly changing pace and wrong-footing the listener, Optimo have created another mix that's much greater than the sum of its parts. There are the expected obscure gems (Holy Ghost Inc.'s "Mad Monks On Zinc," The Freeze's "Psychodalek Nightmares," Like A Tim's "Hurt You One More Time"), and some individual stand-outs (Inigo Kennedy's beautiful "Cathedral," Carter Tutti's nightmarish "Coolicon"), but ultimately each track is subservient to the overall character of the mix. Few DJs would put all these records together in one place. None could put them to such compelling use.
01. Grouper - Vanishing Point
02. Jeff & Jayne Hudson - Mystery Chant
03. Terrence Dixon - Lost At Sea (Untitled 3)
04. Jared Wilson - This Love
05. Qx-1 - I Won't Hurt You
06. Roberto Auser - Eclipse
07. Recondite - Cleric
08. Byetone - Plastic Star
09. Kode9 & Space Ape - Sine Of The Dub
10. Hieroglyphic Being - Imaginary Soundscapes 9
11. Silent Servant - Invocation
12. Inigo Kennedy - Cathedral
13. Hecker - Bsf°Tyk 5
14. Nurse With Wound - Ketamineaphonia
15. Carter Tutti - Coolicon
16. Voigt & Voigt - Intro Koenig
17. Holy Ghost Inc. - Mad Monks On Zinc
18. Deadboy - Black Reign
19. Like A Tim - Hurt You One More Time
20. The Freeze - Psychodalek Nightmares
21. Angel Corpus Christi - Dream Baby Dream