- Dressed up as This Is Belgium, Optimo give a history lesson of Belgian New Beat with four throbbing, gristly edits of underground classic material. JD Twitch and JG Wilkes have long worn their interest in the New Beat sound on their sleeves, even doing an album-long mix for Ghent's legendary R&S records, and it's not hard to guess the grounds for their inspiration, as the sound is a feverish hybrid that neatly befits the Optimo boys' own genre-fuck mixing style. Labeled by year, the edits are largely content to lock into a groove and grind it into the ground, resulting in stunning dance floor ammo whose use-valuable is perhaps questionable when it comes to repeated home listening. But in any case let's be straight: This is an Optimo lesson, so when class begins you'd best sit up straight and take copious notes.
"Boccaccio Four" was the name of the Belgian club that became written into legend as the origin of Belgian New Beat in the late '80s. The New Beat vibe comes off like cosmic disco meets industrial grind, slow-mo and churning, psychedelic and aggressive. If that sounds like the equivalent of playing Wax Trax! records played slowed down, well, that's because was: the subgenre supposedly got its start when someone played A Split Second's "Flesh" at minus 8. Think synth-pop on a codeine nightmare-bender, or Danielle Baldelli soundtracking Terminator 5.
The tracks are less like singular tunes with fully-formed independent personalities and more like historical snapshots, or aural portholes onto the passing flux of time: witness the military snares and anthemic piston-pumps of "1986," and the crunchy, sniveling arpeggiated synth-worms of "1987." Things go way more sinister and subterranean in "1988," then "1989" becomes dominated by the relentless riffage that will become the later staple of Belgian techno. Like Baldelli's own Italian club Cosmic in the early '80s, Boccaccio Four became a lively laboratory for free-wheeling experimentation, and its trademark tunes still retain the vitality of works written before the rules had come to seem etched in stone. Who better than Optimo, arguably two of the finest purveyors of open-minded DJ weirdness working today, to show some gratitude?