- As any schoolchild can tell you, the name Naum Gabo refers first of all to that pioneer of Russian constructivism whose fame stemmed from his "kinetic art" sculptures, such as Standing Wave (1920), in which a small motor causes a long, thin strip of metal to oscillate in space. The fact that "Naum Gabo" has been taken up as a pseudonym for the duo of James Savage and Jonnie Wilkes of Optimo shouldn't be taken as mere homage, though. Instead, it's a hint toward one of the subterranean origins of electronic music today—after all, what are DJs and producers if not themselves "kinetic artists," using machines to explore movement? Case in point: The three druggy, long-form jams offered here feel quite sculptural, their interplay between differences and repetitions producing slow mutations over time that recall the experience of contemplating an object moving in space—like, in Gabo's case, observing the effects of mechanization on some discarded metal.
The name Naum Gabo also indexes that kind of nimble polyglottery one associates with Optimo and their related side-projects. Gabo, whose fluency in multiple languages reflected a desire for precise expression, once said, "vague communication is no communication at all." Whether they're spinning Nitzer Ebb, remixing the R&S catalog or re-editing punk rock, one gets the feeling that Optimo likewise view each outing as a chance to express a particular stylistic idea. The tongue spoken on Black Lab is the kind of chugging, bricklayer psychedelic synth-rock carried out, for example, by '70s artists like Richard Pinhas and Heldon.
The A-side original has a swirling, cosmic atmosphere and blue-collar brawn that invokes images of life on an outer-space oil refinery. Expertly executed, it swerves in and out of a number of analog-synth motifs and suspenseful two-chord vamps underpinned by a stiff head-nodding bass. Of the three here, this tune is the most traditional, an ode to lost psych-prog classics. The Discosession's remix steals the show, though. It's an even-deeper cosmic voyage with added dense, shimmering thickets of filtered arpeggios and white noise, a one-man vessel drifting through the starry blue, alone—a fantastic place to start if you were looking to score your 2009 remake of Carl Sagan's Cosmos. Closer "Mule Tk2" is a more-up-tempo burst of breezy Italo cosmic grooves, a kind of effervescent digestif after two tracks of rather hearty fare.
A Black Lab
B1 Black Lab (Discosession Remix)