Review: The spin-off Optimo Trax is in danger of overshadowing its mothership if its run of form continues. First up on this split release is Beta's "Endless Plains", where rolling breaks and dubbed out drums prevail. Then comes the brilliantly named Love's Flaccid Disco Muscle's - a pseudonym for L/F/D/M - "3am At The Aqua Disco". Unlike some of the producer's industrial-leaning music, this is a trippy, jazz-house groove. Alex Burkat steers the release back towards disco territories with the sassy sounds of "Culture Full Circle", but Modini demonstrates that diversity is the name of the game, and "Ghost Seducer" is a cold, bleep techno affair.
Review: JD Twitch seems to have an obsession with Italian music; amazingly, four of the first eight releases on the excellent - and typically hard to pin down - Optimo Trax imprint have come from Italian bands and producers. This second EP from Milanese twosome Boot & Trax fits into that category. It's as stylish and - on occasions - dark as you'd perhaps expect, variously being influenced by '80s industrial, fizzing post-punk, chugging Chicago house and strobelight electronica. There's naturally much to enjoy, from the hypnotic, left-of-centre Italian house revivalism of "Il Canto" and fuzzy "Ochhi Blu", to the energetic, darkwave-meets-punk funk rush of the irrepressible title track.
Review: Dubbed a pair of Milanese maestros, Boot & Trax are a back with their first release of the year - just as it ends! There are four tracks, divided into two contrasting 'sides' that reveal the junction where EBM and disco meet. Opener "Baia Del Ritmo" is a raucous but slow roller that adds layer upon layer of sampled disco chants to form a hypnotic mantra, whilst EP highlight "Sintessi Bassa" is a sleazy excursion into pulsating sweaty darkroom electro/new beat. "La Routa" meanwhile is a quirky Italo-dub hybrid and closer "Maranzana" is a beguiling cosmic glam-rock lullaby.
Review: Given his deep love of bleep techno, it's perhaps unsurprising that JD Twitch is keen on the post-bleep house wonkiness of former Sweet Exorcist man DJ Parrot's Crooked Man project. Here he gives him a fully justified release on Optimo Trax with which to do his thing. Those familiar with Crooked Man's previous output will feel right at home. "Undigitize Me" is a little rougher around the edges than their previous work, but retains the usual sleaziness (thanks to some odd vocals, warped bass and hypnotic rhythms). "Skink" is, if anything, even wilder and wonkier, with a real intense late night swing. Best of all, though, is the heads-down, stripped-back pulse of "Try Me", a 12-minute exercise in druggy dancefloor dynamics with superb vocals from Pete Simpson.
Review: Those who've been paying attention to JD Twitch's sets over the last 12 months will undoubtedly have heard "Un.sub", the title track from this excellent EP from former Moda Black combo Mia Dora. A wild combination of relentless cowbells, bass-heavy bottom-end and warped electronics, it sounds like techno from another dimension. The rest of the EP is similarly impressive, from the bumpin' late night house flex of "Raw Kiss", to the surging techno of "Et Le Mein". The EP also features a woozy, off-kilter collaboration with Glaswegian veteran MASH ("Feathers"), which laces a kooky spoken female vocal over sparse beats, foreboding bass and atmospheric electronics.
Review: Optimo's spin-off label has been home to some of the most endearing dance floor oddities of the past few years and this release is in the same vein. The work of French composer and pianist Fabrizio Ferrero, the four tracks consist entirely of drum machines and acoustic pianos. The results are jarring, awkward and quite unlike much contemporary techno. "Pinky" has the wonky chaos of Herbert's house work, while the piano lines on "Ring" are so far to the front of the arrangement that they sound like they are coming through the speakers. "Thumb" ends the release with doubled up drums and insistent drones.
Review: Having brought countless obscure tracks from the '80s to our attention through their mix CDs and club nights, Optimo now turn their attention, albeit temporarily, to the decade of drums, the 90s. While the later part of the 1990s saw dull tribal house and one-note loop techno monotony prevail, this split release shows that the use of heavy drums wasn't always tedious. On "The Way Out Is The Way", Norwegian-English duo Illumination deliver three minutes' worth of searing bass and epic keys before the filtered drums roll in, while Mr Marvin's "I Want You" is straighter percussive rhythm although its stuttering vocal sample makes it stand out. Best of all though is Fuel's "Rigid", a panning, stomping affair with traces of Chicago's ghetto sound.
Review: Bringing to light the work of long-serving Dutch producer Maarten van der Vleuten, Optimo Trax have drawn on four different aliases of the many van der Vleuten has employed in the past, giving a neat introduction to just some of what the man has achieved in his lifetime. This moves from the sunshine piano house of Integrity's "Summer Love" to the cheeky techno bounce of Flux's "True Feelings". As DJ Dusk he whips up a mean live bassline and some jagged drums for a uniquely freaky experience, while G S G's "Higher Spiritual Planes" unsurprisingly reaches for a more wistful, ambient kind of melodic content even if the drums still pound with quintessential Dutch intentsity.
Review: Sadly, it seems that this is the second last release on Optimo Trax, but it's a good one to start the farewell with. The work of Israeli dub maverick Kalbata, it features three very different versions of "Enkuan". According to its author, the material was recored in "a small studio shack in Addis Ababa", together with an Ethiopian musician who came to the session with a range of different flutes. The first 'version' features the mysterious instrument wailing over heavy drums and powerful thunderclaps, while on part two, Kalbata opts for a tougher sound, as tough drums underpin layered, detuned drones. By the time he reaches the third and final "Enkuan", Kalbata goes back to heavy reverb and dubbed out drums.
Review: Having established Optimo Music as a truly eclectic label more than worthy of the Optimo (Espacio) night it grew out of, JD Twitch and co expand operations with the launch of the club specific Optimo Trax label. The all encompassing approach of Optimo Music remains the driving force behind this new offshoot, with the label apparently taking in both current artists and excavated "forgotten classics" and it's with the former that they launch. Little is yet to be known about the London producer L/F/D/M, credited as R. Smith, who was apparently encouraged to pursue music production while studying art with Factory Floor's man on electronics, Dominic Butler. Taking Butler's advice, L/F/D/M delivers a strong five track of EP of deep, analogue-fueled acid techno which simultaneously draws upon the influences of the motor and windy cities, while also incorporating the more sinister strands of European techno.
Review: It's encouraging to hear that And It Was Good, Klasse Recordings founder Luca Lozano's latest retro-futurist outing for Optimo Trax, was inspired by his time growing up in Sheffield, circa the turn of the '90s. You can certainly hear the influence of the Steel City - and early Warp Records material, in particular - in "Fantasy FM", which sounds like Sweet Exorcist style bleep techno fused with Tuff Little Unit's dreamy, bleep-era deep house gem "Join The Future". There's more clanking drum machines and attractive bleep melodies to be found on "Third Eye Open", while the intoxicating "Telekom" - all psychedelic electronic riffs and bubbling techno bottom-end - sounds like a long lost Xon cut. The superb, lunar-inspired title-track is pretty tasty, too.
Review: According to JD Twitch's sales notes, Luke Solomon and former Greenskeepers man Nick Maurer decided to join forces as Powerdance in reaction to "the bland, soulless dance music that's infiltrating clubs the world over". Certainly, there's little bland or soulless about opener "Mysterious Space Plane", which not only jacks harder than Ron Hardy after a face full of amphetamines, but also boasts a typically eccentric vocal from Maurer (this, incidentally, is given additional prominence on the accompanying, beat-less Reprise version). Elsewhere, "More Fire" takes TB-303-driven acid house into deep space, while "Fire Beat" offers a stripped-back, percussion heavy take on the same cut.
Review: The third release on this fledgling Optimo label comes from Luma, aka Scottish duo Paul McEwen and Graham Morrison. Representing old and newer sounds and styles, the release starts with the contemporary, stepping rhythm and cut-up vocals of the title track, before the duo focus on the '90s with "Don't Give A Damn". In essence, they deliver a fresh take on minimal techno, situated somewhere between the chaotic analogue clatter of Cristian Vogel and Rob Hood's visceral rhythms. Not content with veering from old to new, they decide to combine these narratives on "John Broadwood" and "Electroboon", where house keys and classic synths vie with muscular basslines for attention.
Review: Geoff Kirkwood aka Man Power has a small but enviable catalogue, with releases on labels such as Correspondant and ESP Institute. For his latest outing, he delivers on Optimo Trax, another respected outlet for left of centre dance music. On the title track, he drops a pulsing groove, around which he adds in eerie textures and some spoken word samples, which appear to come from US politics. It makes for an unusual, hypnotic dance floor track. "HDS" follows a different tact; it sees Kirkwood deliver subtle break beats - one of the longest running themes on Optimo Trax releases - reverberating vocal chants and a droning sound scape, as another unnamed vocal narrative plays out. It makes for one of the best left field releases of 2017.
Review: Mathias Schober runs the fine Lossless label - home to artists like King Britt and the fast-rising Neil Flynn- but has found the time to debut on Optimo Trax. Using just a simple set-up of drums and one synth, Schober creates some distinctive tracks. "In A Certain Way" is a tripped out techno affair, its colourful synth line unravelling against a rolling groove that has similarities to Mathew Jonson. On "But What Rules Are Made For", Schober opts for a different tact and delivers a slow-burning affair drenched in grimy electronic textures. "Is To Break Them" offers his perspective on dub techno, as a cavernous groove plays home to spiralling trance riffs, before an ambient version of the same track brings the release to a close.
Review: According to the label, the late Bryn Jones recorded this untitled track during the mid-80s and used tape loops instead of sampler to create the rolling breaks and rough riffs that comprise "Untitled". Fittingly, Optimo Trax has commissioned Victor Shan and Running Back's Gerd Janson to rework it. The first take, the 'Rave' version, resounds to dark hardcore stabs and similarly tough breaks, while on the 'Morning' take, ponderous pianos and dubbed out claps prevail. While Italian pair Unterspreche drop the ethnic sampling groove of "Flowers from the Lake" on the flip, it feels like an afterthought compared to Muslimgauze's pioneering pre-hardcore.
Review: Optimo Trax 30 celebrates a double 30 years anniversary. The original release date of "Rejekto" is 30 years since Twitch started behind the decks. In 1987, it's almost folklore now that he picked up a copy of "Rejekto" and was smitten. Shortly after that, he got his first ever gig and played the said track in his set. It was known to be a fizzer every time time, but a few years ago he felt the time was ripe for a comeback and this time people danced to it. In fact, people loved it and would ask about it. 30 years later, it feels audiences are more open: or perhaps "Rejekto" was just ahead of its time? German duo Ra-Hen and Talla 2XLC would go on to become Bigod 20 with the addition of Thomas Franzmann (aka Perlon's Zip) on vocals. They were seminal in Frankfurt's early industrial scene alongside the likes of Lassigue Bendthaus aka Atom TM (Uwe Schmidt). Featuring the original, "U.S. Dub" versions and a slo-mo cover version by long-time Twitch friend and ally, the mysterious Frenchbloke.
Review: JD Twitch has previously said how much he loves Severed Heads, so it's little surprise to see his Optimo Trax label reissuing a trio of kikller dubs from the Australian combo's late 1980s "dancefloor-friendly" period. The well-known "Greater Reward" is offered up in two versions; the original 12" dub - think classic undulating acid house bass, fizzing electronics, big builds and an even bigger piano line - and Twitch's own "Piano Power" edit, which emphasizes the famous keys even more than normal. The scattergun dub of "All Saints Day" takes a similar sonic approach - with a little more of a Cabaret Voltaire circa "Easy Life" feel - while "Big Car (Crash Dub") is a flurry of synth bass, discordant hits and Fairlight stabs.
Review: Scotland's productive Alex Smoke finally to touches down on Optimo's sublime Optimo Trax for a four-track kick to the chest. The dude, or should we say the don, has released countless EPs, all of them on excellent households such as R&S, Soma and even Vakant so it's no real surprise that he'd be landing on yet another quality platform. Four cuts: deep, off-the-wall four-to-the-floor jackers packed with plenty of deranged sonics and atmospheric goodness. To be played loud on a system or on your headphones for a bit of meditative electronic yoga.
Review: By now, we should all be familiar with the work of former Soma employee Dave "Sparky" Clark, who has spent the last few years delivering a swathe of quality EPs on Numbers and Rubadub. Here, he appears on old pal JD Twitch's Optimo Trax imprint for the first time. He begins with the looped-up techno-funk synth riffs and soft-touch electronics of "Things Fall Apart", before indulging his new wave, synth-pop and Italo-disco influences on "My Prophet". "Seven Daggers" drags piano house into deep space in the company of a wired George Clinton and Daft Punk (metaphorically speaking, rather than literally), while "Black Swan" is a spiraling, spacey chunk of proto-techno designed to inspire hands-in-the-air moments down at the Sub Club.