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Category Archives: Independent Thinking

L-R Gemmy, Joker and Guido. Thanks to Dan Hancox for photo

L-R Gemmy, Joker and Guido. Thanks to Dan Hancox for photo

Dan Hancox writes about music well. He combines the intelligence to unravel sounds and themes into clear theories with the warmth and honest enthusiasm of someone who is obviously a music fan. His blog is well worth following, although I found his recent fried chicken/pirate radio analogy a little hard to swallow (oof!).

His piece for the guardian on Bristol’s ‘purple’ trinity of Joker, Gemmy and Guido comprehensively sums up the appeal of their rich, dayglo sound; the influence of classic video game themes and g-funk, the importance of using melody to reclaim dance music from the clutches of male dominated xtreme bass-fetishism and the issue of synaesthesia – unavoidable thanks to the trio’s colour orientated reference points. There’s very little I can, or would want to add. So I wont. Just read it.

Of the three, Guido is the one I know the least about. This 29min mini-mix however provides a tasty bite size introduction to his take on purple – the most melodic of the three, not shying away from synth-sax and the easily misused autotune to bring the patterns to life. Grab it here, courtesy of Numbers and their ace podcasts.

Guido – Tantalized
Guido, Aarya & Ruthless – Beautiful Complication
Guido – Chakra
Guido – You Do It Right
Guido – Orchestral Lab
Gemmy – Johnny 5
Guido – Mad Sax
Joker – Do It!
Guido – Tango
Joker – Digidesign

ALSO

A few Joker remixes (more often than not with Ginz who worked with him on the awesome Purple City) of more mainstream artists have been cropping up on the internetz with all – like this re-rub of carnival house perennials Basement Jaxx – severely pwning the originals. That combination of tropical fruity keyboard twirls and pixxellated bass give it the delectable glow the original only promised…

…come back! Yes, it is Zero 7. No, I haven’t heard the original. The bassline here burns like a digital heatwave before the increasingly recognisable purple synth riff rides over the top like… *a few adjectives later* …, so I don’t think we need to hear the original. This really is er… ‘massive’. Yes, that’ll do.

AND ALSO

Grab his mix from the Barcelona SONAR 2009 festival here, thanks to FADER. No tracklist yet, but there’s some lolworthy video of a man whose star is most definitely rising. Watch him fly.

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Following the threads of genius through commercial hip-hop to the logical destination of tomorrow, there comes a collaboration of fwd-thinking youths (via label/collective creative powerhouse LuckyMe) with the potential to forge a white-hot vision of next-level funk worthy of a lot of the hyperbole already associated with the sound.

Ciorsdan Brown originates from Glasgow’s increasingly fertile beat farms and combines with the similarly vital creative mind of Hudson Mohawke to form NADSROIC, a project producing the most sophisticated and vivid future R&B since the glory days of Timbaland/Pharrell et al. Raised on Celtic fiddle and song she comes off like a languid Missy E, cloaking the lyrical barbs and potent flows with a delivery that matches the mellifluous to the delectably louche. Hudson’s shattered rhythms and starry-eyed sample clusters have never before sounded so completely at home.

Incoming ‘Room Mist’ EP on the 29th. Check LuckyMe for updates.

HudMo / Nadsroic mini mix culled from Mary Anne Hobbs Experimental: X Chromosome Special, 22nd of April 2009:

Nadsroic & Husdon Mohawke mix
Hudson Mo Loops – ‘M5000 Loop’
Damfunk – ‘Rhythm Trax’
The Blessings – ‘Faberge’
Nadsroic – ‘Room Mist’ (prod HudsonMo)
Nadsroic – ‘Saw You There’ (prod HudsonMo)
Nadsroic – ‘Peekaboo’ (prod HudsonMo)
Nadsroic – ‘Step Back’ (prod HudsonMo)
Nadsroic – ‘Allhot’ (prod HudsonMo)
Download

(Thanks to A Shaving Of The Horn That Speared You)

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Dublin beat label All City celebrate the completion of their enchanting  7″ series with a digital bundle wrapping all 7 releases together for only £cheap like it’s crimbo all over again. I could dive right into the highlights, rope in some comparisons and fire off a couple hastily generated franken-genres (e.g. ambient-electro-hip-soul-beat or something equally glib) but an insistent bony finger prods away at my brain-ribs. Yes kids, it’s the internet.

Since the term Wonky received a reception from its supposed champions akin to a fart in a lift, the problems with genre – especially in an area as overgrown and impenetrable as dance music (see! even that sounds pat…) – have been worthy argument fuel. On the one hand, applying catch-all terms and the obsessive compartmentalising of what is essentially an abstract art is a limiting and frequently weak approach (read this interview with Diplo again for some tres interesting points), but on the other there’s no way I’m going to exclusively map these sonic tableaus with nebulous poetry (OUCH). No-one would want that.

I could Say Onra‘s ‘My Comet’ is 90s g-funk shot through a broken super-8, lens flare saturating the colours. Or I could just say it’s super-compressed nu-skool instrumental hip-hop, y’know like Bullion or that stuff on One Handed. What it IS, is both. There’s a place for genre and giving something a name is at times worthwhile, for the sake of those eager to immerse themselves in a sound and pursue its alleyways as much as anything else. I fully understand that it’s partly a reaction against lazy journalism (which I sincerely hope this isn’t) but let’s not forget that these names sometimes help a lot of people navigate what can be dizzyingly complex world.

Back on subject however, 7×7 is a collection which takes this contemporary underwater hip-hop ambiance to places that don’t sound anything like hip-hop – Hudson Mohawke‘s wondrous ‘Star Crackout’ crackles and shimmers like a golden snow globe with a broken harpsichord and no beats whatsoever, nestling next to the fluttering dub techno of ‘Root Hands’ like nothing happened. Elsewhere the beats stagger in and out of consciousness with Mike Slott‘s loping electro slow jamz and personal favourite Fulgeance‘s bumping party circuit-breaker ‘Revenge Of The Nerds’ leading the way.

One of my musical highlights of ’09 thus far. Buy it here.

Photos courtesy of VICE photo blog, see the whole set here. Im in there somewhere.

WKfloor

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Stage full from the off + rampant stagediving + multiple bundles for the birthday boy from all concerned = THE most full-contact thirtieth birthday celebrations I’m ever likely to attend, all in honour of modern day renaissance man and full-time tower of power Andrew WK. Known by many and dismissed by some due to/in spite of only one of his myriad musical outlets (über-party metal, not unlike Van Halen playing the theme tune from Funhouse while Journey rediscover thrash-punk), a relentlessly awesome alpha-person who goes from motivational speaking to playing with legendary UK experimental everything act Current 93 to presenting a show on Cartoon Network. The guy is a fucking inspiration, I file him under ‘personal development’ along with anyone else with such a superhuman ability to headbutt negativity into non-existence with nothing but an honest approach and infinite enthusiasm. Word.

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Warming us all up (other than a sickly-sweet stroll down the last 10+ years of pop-punk) was fabricated NY socialite Bad Brilliance (website also worth checking), alter ego of Andrew Strasser – a man whose day job at PatrickMcMullan.com identifying celebrities for photo captions inspired him to create a character with a name for a face. ‘It’s a recognizable character by definition’ he notes, sagely. With the help of actress/socialite Sophia Lamar he quite literally wobbles around town looking for high society events to get escorted out of, presumably in a manner as affable as his own.

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Dude was MCing over a set of his own neon awesome cartoon crunk and spazzy electro-hop, waving his huge inflatable head around with aplomb and to great applause and I thought YES, although the term ‘performance art’ tickles my gag reflex, in reality I’d rather see this absurd, imaginative and fucking funny character chat over his technicolour soundtrack than a million+1 spit & sawdust spiky guitar bands do something authentic in a garage. Good effort Bad Brilliance, now put a record out so I can buy it.

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Being one of the most hyped artists in UK electronic music can’t be ALL bad. Crafting club bangers that play by some of the rules whilst gleefully kicking the shit out of the others must be one of the best ways to turn heads while still pushing boundaries. I get the impression he couldn’t care less about all the chat – making whatever the hell he wants and inventing his own genre in the process (the questionably necessary but descriptive ‘aquacrunk’).

Returning to excellent electro-tech label Wireblock after a brief foray on Up My Alley (with the excellent ‘Dog Mask’ and ‘Soapy Tits’) and following the scene quaking ‘Zig-Zag’ is a fair task – its shuddering synth arpeggio delivered his shattered-circuits sound in the most accesible form to date.

The forthcoming ‘Bad Science’ EP boasts the whip-crack claps, bubbling fizz and chunky game FX that make his primary coloured crunked-up diamonds shine. To further entice he’s pulled something of a coup by snaring Detroit electro legend and Drexciya affiliate Heinrich Mueller aka Dopplereffekt for a remix, an unlikely but welcome choice of remixer. Rustie and Wireblock bringing together the past, present AND future of electronic music.

Rustie – Bad Science EP (Wireblock)

Tracklisting:
1 Tar [Listen]
2 Bad Science [Listen]
3 Shadow Enter [Listen]
4 Zig-Zag (Heinrich Mueller Gravitational Equilibrium Mix) [Listen]
5 Zig-Zag (Reprise) [Listen]

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People like italo-disco. It’s a genre that’s attracted a lot more interest of late, partly due to the critical success of US label Italians Do It Better (home to Chromatics, Farah and Glass Candy) although for me they took the visual aesthetic and left behind the élan and bare-faced extravagance, filling the resulting hole with a dour detachment. Not that they didn’t put out any good records, it’s just that for me, it didn’t really constitute what they appeared to be styling themselves as. Or I just wasn’t into it. Probably both.

In the late 70s/early-to-mid 80s, disco producers started to incorporate more synthesized, electronic elements to their music. This may have been due to the falling price of equipment, although the fetishising of such gear due to a certain ‘futuristic’ quality was a strong factor – one cannot ignore the power of new technology to inspire art and music. Due to this it tends to have a certain sci-fi, galactic feel which, when combined with an ebullient pop nous, dancefloor NRG and the warm fuzz of analogue recording equipment, can produce MAGIC. When it does it combines elation, melancholy, joy, nostalgia, goosebumps and butterflies. For me, anyway.

As with any genre so extensive and varied in quality (genius all the way to dross) it’s best to start with the peaks, one of them being italian supergroup Kano (no, not Kano. Or Kano for that matter). It was their melding of electro, funk and 70s disco that shaped their sound and made them one of the pioneers of the period. Their strong electro element especially led to influence in the b-boy/early hip-hop scene.

Essentially an instrumental act, the band themselves seem happy to take a visual back seat and let a rotating array of vocalists provide their face. They released three albums, Kano (1980), New York Cake (1981) and Another Life (1983). These are the best moments:

From Kano, sampled by Tag Team on ‘Whoomp (There it Is)’

Also from Kano, probably their most famous track with some magnificent Synthwork. I sure wish ‘Popcorn’ was still on TV:

From New York Cake, a personal favourite:

The title track from Another Life. One of their most successful tracks. What a video – like some crazy, sexy dream:

There’s a good little italo history here, read it.

More disco soon folks, trendy or not x

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Today is computer maintenance day.

In the meantime, any of you who’ve had your interest piqued by the recent whatever-you-call-it instrumental hip-hop stylings of Rustie, Hudson Mohawke, Bullion etc should check out the LuckyMe website. I’ll let them do the talking, but in the broadest terms they’re a Glasgow based collective (who include the aforementioned Rustie and HudMo) of artists, musicians and promoters who are – whether you may hear – not cool.

‘Cool’ is an absurd concept. What is it? Who has it? How does one get it? It seems that the coolest people around are always the ones at pains to not be. By that maxim, the only way to be cool is to avoid it.

People want to be cool because it suggests value or worth, which brings respect. This suggests a need for acceptance, to be part of something larger and validate them as people. Cool for the sake of cool essentially uncool as it itself has no singular, independent worth. Also, when things become cool, hip or trendy they become confined, a static photograph of the scene/sound/look at its point of crossover. It can then be commodified, sold and endlessly reproduced – existing but essentially dead as it ceases to advance or evolve. Whether or not this makes any sense, as a way of looking at things it’s outmoded.

I guess this is why so many (LuckyMe included) try so hard to reject any of these associations. This piece from their site probably expresses it better than me:

Did anyone catch the Guardian’s guide to new trends for 09. Man, we are the first up with ‘Wonky’. We don’t condone this word but I wont go into it again. It’s useful people are trying to talk about us – and to be in that paper is no bad thing. I just get the feeling that people are letting genre names just fall out the side of their mouth like the crumbs on cookie monster. It’s dumb. I mean, who would want to affiliate with any genre in 2009 when everyone has an attention span exactly the same length as the first level in Super Mario 3.

Diplo wrote a great article on the redundancy of genre in new music a few months ago for URB. I recommend it. Anyway, we are so grateful for people finding us but there is more going on here with than just that name. Suspend a little disbelief in the defining sound of Wonky and you will find it’s got nothing to do with Ketamin or quantizZzing, and everything to do with whatever we deem cool and relevant at LuckyMe.

I admit, I am guilty myself of singing the praises of Wonky but I put it down to enthusiasm and excitement – not bad things but after reading this and the Diplo piece I  accept a little more now the problems and hopelessness of trying to sum up a scene in a word. The interview with Diplo they mention is a particularly interesting view on the death of genre, I also suggest that you read it here. Cool, trendy, hip… all these terms are becoming obsolete. Teh internetz is making everything available to everyone, all the time. Fuck the hardcore continuum (of which there is a fine rebuttal here), it’s no longer relevant.

I digress. LuckyMe also have a wealth of mixes to download, provided by affiliates and those who share their aesthetic/ethos. Particularly good is Jamie Vex’d’s Sunday Walkman Mix. Get it here (right-click to save), or here for the mixtape page – check them out, they all look good.

Jamie Vex’d – Sunday Walkman Mix

jamie vexd – saturn’s reply
rich reason & fantastic mr fox – bleep show
scuba – twitch – jamie vexd remix
starkey – creature
jamie vexd – in system travel
erykah badu – twinkle
darkstar – aidy’s girl’s a computer
cannibal ox – f word (instrumental)
zomby – fantastique remix
falty dl – to london
shawty lo ft dg yola vs timeblind – lets decay it (dev 79’s blend)
stagga – lopside – doshy remix
modeselektor – black box – rustie remix
joker – psychedlic runway
starkey – mutter music vip
naptha – soundclash – grevious angel vip
tim hecker – sundown6093
falty dl – paradise Lost

What’s next? Peer into the future and what do you see (apart from lunch/dinner)?

I see this.

Extraordinarily loose hip-hop to mid-tempo rhythms with morphing synths and samples, squeezed to the extreme and underpinned with organic bumping bass antics. It strikes me as an attempt to move as far away from the regimented, heavily sequenced and quantised nature of the majority of dance music while retaining and increasing the groove. Rather than favouring the abrasive sonic extremes of much experimental electronic music, these rhythmical and textural extremes – when tempered with a few more familiar elements – have an irresistible life to them.

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Rustie

Back to Glasgow (again) and to self-appointed Aquacrunk originator Rustie. It’s about as perfect a one-word description as you could hope for. Influenced heavily by the US deep south hip-hop Crunk sound and its stark but super heavy 808 drum machine rhythms, this time chopped, sliced, pro/compressed to fuck with morphing, wobbling synths sliding around on top. At times it does lose its focus and slide toward an arrhythmical mess, but that’s just the by-product of someone really pushing the boundaries and who knows – maybe in a few years we’ll realise those tracks were just ahead of their time. When he gets the mix right however and it all gels, it sounds like future music now.

Probably his best to date, on Wireblock;

Off the forthcoming Bad Science EP;

On Stuff Records;

(Also, watch out for Beatnicks vol. 1 and Beatnicks vol. 2 on Up My Alley Records for new Rustie – ‘Dog Mask’ on vol. 2  is KILLER. Check Beatport for digital)

Wireblock have also been co-running a club night called Numbers since 2003 in – you guessed it – Glasgow, the home of Rustie and UK spiritual home of the Aquacrunk sound. If you’re around East London in two weeks (March 5th), head down Plastic People for Numbers@Plastic People with fellow Glaswegian Hudson Mohawke.

Rustie Mix for Mary Anne Hobbes (Right click to download)

Tracklist:

Rustie – ‘Dog Mask’ (Dubplate)
Rustie – ‘Keesha Resmak’ (Dubplate)
Hudson Mohawke – ‘Still On It’ (Wireblock)
Mike Slott – ‘Gardening’ (Dubplate)
Rustie – ‘Early Learning’ (Dubplate)
Olivier Daysoul – ‘Space Ship’ (Dubplate)
Alex Cortex – ‘Reminisce’ (Wireblock)
Music At Nite – ‘City to City’ (Wireblock)
Ghosts On Tape – ‘Port Moresby’ (Dubplate)
Dj Tamiel – ‘Body’ (Dubplate)
Pivot – ‘In The Blood’ (Rustie Remix) (Dubplate)
Rich Boy – ‘Chevy A Monsta’ (Dubplate)
Rustie – ‘Bad Science’ (Wireblock)
Starkey – ‘Blow Ya Mind Remix’ (Dubplate)
Joker – ‘Solid State’ (Dubplate)
Rustie – ‘Dragonfly’ (Dubplate)

Back in London, Acton beatsmith Bullion is ploughing a similarly crooked furrow with a slightly different approach. Instrumental hip-hop relying almost purely on the classic Funk/Soul sample library which has educated and fed the last 20 years of dance music – on paper pretty conventional but filtered through a wonky aesthetic . The drums stutter and break but still flow, the samples fade in then shatter into hyper processed shapes and melodies. It’s a similar sound to California’s Flying Lotus whose LP last year on the enduring Warp Records won huge critical acclaim and arguably introduced the overground to the wonk.

Bullion and Lotus’ sound owes a lot to the trip-hop of the 90s and if these records appeared 10/15 years ago they’d probably have come out on the defunct Mo’ Wax or Ninja Tune (Ninja back then would of but tellingly, not today). That just shows shared influences however and Bullion’s louche jams or Lotus’ spidery sample webs have a defined voice of their own.

Buy Rustie

Buy Bullion

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FWD@PlasticPeople – Sunday 08/09

It shames me to admit that this was but my second visit to London’s legendary (yes, legendary) Sunday Dubstep session FWD. Not making it in the past due to ignorance and various other excuses only strengthened my resolve.

And resolve was certainly needed. Faced on an utterly rancid evening by an extensive queue – before it even opened – one’s first reaction is to turn tail and run. Fuck that though, the line-up was as exciting and intriguing as any I’ve seen. Part-promoted as launch night for Dutch ex-junglist Martyn’s forthcoming debut LP it also featured scene heavyweight and Hyperdub head honcho Kode9 and a surprising guest – D Bridge.

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Darren D Bridge and appreciative companion

Known initially to everyone everywhere as 1/4 of D&B nosebleed kings Bad Company, D Bridge has emerged as the defunct group’s creative hero. When fellow ex-member Fresh aka Dan Stein (NOT seafood chef Rick Stein’s son as many – hilariously – claimed) left to join forces with Adam ‘Alvin Stardust’ F in the early 00s they both had huge commercial success with their Breakbeat Kaos label, the high point arguably being the whole Pendulum phenomenon. Fresh initially seemed to be Bad Company’s star. I’d say virtually all dance music groups have one central powerhouse and Dan Fresh appeared to be it.

Although embraced en masse by the ravers, Fresh’s populist output made little lasting musical impact. Banger after banger but the dancefloor jump-up fodder felt stale and quickly dated. D Bridge has spent a little longer energing as an individual voice (his debut LP, ‘The Gemini Principle’ dropped last year although 2004’s ‘True Romance’ on Metalheadz is a bona fide classic) but his work is making more interesting ripples and beginning to shake D&B’s very foundations. If there’s ever been a scene more in need of a fresh take I’m certainly not aware of it and that’s coming from a lifetime fan.

Some of his past work:

‘True Romance’ – classic

Blush Response’ ft. Instra:mental from ‘The Gemini Principle’ LP (ignore the picture pliz)

It’s easy to forget just how good the Plastic People soundsystem really is and walking face first into D Bridge’s set was an absolute revelation. I’d been trying to guess whether he’d play D&B or dubstep but the real answer was neither – or both (ok, neither). The tempo was D&B (or half-time, depending on your opinion on snare placement) but that’s where the similarity ended. The spirit was dubstep, albeit with a sci-fi Bladerunner sheen leaving it smooth and precise like chrome.

I got pretty excited and I guess I still am. This is what I wanted. Taking D&B forward, away from crippling nostalgic snobbery and more-is-more directionless extremity. He’d added so much by removing the unnecessary, dated chaff. Each track was a flowing river of bass graced with delectable percussive clicks and gorgeous atmospherics. It felt slower, taking its time to create a vibe and always hinting at something more. This was the antithesis of the everything-as-loud-as-everything-else approach to production that blights most D&B. Subtlety and suggestion abound, a treat for the ears that bordered on the erotic.

Where next? Martyn followed with an expertly blended set of uptempo rhythms with influences from African Kwaito and the burgeoning Funky scene (more on these later) that had the whole place moving, despite the extreme lack of room. Kode9 ended with of all things a classic jungle set – ‘6 Million Ways’ even got an airing.

Mujava’s Kwaito banger

Hard House Banton – ‘Sirens’. Massive Funky tune.

…and ‘6 Million Ways’. Ya gotta love it.

Some of the best and most inspirational dance music I’ve heard for a very long time and a shocking prospect – is D&B going to be relevant again? With D Bridge looking to the future and Kode9 channeling the past, maybe it’s time to revive the spirit of jungle. I bloody hope so.

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Glasgow, apparently

Let’s go to Glasgow this weekend! What do you mean you’re busy?

Suit yourselves.

For sure, it’s been donkey’s (donkeys!) years since the idea of going to a club night has made me consider traveling 400 miles for the privilege – East London can seem like a stretch on a brisk evening, regardless of the thrills promised. I’m talking here about JD Twitch and JG Wilkes’ Sunday shindig ‘Optimo (Espacio)’ (Optimum Space), running since way back in 1997. Also producing and DJing under the name Optimo, the duo came to my attention with their 2004 DJ mix ‘How To Kill The DJ (Part 2)’ on Tigersushi.

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A tangled blend of disco, techno, funk, new wave and avant-rock, the overall effect is of a hallucinatory night being dragged from club to club, snatches of the evening’s soundtrack swirling together into one filthy gorgeous whole. Split into two CDs, the first designed to reflect the late-night, slightly harder parts of their DJ sets with the second more relaxed and contemplative. A thrillingly colourful release, what grabbed my insides was how clear it was that these guys were MUSIC fans.

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2005’s ‘Psyche Out’ mix on Eskimo drew me further in. This time focusing on acid-house and psychedelic rock, the surprising stylistic blends continue to sound eager and unforced like that friend who rushes up to with headphones – ‘Listen to this!’. High points include Simple Minds’ (yes, Simple Minds) epic ‘Theme For Great Cities’ and Chris & Cosey’s utterly wonderful ‘Walking Through Heaven’

‘Theme For Great Cities’

‘Walking Through Heaven’

All of which left me suitably primed for this year’s ‘Sleepwalk’ on Domino.

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What’s most interesting is what it isn’t rather than what it is. Optimo have been, due to their fondness for post-punk-funk and other 80s phenomena, unfairly lumped together with a myriad of unimaginative mash-up electro DJs. Whilst their sets have shared a hectic, freeform party feel, their sheer enthusiasm for all forms of music has always shined through.

‘Sleepwalk’ however is set far away from any busy dancefloor. It has a syrupy, ambient feel like an evolving daydream. The discerning drone-noir of Nurse With Wound and Coil gives way to krautrock electronics – then Duke Ellington and Lee Hazlewood step in with louche velvet jams, unexpected yet perfectly in synch with each other. Sure, it’s relaxing but rich and deep with elegant joys at each turn, a faint narcotic twinge stroking the hairs on your neck.

The fact that Optimo have been DJing regularly for at least the last decade – and I have yet to see them – upsets me. I suggest a trip up North to their titular club night forthwith, but I’m not going on my own.

I said, I’m not going on my own.

http://www.optimo.co.uk/

Here’s their Essential Mix from 2006 – good, but not a patch on the releases mentioned above. Still, worth checking.

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