[4 October 2006]
Optimo is a Scottish DJ duo: Twitch and Jonnie Wilkes. Or, perhaps more accurately, Optimo is a club in Glasgow, Scotland that seems to pride itself on its musical eclecticism, if this release is anything to go by. This mix CD offers a motley assortment of acid house, psychedelia, experimental tracks, rare grooves, and Simple Minds.
From Psych Out seeps a stinky, dark, sweaty nightclub. If 10 or even 20 years ago, like me, you felt the need to go to cheap student clubs in search of a good time, or even just a late drink, you would have found yourself treated to the sort of musical delights found on this release. Listening to the CD brings back memories of a damp, beer-soaked carpet, a smoke-filled room, and toilets that refuse to perform their most basic duty.
How these guys can maintain a straight face as they mix Mr Fingers into Chris and Cosey is a mystery to me. Quite how they came up with the idea of mixing The Temptations classic “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” into a hard house track is perhaps best left a mystery. Suffice it to say, any record that includes Hawkwind and Simple Minds within the same frame of reference deserves some kind of accolade. I’m not too sure whether it is a good thing, but I am glad that they did it nonetheless. All of this is packaged in a horrible pink-and-blue Day-Glo cover that is, frankly, impossible to read. So psychedelic and whacky.
Psych Out works on a number of levels. It’s a cool introduction to some lost gems (the Silver Apples’ “Oscillations” should be played to children as part of their history lessons), and it will serve as a reminder to those funky kids that frequent this Glasgow venue, as well as for those like me who are too old to get into these places any more (aah, poor me). All in all, it should be worth the price of admission.
Except it isn’t. Something is not quite right in the land of Optimo. The sound quality just does not stand up to scrutiny. In a dark, smelly, smoke-filled club, after you have had more than your fair share of the intoxicant of your choice, everything just sounds cool and groovy. However, when you take these songs from various decades (from the ‘60s, ‘80s, and so on) and put them together, you begin to realise that that production values have changed somewhat over the last 50 years. A little bit of warble here and a volume drop there just make you think that you would rather be in the club itself, rather than listen to an approximation burnt on to CD. After all CDs and digital media in general are much less forgiving of sound inconsistencies than your beer-addled memory. That said, there are some great tunes on here that still manage to excite more than 10 years after their original release. It is always good to hear Simple Minds’ “Theme for Great Cities” on a relatively new release, even if it is mixed with a lesser-known acid house tune.
The bottom line is, if you are looking for a mix CD in the vein of 2 Many DJs, then forget it. Optimo’s choice of songs is not as cool, the mixing ain’t really up to much, and the sound quality of the some of the recordings is very poor. However, if would like a musical history lesson where you’ll be introduced to a bunch of tunes that you would not stumble upon normally, then this one is for you. Just get yourself some dark glasses before you look at the cover.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/optimo-psych-out/