If pressed, I’d probably claim Optimo—the Scottish DJ duo of JD Twitch and JG Wilkes—as my favorite 21st-century musical act/group/collective/whatever. Optimo’s mix CDs—the fleet-but-schizoid groove-hopping of 2004′s How to Kill the DJ; the deranged mix of acid rock and acid house on 2005′s Psyche Out; the brooding rhythms of 2007′s Walkabout—virtuosically entwine supposedly dance floor-unfriendly tracks with records with from across the pan-global history of disco, house, and techno. If that sounds simple or commonplace, ask yourself why so many DJs desperately cling to the easy-to-mix 4/4 stomp of the latest identikit dance smash, whether they spin for screaming bridge-and-tunnel house crowds or furrow-browed minimal techno aesthetes*.
In 2008, in addition to JD Twitch’s re-edits credited to Betty Botox, Optimo released two more mixes, neither of which (sadly) seemed to garner as much press as their earlier work. Their half of 20 Years Underground (Soma), a two-CD tribute to Glasgow’s Sub Club whose first disc was mixed by Subculture, was a near-traditional, yet still Optimo-ian, trek across decades and dance scenes, from the jittery Detroit bangers of Jeff Mills to the smoothly gliding retro-disco of Lindstrom and Prins Thomas.
More beguiling if obviously less body rocking, Sleepwalk (Domino) floated through a red-eyed, post-midnight world of jazz giants, eerily tactile field recordings, smoky Ethiopian voodoo, and industrial obscurities. It’s the year’s best past-your-bedtime soundtrack, compiled by two guys whose unpretentiously wide ears and decades-deep crates are our endless gain.
*Or any other post-rave micro-marketing cliche you’d care to substitute.