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ABOVE BOARD PROJECTS

Optimo (Espacio) started life as a weekly club night. It was born at The Sub Club in Glasgow on a wet, windy, wintry November Sunday night in 1997. Run by JD Twitch and partner in crime Jonnie Wilkes, Optimo was a reaction against what felt like an increasingly conservative musical soundtrack in clubs there at that time. Clubland felt as if it had become very bland and a bit too serious; it was the era of the dawn of the Superstar DJ. Clubs often felt like bastions of male energy. The notion of fun had got lost.

It was no longer the world they had devoted ten years of their lives to already, and lots of their friends felt the same. When the opportunity came up to do a Sunday night at The Sub Club it felt like the perfect opportunity to rip it all up and start again. So they did. There was nothing in the city (or possibly anywhere) like it. (Interestingly, exactly the same thing was going on over here in Manchester with Electric Chair ditching the past around ’96-’97 – Ed)

After about a year and a half, the club went from having 100 people attending most nights to suddenly one week having 500 people turn up. It was very weird. It was as if a collective light bulb went off in people’s heads in Glasgow. From that week on, until the very last weekly Sunday night at the Sub Club, in 2010, over a decade later, it was packed.

There were 550 Sunday Optimo nights. A LOT of music was played. People often find it hard to pin down exactly what Optimo is. This has been a positive but also a negative as we live in a world where people want easily defined brand identities. The simplest definition of the music played is music for dancing, which of course is a very broad definition. Even better than trying to define it in words, we have these 2 volumes of music that give a hint of what that might be.

This is not a “Best of Optimo” or a “Greatest Hits of Optimo” compilation. For people who come to, or used to come to the nights there are of course “Greatest Hits”. But, over such a long timespan they are hits belonging to a certain moment in time and space. Someone who came to Optimo in 1997 would have a completely different notion of the big tracks at the club to someone coming in 2003, or 2010, or today. This compilation is just a snap shot missing several genres that might make up the DNA of Optimo.

Volume 2 sees the duo pick up the pace, detailing some of the tracks that would comprise of the peak time dancing sessions at the fabled club. There’s house, techno and industrial sounds from the UK, US and afar. Plus the titular disco-not-disco track that would become their nom de plume – Liquid Liquid’s “Optimo”.

Balearic



STAFF COMMENTS

Matt says: The second instalment from the almighty Optimo delving into more hits that made their 25 year running gathering such a cult success. There's more house music than on volume 1, showcasing their love of 4/4 that was equally at home here in Manchester with nights such as Electric Chair. A true treasure of UK culture, all hail Optimo!

TRACK LISTING

A1. Chris & Cosey - Take Control 
A2. Isolators - Concentrate On Us 
B1. Mike Dunn - Life Goes On 
B2. KC Flight - Voices (Original Dub Mix) 
C1. Faze Action - Good Lovin' (Special Disco Mix) 
C2. Hannah Holland - Ekotypic 
D1. Divine - Shake It Up 
D2. XS-5 - I Need More (Extended Dance Version) 
D3. Liquid Liquid - Optimo 

Optimo (Espacio) started life as a weekly club night. It was born at The Sub Club in Glasgow on a wet, windy, wintry November Sunday night in 1997. Run by JD Twitch and partner in crime Jonnie Wilkes, Optimo was a reaction against what felt like an increasingly conservative musical soundtrack in clubs there at that time. Clubland felt as if it had become very bland and a bit too serious; it was the era of the dawn of the Superstar DJ. Clubs often felt like bastions of male energy. The notion of fun had got lost.

It was no longer the world they had devoted ten years of their lives to already, and lots of their friends felt the same. When the opportunity came up to do a Sunday night at The Sub Club it felt like the perfect opportunity to rip it all up and start again. So they did. There was nothing in the city (or possibly anywhere) like it. (Interestingly, exactly the same thing was going on over here in Manchester with Electric Chair ditching the past around ’96-’97 – Ed)

After about a year and a half, the club went from having 100 people attending most nights to suddenly one week having 500 people turn up. It was very weird. It was as if a collective light bulb went off in people’s heads in Glasgow. From that week on, until the very last weekly Sunday night at the Sub Club, in 2010, over a decade later, it was packed.

There were 550 Sunday Optimo nights. A LOT of music was played. People often find it hard to pin down exactly what Optimo is. This has been a positive but also a negative as we live in a world where people want easily defined brand identities. The simplest definition of the music played is music for dancing, which of course is a very broad definition. Even better than trying to define it in words, we have these 2 volumes of music that give a hint of what that might be.

This is not a “Best of Optimo” or a “Greatest Hits of Optimo” compilation. For people who come to, or used to come to the nights there are of course “Greatest Hits”. But, over such a long timespan they are hits belonging to a certain moment in time and space. Someone who came to Optimo in 1997 would have a completely different notion of the big tracks at the club to someone coming in 2003, or 2010, or today. This compilation is just a snap shot missing several genres that might make up the DNA of Optimo. There is though, a broad sweep through lots of music Optimo loves, that they believe is amazing. Music that they know will rock a dancefloor, that they have played between 1997 and 2023. Of course Optimo nights were not all about rocking the dancefloor. The first hour was always a time for them to play music they loved that often was far removed from the dance. Side 1, Volume 1 of this compilation is the kind of music one might hear at the very start of an Optimo night.
Balearic



STAFF COMMENTS

Matt says: Optimo rightfully sit at the top of the pyramid alongside other storied UK pioneers such as Andrew Weatherall, Terry Farley and Electric Chair. A compilation that's as joyous as it is hard to categorize (a record shop's nightmare infact), there's a little bit of everything across two parts and four discs which perfectly exemplify why this cult night is one of the most celebrated of our nocturnal culture.

TRACK LISTING

A1. Brainticket - Places Of Light 
A2. T.J. Lawrence - Fireplay 
A3. Robert Rental - Double Heart 
B1. African Head Charge - No, Don't Follow Fashion 
B2. Keith Hudson - Nuh Skin Up Dub 
C1. Smokin' Cheeba - When I Was A Youth 
C2. The Wad - 15 Inches 
D1. Idjut Boys & Laj - Foolin' (Beatin On Dave) 
D2. JBB Et Soprann - Tibi Lap 

In the late 1980s, disco was taking a backseat to the burgeoning psychedelic scene in San Francisco, marking a pivotal shift in musical culture. A dynamic transformation was underway as the younger generation sought a fresh auditory adventure, all while the devastating AIDS epidemic cast a somber pall over the city's nightlife. Amidst this evolving backdrop, a subtle yet distinct sonic movement quietly emerged within the confines of San Francisco’s vibrant club scene, often referred to as The Beat. Although hip-hop, new wave, gothic, punk, and the burgeoning modern rock genre held considerable sway, the pre-rave clubs in SF witnessed the fusion of these genres into a unique amalgam of sound that insiders dubbed The Beat. This musical tapestry encompassed everything from hip-hop and freestyle to industrial, new wave, boogie, Miami bass, and techno - the unifying thread being the distinctive vibe that characterised this eclectic mix.

As house, techno, and taving gradually gained prominence along the West Coast, a distinctive interpretation of these evolving sounds took root. Drawing inspiration from influential hubs like New York, Chicago, Detroit, Europe, and notably the UK, which saw a wave of talented young DJs migrate to California, San Francisco became the backdrop for its own version of the second Summer of Love. While the exact chronology might spark debate - some recalling '92, while others leaning towards '93 - what remains indisputable is the era spanning from 1990 to 1994, an unparalleled epoch of exuberant dancefloor revelry on the western shores.

In the face of limited backing from major labels or established independent dance music entities of the time, a grassroots movement of labels and producers emerged organically, ardently championing this distinct sound and catapulting it onto the global stage. This sonic identity was deeply influenced by the Beat, acting as a creative wellspring that informed the musical landscape. While the tracks compiled in these volumes might not encompass the entirety of this transformative musical epoch, they offer a vivid snapshot of the melodious tapestry that coloured San Francisco and the broader West Coast during that era. Each track featured stands as a 100% Sure Shot that was played heavily by DJ Spun back in those very heady days.

The second installment of this remarkable journey into the underground scene maintains the same profound level of depth and significance as its precursor. Showcasing tracks from Electroliners, High Lonesome Soundsystem, Single Cell Orchestra, DJ Emma, and Spun's own Central Fire project, all harmoniously enclosed within the captivating and arresting artwork by Villain Standard, this release stands shoulder to shoulder with its forerunner. Beyond a mere compilation, it's an indispensable extension of the narrative that has indelibly shaped the culture of underground American dance music within the region, embodying the era and the individuals involved. This is the authentic underground sound that reverberated across San Francisco and its surrounding environs, a truly distinctive and exceptional moment in time and space.

TRACK LISTING

A1. DJ EFX (Beta Test) - Star Trax
A2. Wechselspannung - 220V (Extract)
A3. Jupiter 6 - A8
B1. The Ultraviolet Catastrophe - The Trip (Trip Harder)
B2. Electroliners - Loose Caboose
C1. High Lonesome Soundsystem - Champion Sound
C2. Single Cell Orchestra - I Hear The DJ’s Here
C3. Jim Hopkins - C’mon Now
D1. Central Fire - Kamba (The Lost Mix)
D2. DJ Emma - The Duster (Fuck Off And Dance Mix) 

The next Above Board Projects release is the first of two archival compilations by the London-based electronic production duo Megalon.

This compilation meticulously curates handpicked tracks from Megalon's 1993 collection, featuring music from their EPs released on the legendary Plink Plonk label during that year. By delving into these archival tracks, the compilation effortlessly showcases Megalon's signature blend of modern, forward-thinking, and impeccably sleek techno hybrids. Prepare yourself for a diverse range of musical moods that provide a comprehensive 360° sonic experience of Megalon's esteemed catalog, ranging from deep techno meditations to high-octane dancefloor anthems.

Every track included in this compilation has been meticulously sourced from Megalon's original DAT tape archive and expertly remastered by the highly skilled Curvepusher. Furthermore, the artwork and design have been thoughtfully crafted under the watchful eye of Rogan Jeans, the original Plink Plonk Records and Megalon designer, ensuring a visually captivating experience that complements the music perfectly.

TRACK LISTING

A1. Belief 
A2. Darkness (Shaded In) 
B. Sorcerer (Funky Magus Mix) 
C1. Semblance (Dim A) 
C2. Incantation 
D1. Semblance (Dim B) 
D2. Transition 

Various Artists

Happy Land (A Compendium Of Electronic Music From The British Isles 1992-1996 Volume 1)

    Future Jazzers, notorious experimentalists and outfield eccentrics stumble onto the dancefloor. In the 90s. In the UK.

    From an electronic music perspective, the period 1992 to 1996 in the UK that this compilation celebrates, was one of dizzying sonic diversification.

    It was also a particularly turbulent time in the UK, not only politically and economically, but also culturally too. Economic catastrophe in ‘92 was followed by widespread poverty, a cost of living crisis and countless political scandals. Meanwhile, John Major’s Tory government pandered to its political base via unpleasant, authoritarian legislation that seemingly sought to crush rave culture, alternative lifestyles, and traveller communities. The UK was not so much a ‘Happy Land’ – to quote the name of this compilation – as an angry and divided one. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

    Throughout, the music created by producers based across these Isles remained uniquely British, speeding up a process begun in the late 1980s through the emergence of street soul, bleep & bass and breakbeat hardcore – musical styles whose roots in multicultural inner-city communities made them distinctly different from the Black American sounds that had inspired their creators. It was here, rather than in the indie pubs of Camden, that real musical revolutions were taking place.

    This deep diving selection brings together some truly adventurous and original electronic music from this period, much of it very hard to find. Major label outings connect with white label oddities with ease. Perhaps it could even be argued that many of these unearthed gems fit more easily into DJ sets in 2023 than they ever did at the time. The off-kilter swing of Richard D James’ obscure and highly sought after Strider B outing, ‘Bradley’s Robot’ is joined by further rare cuts from Cabaret Voltaire and the Black Dog, and artists as diverse as Ultramarine, Herbert, Fretless AZM, and Radioactive Lamb, amongst others.

    This collection has been lovingly selected, compiled and mastered for maximum sonic playback. This very special release boasts sublime pastoral themed artwork, as well as informative and passionate liner notes by celebrated music scribe Matt Anniss (‘Join The Future’).


    TRACK LISTING

    A1. Cabaret Voltaire - Soul Vine (70 Billion People)
    A2. Ultramarine - Happy Land (ft. Robert Wyatt)
    B. Thunderhead The Word By Eden - True Romance
    C1. Xeper - Carceres Ex Novum
    C2. Herbert - Housewife
    D1. Liquid Son - Big Decision
    D2. Syzgzy - Meditation

    A tribute to the late Kenny Hawkes, London's dark lord of house music. Lovingly selected and curated by Luke Solomon, Jonny Rock and Leon Oakey.

    Running from 1995 to 2002, 'Space' was a Wednesday night founded by Kenny Hawkes and Luke Solomon. It inhabited the underground world of Bar Rumba right in the heart of London's West End and took place each and every week. Kenny and Luke had both been regular fixtures on infamous London Pirate Radio station 'Girls FM', and were seeking a suitable place to play the kind of music they supported on their respective radio shows. They were presented with a weekly opportunity at Bar Rumba and snapped it up.

    'Space' was THE place for 7 solid years, hosting local and international guests from the house music community week in week out, to 200+ hardcore and dedicated followers. Regular guest bookings read like a 'who's who' of the music scene with sets from Derrick Carter, Andrew Weatherall, DJ Harvey, Tom Middleton, A Man Called Adam, Ralph Lawson and Huggy, Harri and Domenic, Francois Kevorkian, Salt City Orchestra, Carl Cox, Chez Damier and Ron Trent.... the list goes on and on and on! Music from seminal record labels such as Classic, Prescription, Cajual, Paper, Relief was played on rotation amongst a killer mix of Disco classics, alternative 80s music, left-field B-sides and techno. The night undeniably became a cauldron of amazing music and midweek hedonistic chaos.


    As Soho changed beyond recognition and clubbing moved Eastwards, Kenny and Luke decided to call it a day. Sadly, Kenny Hawkes died in 2011, leaving a huge hole in the dance music community. Kenny was a legendary figure with an unmistakable sound and DJ style, he had a warped sense of humour and a huge personality and he continues to be dearly missed by all to this day.

    As a tribute to Kenny, his musical partner in crime Luke Solomon alongside 'Space' regular and DJ / Editor supreme Jonny Rock, and former Classic Records label boss Leon Oakey have joined forces to celebrate his life through music. 3 years of tweaking, pooling music and clearing tracks have culminated in 2 very special double albums. A collection of 'Space' classics, underground jams and the tracks that shook the Shaftesbury Avenue dancefloor, shaping one of London's most revered midweek sessions.

    All profits from the compilation will be donated to the British Liver Trust.


    TRACK LISTING

    A1. Kenny Hawkes - Dance For Me (Original)
    A2. Cine City - Are You Sure Joe?
    B1. J Knights - The Knock
    B2. Quakerman - Schlamm Me
    C1. Round One - I'm Your Brother (Chicago's Twisted Mix)
    C2. Incognito - Everyday (Masters At Work Everydub)
    D1. The Daou - Surrender Yourself (Ballroom Mix)


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