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February 2nd, 2005 Douglas Wolk, Jenny Tatone | Album Reviews
 

Optimo / Low

     
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Optimo

How To Kill the DJ [Part Two]

(Kill The DJ/Tigersushi)

EVIDENTLY, THE MOST CONSISTENTLY FATAL TECHNIQUE IS TO CRUSH HIM UNDER MOUNTAINS OF BIZARRE VINYL.

There are a couple of philosophies of DJ mix CDs. One is to keep them smooth and consistent; the other, attempted much less often, is to make them as surprising and twisty as possible while keeping the beat bumping. The latter is what the British duo Optimo does here. J.G. Wilkes and J.D. Twitch each take over for half of the first disc of this set (part of a series named after a club night at Le Pulp in Paris). Wilkes sounds like he was a serious goth in the '80s-his mix reaches back to Soft Cell and the Revolting Cocks between blurts of Berlin-style microhouse, then works in blood-raw guitar slashes from the Cramps and Gang of Four. And Twitch manages to incorporate D.C. go-go, a mid-'70s steel band, discofied gospel, icy Swiss new wave, Cameo and the Rapture into the first 10 minutes of his frenetic set.

The second disc of HTKTDJ2, though, is the real treat. It's a mix CD on the level of what a friend with really good taste and a lot of records might compile for you: all over the place but not mixed, as such, and including record-geek favorites like Os Mutantes' "A Minha Menina," the Monks' "I Hate You," and total oddities like Nouvelle Vague's moaning, French-inflected cover of the Clash's "The Guns of Brixton." There's no way to get most of these songs lined up into a continuous groove, but they're amazing on their own. (Douglas Wolk)

Low

The Great Destroyer

(Sub Pop)

SLOWCORE PIONEERS TRADE IN TEARS FOR GEAR, STEP IN A BOLDER POP DIRECTION ON SUB POP DEBUT.

So you've been listening to Low for some time now. You have particularly fond memories of the times you've spent with the Duluth, Minn., band's records, but those sessions weren't always easy. Low's dire dirges were stomach-churning, life-affirming moments. Listening to Low hurt, but, if you could feel that lump in your throat, at least it meant you were alive. All that changes with Low's Sub Pop debut, The Great Destroyer, an album that will single-handedly destroy the way Low is perceived from now on. The shift away from the band's molasses waltzes and melodic requiems comes at the hands of producer Dave Fridmann, who has brought the most accessible, structured sound out of the pioneering slowcore trio to date. But the change is most likely driven by a desire to move beyond a decade of samey songwriting.

The Great Destroyer is still definitely Low. Mimi and Alan Sparhawk's harmonizing still spooks, the drums still wallow and the tempos still trudge, but here Alan's noisy guitar takes the spotlight with noisy blurts and verifiable hooks that can take a traditional Low lament and swing it into something resembling a pop song in songs like "California" and "Step." The Great Destroyer is a step forward for the band, showing an emotional palette that extends beyond the muted pain of the past. There are still moments that will put that lump in your throat, but Low's latest proves the band has learned you don't need to be near death to realize you're alive. (Jenny Tatone)

 
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