Raised in towns of disparate temperament, though both relatively austere, the Optimo duo grew up living parallel lives, making similar discoveries (punk attitudes, against-the-grain musical tastes, rave culture) around the same time. The two even made the move to Glasgow, the city in which they're revered as local heroes these days, coincidentally around the same age, for coinciding reasons. JD Twitch grew up amongst the quiet landscapes of Edinburgh, the person amongst his crowd "with the most records," so a DJing career came about inevitably and organically. After making the move to Glasgow for music at the age of 18, 4 years later he found himself going back and forth between Glasgow and his hometown when he started an Edinburgh-based club night with a few friends, Pure. Now regarded as a seminal chapter in the history of UK electronic music, Pure was one of the first clubs in the UK (if not Europe) to book overseas royalty such as Richie Hawtin, Derrick May, Green Velvet and Jeff Mills. Over the course of its 10 year run, Pure also expanded to London, Dublin, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee, among other tours around Europe.
As a young teenager in Belfast, meanwhile, Jonnie Wilkes "got interested in punk music, and started to dress a bit differently from other kids...I got into music and sub culture rather than sectarianism and fighting." After discovering clubs like The Delta and The Plaza in Belfast in the mid-80s (where, amongst others, David Holmes would often play), he soon set his sights on the musical open-mindedness of Glasgow, and began attending Glasgow School of Art as a fine art student. One night, Jonnie went to fill in for a friend's set at a reggae club in the city centre, and his DJ career, likewise, developed inevitably and organically from there. In-between studies and exhibitions, DJing took the lead.
It was on a bus from Glasgow to Edinburgh one fated Friday night, with the end destination being Pure of course, that Jonnie Wilkes and JD Twitch fortuitously met. The connection was immediate and unquestionable. So it came as no surprise that, when approached by a venue to put together a Sunday club night a few years later ("They were happy for me to do whatever I wanted - literally delve into my record collection and play all the music I'd never really played in a DJ set"), Twitch turned to Wilkes for a partnership. Optimo was born on a humble Sunday evening at the Sub Club on Jamaican Street, with no set plans and only a strong no-rules ethic as a guide. Originally started as the antithesis to regimented 4/4 sets, the night has since become a cult-followed mecca for music lovers worldwide - Optimo has proved itself an exciting breeding ground for new sounds, featuring every musical rebel across the board, from Liquid Liquid to Shackleton to Grace Jones to Richie Hawtin to TV On The Radio to LCD Soundsystem to Isolee. And the infamous Optimo DJ sets, which sandwich the featured guest (both before and after), are a riotous playground of rockabilly, electro, swing, reggae, punk, techno and house, and the most unexpected gems imaginable, but always aimed squarely at making people dance.
And after 12 years of a blissfully inspiring run of weekly events, Twitch and Wilkes have decided to pull the plug on their worshipped and rather legendary Sunday affairs. The last ever Optimo was on Sunday, 25 April 2010 at the Sub Club in Glasgow.
"We did half each and didn't really talk much about what the other one would do; somehow these things always seem to work out. Because we've played together for so long, despite the fact we have different tastes in music, it seems to gel together. At fabric we've played all the different rooms but quite often we play in Room Two, so that was the initial idea of how we approached the mix. It's our idea of what we'd play solely for when we want to get people dancing, when we're not trying to freak people out. It's all about the dancefloor, with maybe a couple of curve balls thrown in there along the way." JD Twitch
'fabric 52: Optimo (Espacio)' rises up to the usual Optimo challenge, where the notion of genre is forever redefined and all conventions snubbed; an escapist adventure of sounds fuelled solely by the pair's inherent musicality and anarchist spirit. With blends so effortlessly perfect, it's near impossible to tell where one track ends and the other begins, the mix gallantly stands out as a seamless collection of mixing mastery. Filled with an untamed feeling of wanderlust, 'fabric 52' peaks, drops, soars and unexpectedly flips through the most sublime, astonishing terrains: an all-in-the-box joyride from the tip of a shiny disco ball to the lower sublevels of a bassbin to the mechanic slopes of techno to the tribal-tinted percussive loops of UK funky. A rare chance to hear the raw, filthy urges of Levon Vincent's growler 'Love Technique' glide alongside the deep swells of Oni Ayhun, or the polished slowdisco trio Desire skank to the funk-a-fied steel drums of Crazy Cousinz, or the frenzy of electro-tinged Fad Gadget court gracefully with Prins Thomas. A divine melting pot that can only make sense in the hands of Glasgow's mighty duo.