Optimum OptimumMax Power
PLANET MU (ZIQ283, 12” + digital)
Am I the only one to think that post-garage with soca and samba rhythms lacks some attitude and needs a little less rhythmic frivolity? Don’t get me wrong: I have nothing against people like Lil Silva or Scratch DVA (I’m an avid fan, in fact), but there comes a time when I find their tracks –those that fit in on any Rinse FM mix– become monotonous, and stuck in predictable rhythmic grooves. That’s when I need a change, something new. They’re like beer: after so many years of drinking, it doesn’t have the effect on me as it used to. Optimum is that little bit more, it’s the something new I was looking for. And what a find! Under that oh so confident moniker hides another talent from the incredible South London pedigree, Malcolm Chen, who makes his solo debut with this 12” (although before “Max Power” he had already collaborated with Ikonika, so he’s not really a newbie). The interesting thing about “Max Power” –a title that indicates its sound– is how Optimum recovers the noble tradition of the murderous riff of hardcore –like on the old school tracks of 2 Bad Mice or Joey Beltram– in a completely actual context. Yes, the Caribbean garage breaks are there (there’s one track called “Crash Riddim”), this man knows it must never be forgotten that post-dubstep, no matter how much it’s transforming has its origins in Jamaica, the same breaks but with a bite, rage and more testosterone. It’s masculine music: hardcore with virtuous melodies, dramatic notes, anthem-like stabs like “Mentasm” and, to show he’s not just a brute, the closing track “Lily” is a cinematic marvel with a paused rhythm and colourful notes. Why is Optimum so good? Because he’s between L-Vis 1990 and Boxcutter, something that can’t be done by just anyone.
Claude T. Hill