Various Artists - Dark Was The Night
Optimo-curated compilation gathers ominous music from Texan blues to techno
The arrival of a second Optimo compilation in only eight months, gives the feeling we’re being spoiled a little by the esteemed selectors behind Glasgow’s much loved club night.
However, while only one of the Optimo DJ pairing (Keith McIvor) curated last year’s Underground Sound of Glasgow, both he and Jonnie Wilkes have compiled 'Dark Was The Night' and musically, the two releases are very distinct.
The title gives a nod to Texan bluesman, ‘Blind’ Willie Johnson’s 1927 recording, ‘Dark Was The Night, Lonely Was The Ground’, which, fifty years later, became one of the musical offerings on the Voyager space probe’s Golden Records.
Chosen as a human expression of loneliness, Johnson actually died penniless of malaria fever decades earlier and this moving tale helped inspire McIvor and Wilkes’ choices for this collection, and apparently their attempt ‘to invoke the sounds of a dark winter’s night’.
Opening with the ambient throb and tinkling keys of Grouper’s ‘Vanishing Point’, the foreboding synths and mysterious Gregorian chants of Jeff & Jane Hudson soon follow; next, a salvo of dark, unsettling bass-heavy house and techno from Terrence Dixon, Jared Wilson and Mike Dunn with the sleazy, Kraftwerk-sampling, ‘I Won’t Hurt You’.
Tracks melt into one another in long drawn-out fashion to create a tense, unsettling atmosphere which comes to characterise the album which continues courtesy of the combined thundering grooves, metronomic chords and rumbling bass of Roberto Auser, Recondite and Byetone. These lead into Kode 9’s murky techno-dub and Spaceape’s lyrics of portent before productions from Hieroglyphic Being, Silent Servant and Inigo Kennedy follow a similarly ominous tone.
Electro-mechanical noise from Hecker and the otherworldly, experimental sounds of Nurse with Wound and Carter Tutti signify the mix’s second phase; Voigt and Voigt’s swinging rhythms follow, easing into the dark breakbeats of Holy Ghost Inc and Deadboy.
Like A Tim’s eerie electronics rub up against Edinburgh punk band, The Freeze, and samples of the Voyager mission before a finale offering of Corpus Christi’s accordion-fuelled cover of Suicide’s ‘Dream Baby Dream’.