Held every Sunday between 1997 and 2010 at Glasgow’s Sub Club venue, the ferocious hedonism of Optimo Espacio was set off by the non-partisan tastes of DJs Keith “Twitch” McIvor and Jonnie Wilkes. These included disco, dub, DIY post-punk, ambient electronica and classic house and techno, which official Optimo mix albums, including ‘How to Kill the DJ (Part Two)’ (2004) and ‘Sleepwalk’ (2008) perfectly expressed.
Less well-known are the duo’s production exploits, most notably ‘Arrived Phoenix’ (2001), McIvor’s lone album, made alongside producer Mike “MP” Lancaster.
After meeting at McIvor’s ambient club night Sonora, what began as a weekly mess-around with the gear at Lancaster’s studio fed into a year of boiling creativity. Their unsolicited demo as Mount Florida – named after the deceptively glamorous-sounding suburb of Glasgow – earned a contract with Matador.
The sleeve of ‘Arrived Phoenix’ bears an image of The Horn, the landmark sound artwork alongside the M8 motorway on the western approach into Glasgow by environmental artists Dalziel + Scullion. The record reflects this blend of fringe landscape functionality and the wild boom of Glasgow’s club and contemporary art scenes in the 1990s, while also drawing on influences from ambient to post-punk with Optimo’s signature diversity. Highlights include the Weatherall-esque techno dub of ‘Jamaica Street’ (the Sub Club’s address), the raw electro-funk of ‘Ultimo’, the sparse, liquid disco synths of ‘Don’t Do DaDa’, and a three-song ambient eco-symphony to close.
“It had a naivety and a youthful arrogance that I really love,” says McIvor of the record now. “Its outlook was wildly ambitious when I had little clue about making music, but I was blessed to be working with someone as patient and talented as MP.”
He’s regrettably lost touch with his old collaborator, but continues to produce and remix under various aliases. Optimo remains active through both Twitch & Wilkes’ busy DJ schedule (lockdown notwithstanding) at home and abroad, and McIvor’s Optimo Music label, a champion of new and established marginal electronic artists such as Free Love and Robert Rental.