Optimum – ‘Max Power’ (Planet Mu)

Max Power is the first solo outing for South West London based producer Optimum aka Malcolm Chen who has until now found himself in the very good company of Hyperdub mainstay Ikonika with whom he runs their new Hum & Buzz imprint and recently turned in a standout remix for Glaswegian future math rockers American Men. He will have no doubt have resigned himself to the fact that he will be sharing column inches with his friend and collaborator over the coming months (no bad thing) though far from being overshadowed Optimum shines on his debut solo 12″ for Planet Mu.

The title track certainly lives up to its name, brimful of energy from the start with that strangely hypnotic woodblock underpinned by tight electro-soca drums before a rising buzzer sounds as if to signal ‘maximum power’ is ready to be deployed. Optimum pushes the red button, unleashing a barrage of cascading synths and mutating builds that channel the intensity of Rat Alert whilst somehow being kept in check. Powerful indeed.
On the flip Ikonika’s influence is more apparent on the relatively subdued Lily in the form of that characteristic melodic stepping bassline juxtaposed with an icy yet soulful soundscape. Crash Riddim however is the pick of the release; an unashamed and intelligent dancefloor assault with its fizzing arpeggiated melodies and twisted vocal samples that nod to label mate Terror Danjah whilst riding a bumping old-school electro beat.

Across these three tracks Optimum manages to weave numerous disparate influences together to create a coherent and original release that fits neatly amongst those of his contemporaries but does not run the risk of being lost. All in all, a very fine debut from a producer that has shown he is more than capable of standing on his own.

Words // Jonathan McKenzie-Wynne.