Optimum, Light Year/DS10

[Hum + Buzz]

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In many ways, Ikonika and Optimum setting up the Hum + Buzz label is a natural progression for the long-time collaborators. As an outlet for both their own similarly-minded productions and new artists they feel a kinship with, the fledgling label is poised to be a small but strong presence in the music community. The kinship centers on new takes on house combined with the influences of dubstep and modern bass music. Where Ikonika’s music offers a shiny and kinetic example of dubstep-leaning bass music, Optimum sits more squarely in the realm of minimal tech-house, with sparse compositions and angular textures in abundance. The two tracks on his new 12″ for Hum + Buzz are stripped down to the essentials but relentlessly pummel listeners with heavy rhythms.

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Both tracks here have something in common: they each start out quite minimally and focused on the rhythm, almost as if they are meant to be DJ tools. It’s only around the mid-point do melodic synths wind in and swirl around the rhythm frenetically like tempests. “Light Year” subsists on a bass-driven synth syncopation with cracking house snares keeping steady pace. It’s the kind of track that pushes funk at it’s lowest core, like an old-school breakdown. Tearing away all the gloss and reducing the track to the rhythm for the first half just makes the melody take off like a jet engine half-way through. Bright key stabs weave into the beat almost like a call-back to some of Ikonika’s video game-centric compositions. At once the track becomes lighter, less menacing, but altogether more immediate. “DS10” is the dark counterpart, all sharp angles and swagger, a rolling monster of bass and over-compressed synths that only lets up with the introduction of repeating female “yeah” samples that lead into the bridge. After that, it’s off to races with a rising and falling frequency workout that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Night Slugs set. Combined with the steady rhythmic storm, the song is at once light and dark, focused and euphoric. Optimum’s sound is characterized by this focus, and both of the tracks on this latest 12″ find him honing his skills with both rhythm and melody while constantly trimming away any fat. He’s one of few newer artists who can do more with less.

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