Lackluster – Alley (Hymen Records) 0
BY PARANOID ON AUGUST 5, 2023 REVIEWS
Finnish legend Esa Ruoho, aka Lackluster, is a well known artist here at Cyclic Defrost. Featured in interviews and concert reviews in the past, he’s kept busy expanding his catalog mainly as part of HLER, his drone project together with Heikki Lindgren. Now he’s back to his most popular alias to achieve another milestone: Alley, his new EP on the iconic Hymen Records, label that started at the end of the 90s and has a history of well respected figures in the scene. Here’re some thoughts on the release, organised track-by-track.
With a relaxed BPM and a thick, slow and hypnotic bassline, the opening piece has melodic motifs all around, sometimes accompanied by sparkles of light -in the shape of sound-. Synth keyboards that originated in the ‘80s but were processed and smoothed-up in the ‘90s also build up waves of little hypnotic delights.
Slow, but with a twist. Esa Ruoho starts unfolding his rhythm explorations here, this time adding breaks and also mixing organic sounds with soothing and glowing digital pads. Pepper Alley defines a strong melodic aspect for ‘Alley’, and it goes places, giving hints that this won’t be the only transient moment of the record.
Coffee Bean Alley
Same as he goes over different scents and aromas throughout its titles, Lackluster seems to be using a wide set of ingredients for his potion, this time with a fusion of dubby thick lines together with oneiric synthesisers, and when he stirs adding repetition, we discover the whole flavour.
The juxtaposition of the sweetest intro with the industrial rhythm reminds us of some of the best moments of the 90’s. That being said, Swelter Alley is more than just resembling retro elements, since it unveils new and uncharted territories with Esa Ruoho’s own voice. Thick, trancy, dreamy, with sprinkles of reversed samples, it all adds up and levitates to an amazing change of mood.
Cinnamon, Vanilla and Fog Alley
This is a set of alleys designed for the heads, with elements from classic electro and vintage sounds, combined with Ruoho’s distinctive rhythmics. ‘Cinnamon’ has a drifting departure, and leaves us with ‘Vanilla’, another showcase of uptempo filled with details that contribute to the flow. ‘Fog’ is where it all leads up to, and the result is an epic construction giving rise to Lackluster’s own oneiric-rave bliss. The last minute being the cherry on top with its hints of sonic pleasure.
Alley seems to be carefully built, letting the sounds stretch in all its splendour before being merged into each other, and the same applies to the transitions between tracks. There are elements from Esa Ruoho’s vast catalog here, but his journey continues and he is not diverting from the essence of his own exploration, resulting in one of our favourite albums by him.