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Esa Ruoho: Plugged Into Nothing -concept text Long:

In this modern day and age, what does taking a risk mean? Starting from a blank canvas during a live performance could be considered risky. Using unplugged cables as a source for all sounds is another. "Plugged Into Nothing" is both, live sampling from scratch with cables that are not connected to any sound source.

This is what your modern sound engineer wants to not happen, the hum and the clicks, at full blast, coming from the main PA.

It requires one to be extremely fast at sampling, identifying interesting textures, modifying them and building on them while sampling more. Who would think of such a thing?

The genesis of this project came in January 2019, when an artist booked to play at the Akusmata -curated Polyphonic 2019 festival held at Vuotalo, Vuosaari, Helsinki, Finland, had to cancel due to unforeseen circumstances. This left the Akusmata organization scrambling for a replacement act, and they got in touch with me.

I decided to attend the festival on the first day to get a sense of the environment. Seeing the abundance of boutique and exquisite gear made me think, what if I went the other way and brought in nothing, just software, a sound card, and two cables that were "Plugged Into Nothing"?

So the "Plugged Into Nothing" concept was born. Two disconnected audio cables - nothing more. Sampling the bursts of sound live and quickly manipulating and modifying them to create rhythms and sounds. Be as transparent and naked as possible - actually work with what "the audience is not supposed to be hearing at a well-soundchecked gig" (after all, if your cables are unplugged, all you hear is a loud hum and annoying clicks - if it happens at a gig it is quickly remedied) - and shape that, as quickly as you can, into something pleasant (or challenging) to listen to.

So here we are, ten performances deep, and the "Plugged Into Nothing" performances keep on changing depending on what kind of electricity or audio systems are provided at the venue, the time of the day, apparently even temperature.

Come, join me for a wild and unpredictable ride.

Esa Ruoho: Plugged Into Nothing -concept text Short:

Esa Ruoho's "Plugged Into Nothing" is a live performance concept that embraces risk by starting from scratch with unplugged cables as the sole sound source. This technique, which might seem like a sound engineer's nightmare due to the inherent hums and clicks, demands quick sampling and manipulation of these unintended sounds into music. This idea originated when Ruoho stepped in as a last-minute replacement for a canceled act at the 2019 Polyphonic festival in Helsinki. Instead of using exquisite boutique gear, Ruoho chose to use two cables plugged into nothing, turning accidental noises into deliberate sounds. Ten performances in, "Plugged Into Nothing" continues to evolve, its outcome influenced by the venue's electrical and audio setup, time, and even temperature. This project is an invitation to experience the unpredictable transformation of "undesirable" sounds into engaging performances.
Esa Ruoho Bio in English : When your dad is a maverick radio DXer, who solders together a DIY computer with a mono speaker hooked in to hear the cassette tape loading programs, and your earliest memories are sounds of raw data being fed into the machine, it's inevitable you'll either get yourself committed or wind up being completely enamored. Do a timewarp from obsessing on computer music to recording found sound, hums, hisses and blissing out on a sounds of ice creaking and you have the makings of Esa Ruoho.

Esa wields induction microphones, hydrophones, electromagnetic listening devices and hooks those up to free energy apparatuses and alternative healing devices, intent on pushing everything as far as possible and creating wall-to-wall noise to drown out the 21st century mental debris and our misfiring synapses.
Shorter Esa Ruoho Bio in English: While his more well-known nom de plume, Lackluster, was all about the sound of music, the melody and harmony, the experimental off-shoot under his real nomenclature, Esa Ruoho, is focused on the sound of sound, the drones, the unmusical dissonance and pure hums. Currently Esa Ruoho is exploring new ways to further delve into the essence of sound.
Esa Ruoho Bio in Finnish/suomeksi: Ensimmäiset Esa Ruohon muistamat äänet ovat kaseteille tallennettujen tietokoneohjelmien latausääniä: kohinaa, sirinää ja surinaa. Kun näitä kuulee jo kaksivuotiaana, kohtalo on sinetöity. Nykyään Esa Ruoho kohisee ja suhisee sekä maalaten että parsien kokoon moniulotteisia äänimaisemia, käyttäen hyväkseen kaikkea tuulikelloista kylmäfuusioon ja autotallien ambienssista sähkömagneettisiin kenttiin.
Shorter Esa Ruoho Bio in Finnish/suomeksi: UNAVAILABLE
Lackluster Bio in English (SHORT): Influenced by the amazing variety of sounds in the 1980s and 1990s, Esa Ruoho grew up with an inspired musical background. As the close of the century came, he began to experiment with his own equipment and sounds and through this his main project Lackluster was born. Certainly, the picturesque surroundings of his homeland Finland would also impact the direction of his style and his trademark sound. Beautiful, whimsical, catchy and memorable are words that listeners often use to describe his compositions. As styles come and go you can always hear a bit of Esa's personality and unique sound within his music. Esa also records more ambient drone material as one-half of the side project HLER. Having recorded for iconic indie labels such as DeFocus, U-Cover, Merck and others, his back catalog is brimming with highlights. The future is just as bright as Esa maintains his artistic integrity throughout these tough times and challenges the listener to come along for the ride.
Lackluster Bio in English: Fed with early-to-mid 90s melodic electronic music, Esa emerged through a haze of free audio software, lo-fi samples and a desire to keep pushing until a soul (or just a bare hint, an outline of one) emerges through the collage. No toy-synth, physical recording or radio station was safe from his grubby mits, no melody too frank, no beat too simple. Growing musically and learning technical tricks at a significantly slower pace than his ever-competitive peers, Esa was always destined to remain in obscurity, a permanent bubbling-under artist. Yet, somehow, there was a demand for this very specific flair of innocence and frankness, and while nothing he did past his debut album Container ever had the staying power of such tunes as Thor's Magic Bathtub, Cull Streak or Starcell U.K., Esa still managed to keep crafting away, even with a very visible - and heavy - albatross around his neck. Now, close to two decades since the release of Container, where do we find Esa at? On Bandcamp, releasing records with no promotion, of course! Approach him and ask him to play your favourite tune of his at a future gig - you might or might not recognize it. Or he might not have it. Either way, Esa will do his utmost to keep himself entertained during the set, without turning into a best-of jukebox effort.
Lackluster Bio in Finnish: UNAVAILABLE
HLER Bio in Finnish: HLER on yhdistelmä Heikki Lindgrenin ja Esa Ruohon nimikirjaimia ja kuvaakin hyvin tämän ambient drone -duon luomisprosessia. Ensimmäisen harjoittelusession aikana muotoutui toimintamalli, jossa molemmilla jäsenillä on oma tärkeä tehtävänsä. Livekeikan alussa Heikki soittaa äänen. Esa nauhoittaa sen tietokoneelleen ja soittaa äänen takaisin erilaisten sopivien kaikujen ym. prosessointien läpi. Väärinpäin, oikeinpäin, monta oktaavia alempaa tai ylempää. Pienen osan, koko pitkän äänen tai jotakin aivan muuta. Samalla Heikki on edennyt soittamaan jo toisenlaisen äänen - tai ehkä jopa samankaltaisen - ja Esan nauhoitus + takaisinsoitto + prosessointi jatkuu kunnes muodostuu äänien tila, jossa molemmat kuuntelevat kokoon parsittua äänikollaasia ja ohjailevat omien intuitioidensa pohjalta sitä uusiin suuntiin. Sikäli on täysin oikeutettua mainita, että jokaisella keikalla aloitetaan hiljaisuudesta, pysyvinä osina ovat vain HL-> ER ja ajatus hypnoottisesta päivätajuntaan vaikuttavasta ambient-/avaruusmusiikista. "Olemme aina yllättyneitä suunnista joista yhtäkkiä löydämme itsemme," toteaa duo. "Emme voisi toistaa oikeastaan mitään täysin samanlaisena vaikka yrittäisimmekin.” Heikki äänilähteineen toimii primus motorina, ja Esa eräänlaisena multiefekti/kaiku/luuppaus/samplaus -laitteena, käyttäen sopivaksi toteamiaan ohjelmia ja yhdistellen tyhjiöstä saapuvia ääniä, kunnes uusi tila, tilanne tai tunnelma on muodostunut. "Meille on ollut hyvin palkitsevaa työskennellä duona, koska prosessin ennalta-arvaamattomuus on todella virkistävää ja mikään sessio ei muistuta täysin aiempaa. Yksittäisiä elementtejä voi kokeilla toistaa, mutta ne eivät koskaan toistu täsmälleen samalla tavalla johtuen sekä äänilähteiden ominaisuuksista että Esan livetilanteessa tekemän prosessoinnin intuitivisuudesta. Koko livetilanteen prosessi pohjaa syvään yhteisvaikutukseen ja äänellisiin löydöksiin"
HLER Bio in English: HLER combines the initials of Heikki Lindgren and Esa Ruoho. It also describes the creative process of this ambient drone duo from Finland.  Each performance follows the same creative process, but with wildly different results every time. Heikki begins mining for sound. Esa then processes Heikki's discoveries through his laptop, revealing hitherto undiscovered facets to Heikki's freshly unearthed sonic gems. Then, with the twist of a dial, Heikki introduces something new to Esa, and the whole process continues onwards and upwards. "We are always surprised by the spaces we find ourselves in, and the directions the sounds take during a performance. We cannot repeat anything in exactly the same way, even if we wanted to!" "It has been incredibly rewarding to work as a duo, as the unpredictability of the creative process is so refreshing. The whole live situation is based on listening very deeply and on the sonic discoveries extracted during the encounter." File under: organised noise, clicks, hums, drone, "Hey, this sounds kind of like space music from the '70s!", a captured submarine humming in the hangar of a space station, "Are you sure you guys are alright and that the cables work?"
HLER Short Old Bio in English: HLER is a collaboration between Ambient / Electronic music composers Heikki Lindgren (Vongoiva) and Esa Ruoho (Lackluster) from Helsinki, Finland. They have been releasing music and playing live solo since the 90s and in 2018 they decided to collaborate with a minimal approach to sound. Heikki does sonic mining with the soundsources available at his disposal and Esa processes the results in real time with Ableton Live and Renoise. The outcome takes the audiences to a journey through the deepest depths of the oceanfloor, sends them flying with migratory birds along the Earth’s magnetic field, finally passing through the ionosphere’s static towards the Kuiper belt. And then gently return back to Terra with a purified mind.


Esa Ruoho Teemu Niskanen
Esa Ruoho Teemu Niskanen
HLER Live at Tampere Biennale
HLER Kirjasto
Esa Ruoho / Lackluster - photo by Hanna Matikainen
Esa Ruoho / Lackluster - photo by Hanna Matikainen
HLER (Heikki Lindgren & Esa Ruoho)
Lackluster Live at Jyväskylän Kesä 2018
Lackluster / Esa Ruoho, photo by Jyri Kiuru
Lackluster live at Jyväskylän Kesä 2018 image 1