Lackluster: Showcase: Themilkfactory Review


Esa Juhani Ruoho, 26.10.1978, Finnish born and bred. The profile introducing Esa Ruoho, aka Lakluster, taken from the artist website, couldn’t more to the point. At just twenty-four, Ruoho is already a veteran of the electronic music scene, yet he has remained relatively unknown until now. This first release for American label Merck could well change everything. Already responsible for a string of remixes for artists such as Leafcutter John, Marumari or label mate Machinedrum, Ruoho has released four albums since 1999. With two albums for UK label defocus in two years and one for U-Cover, Ruoho is one of the most promising new artists to come out of Finland.
Ruoho’s interest for electronic sounds started at the tender age of six, when he developed an interest for the music of C64 and Amiga games. Progressively switching to ambient and the then almost-meaningful IDM movement during the mid-nineties, Ruoho released his first MP3s in 1998, with his first CDR album, simply called CDR#2 released on internet label Monotonik, before being snapped by deFocus for his next effort, Container, a year later. As more of his work started to appear on various compilations, Ruoho released two albums in 2001, one under his own name (Spaces – U-Cover) and his second for deFocus (Wrapping). Although Ruoho has collaborated with Merck in the past with a series of EPs, Showcase is his first full-length offer on the Miami-based label. Has its title indicates, this album showcases some of Ruoho’s work, in this particular case recorded between 1999 and 2001.
The striking thing with the nineteen compositions featured on this album is the wide range of sonic ambiences and genres, from the shapeless formation of interferences of the opening track, ironically called Tuneful to the classic electronica of the concluding track. Interestingly, there are a great number of untitled tracks here, simply identified by a date, a constant in Ruoho’s work pretty much since the early days. Sometimes associated with the seminal Artificial Intelligence series for his melodic approach to sonic environments, Eas Ruoho has certainly defined his own way of arranging beautiful soundscapes. Using relatively straightforward beat patterns as a basis for his compositions, he focuses on progressive sounds to create the primary structures of his creations, and then adds more subtle sources until each composition becomes utterly unique. From the hypnotic LL12 B3 Machine Drum and Haloaw to the sumptuous landscapes of LL7 07/05/00 and Mes, this album forever entertains and captivates.
Perfect introduction to the sound of Lackluster, Showcase offers an interesting overview of his work during his first two years as a recognised recording artist. If since, his sound has become slightly more ambient at times, it still retains the energy of these tracks. Esa Ruoho’s constant effort at creating beautiful soundscapes and arranging them in his own particular way pays off on this outstanding collection of classic electronica.