- Lackluster: Starcell U.K.
- Lackluster: Catch 22
- Lackluster: Thor's Magic Bathtub
- Lackluster: Pillow
- Lackluster: So Short
- Lackluster: Trull Cakes
- Lackluster: Grind
- Lackluster: Bothersome (Mother Mix)
- Lackluster: The Weakend State
- Lackluster: Clinique
- Lackluster: Krhm
- Lackluster: Me Me Me Me Me Me
- Lackluster: Dooba
- Lackluster: Cull Streak
- Lackluster: 20333
Lackluster: Container: Donal Dineen's Sunken Treasures Review (Irish Times)
Esa Ruoho began releasing records out of his Helsinki home studio in 1995. It was a pivotal time for undergound electronic music generally and one where the power base was noticably moving away from the centre towards ever more remote corners of the globe.
Back then, the tectonic plates were shifting in dramatic fashion. A new order was on the rise with self-sufficient producers beginning to reap the rewards of the DIY boom.
There was a flurry of activity undergrond and an explosion of new stars above it. Lights were going on all over the place. The bedroom soldiers were finally bringing the heat in earnest, using new fangled software to bypass the studio system entirely. The power was shifting back to the individual and a quiet revolution was brewing. The possibilities seemed endless.
Suddenly, up pops Finland on the dial and out pours the mesmerising sound of Lackluster and the album Container. What a beautiful noise to behold. It resonated with a gentle softness pre- viously unheard. Here was an example of how the understated could be reconfigured to pack quite a punch.
Ruoho crafted something fresh and original from generic music-production home-computer software. Despite appearances, this wasn’t easy. The easier it is to make noise, the harder it get’s to come up with a truly original sound, but Ruoho managed with aplomb. The source of Container was no surprise. There was a huge spike in the volume of electronic music coming from the colder corners of the Scandanavian north at that particular point. By the time Container was released at the turn of the millenium the Northern Lights were outshining almost everyone. Lackluster’s music stood out so effervescently you could nearly say it glowed. It’s a message worth getting.
Lackluster: Container: Hotpress Review
First of the year’s discoveries and a major one. Anonymous on the outside, warm on the inside and the perfect antidote to frosty New Year times. Deceptively simple-sounding at first, this all-instrumental LP revealed more in the way of melody with every play. With the technology now readily available to bring well-produced music cheaply from small home studios to the market, the opportunities for self-expression have never been greater. The sheer volume of labels and recording artists vying for attention are proof of this. Music has opened up because of it but more than ever something exceptional needs to be at the heart of the
matter in order to stand a chance of recognition. The music made by Esa Ruoho from Helsinki, Lackluster by name, has yet to be recognised but Container has the proof of something special sealed therein.
Lackluster: Container: Igloomag Review
Lackluster is anything but – a down-tempo, cool trip through synthetic sound-worlds, and oddly enough, reminiscent of the Arovane’s Tides in it’s use of harpsichord, subterranean bass and overall ‘feel.’ This release is a bit more aggressive, however, displaying a nearly powerful, multi-beat driven, almost in-your-face presence at times. The descriptions ‘nearly’ and ‘almost’ are of up most importance when considering Container, as we are talking about Minimal-Ambient music, after all – not Jet Chamber V!
There are those moments of stark beauty such as track four, appropriately named “Pillow,” where slow vibe runs offset by staccato (though both minimal and mellow) beats and lazy bass lines form a solid composition. In fact, there is a dreamy focus throughout Container yet not quite in the ‘music-for-sleep’ grouping. The wavering sci-fi keyboards, funky bass and hi-hat cymbal work on track 6 is insufficiently rigorous for sleepy-time music, IMO. One of the finest cuts, the outstanding “Clinique 99″ boasts a mix of all that precedes it – where steel drums (vibes?), smooth waves of synth, a skipping beat and quirky bass-lines recalls some of Atom Hearts ‘tamer’ works. There was but one tiny caveat. Track 11 had a skipping problem from about 1:45 to 2:30, rendering it unplayable. We tried the CD on all four of our office systems (each of varying price and brand) with the same results and never have had this problem on any CD ever! That said we only have one copy, so chances are this was the odd-lot out as our Music-Sherpa-Distributor had no problems whatsoever with their item.
Frans DeWaard calls this new breed of Electronica Micro-Wave for all of the fine nuances and delicate parts that make up the sum total. This recording fits so nicely within that description as the most ‘intense’ tracks, such as ‘Bothersome (Mother Mix)’ retain that quality of less-is-more.
For those fond of their down-tempo in the company of classy tunes will do no wrong with Container in the stabile. A ‘Class-A’ project from start to finish.
Review by Glenn Hammett
Lackluster: Container: All Music Guide Review
By making his twinkling techno tracks available by easy download and via micro-edition CD-R, Finland's Esa Ruoho generated a flurry of interest on the Internet. Word spread, Ruoho's reputation grew, and the young producer found himself snapped up by Defocus Music, Clair Poulton's fledgling successor to her legendary Clear label.
CONTAINER is a compilation culled from Ruoho's Lackluster project archives. While avatars such as Autechre lead the charge toward difficult, digitally abstract forms, this collection witnesses a refreshing return to the simple pleasures of melody. Lackluster circa 1997, represented by "Thor's Magic Bathtub," "Pillow," and "Grind," is ear candy of the highest order, stressing sweet synth-pop strains over beat heroics. Tracks dating from 1998, such as "Starcell UK," "The Weakened State," and "Krhm," recapture the magic moment when the Artificial Intelligence posse--B12, Aphex Twin, The Black Dog, et al--perfected the "armchair techno" formula. Ruoho's more recent tracks build on these solid foundations, adding stylish contemporary touches of hip-hop breakbeat on "Catch 22," and "Clinique," and trip-hop moodiness on "Bothersome (Mother Mix)".
Lackluster: Container: URB Review
(Focus/UK) The first full-length album from the Focus stable introduces Esa Ruoho and his collected ambient works. "Starcell UK" might be familiar to abstract trainspotters (it kicked off a Focus sampler earlier this year) but there are also 15 tracks of previously unheard bittersweet electronics dug up from Ruoho's vaults.
Imagine the Aphex Twin when he made lucid fairytale melodies and not ear-grating noise -- tracks like "Grind," "Bothersome" and "Thor's Magic Bathtub" are surely designed to make grown men (and women) cry. Elsewhere he injects the bleepy DNA helix first patented by the likes of B12, Black Dog and As One with his own viral strain, rounding out the edges with his smooth harmonic touch.
And importantly, it's not just soporific chilled-out nonsense -- the beats and pieces constantly engage, morphing into new shapes with every repeated listen. The result is a veritable Pandora's Box of sonic sine waves.
Lackluster: Container: Muzik Review
Ahhh. . . beautiful home-listening techno as once she were made. Lackluster make the kind of delicately chilled electronica that's been out of fashion for so long. Thank heavens for the warm, nostalgic beauty of 'Container' to remind us what we've been missing since Warp stopped their 'Artificial Intelligence' series.
Let's party like it's 1992. (CB)
Lackluster: Container: Wax Review
The spirit of Clear lives on with the new UK electronica label Focus, and their first album release from the beautifully gentle Lackluster. Fifteen tracks of twinkling melodies, soft, soothing electronic rhythms, all bathed in an almost childlike innocence and the kind of wistful longing that could make you think, at least for the length of this album anyway, that there are no bad men. Sounding a bit like an electronic cross between Bagpuss and the Clangers, and with titles like 'Thor's Magic Bathtub', if everyone listened to this the world would probably be a better place.
SN * (9)
Lackluster: Container: 7 mag Review
The first album release for Focus, and it is as you might expect - warm and cleanly produced electronic music. Lackluster seems to have a knack for capturing simple but exquisite melodies that linger long after the album is through. This, married with the subtler aspects of rhythm, make for a thoroughly enjoyable listen from start to finish, with no filler fodder. The evocative 'Catch 22' perfectly represents the feel of the album, with it's eerily timeless keyboard sounds, although it can get funky, too, as with the barking bassline of 'Trullcakes' or the dubby 'Dooba'. Time to catch up with the Focus label if you haven't already done so.
Darren Wall (four dancing people out of five dancing people)
Lackluster: Container: Overload Media Review
In the wake of influential label Clear has arisen deFocus. While the essence of Clear converged very much around the revival of electro sounds and attitude, it seems from this first full-length release that the focus of deFocus will be centred on pure electronica mood music.
Lackluster's sound is the essence of mellowness: catchy melodic riffs underpinned by lush waves of thick keyboard drones. Similar in style to Bola's Soup album on Skam last year, Container somehow manages to sound much more lively, with real funk breaks and less solipsistic melodies. The lack of any abrasive elements make this perhaps the best chill out/go-to-sleep album of the year so far.
By Paul Gannaway