What You Want Isn't What You Need
- Lackluster: BKT
- Lackluster: Kosmos7
- Lackluster: Hiatus
- Lackluster: Down
- Lackluster: N
- Lackluster: Sizehoay
- Lackluster: The Cluster Theme
- Lackluster: 0Today8
- Lackluster: Swamped
- Lackluster: Dropouts
Making his debut here for New Speak, Esa Ruoho has been a regular protagonist in the contemporary IDM scene. Esa has always managed to describe icy landscapes with melodic fragments that quickly thaw the rigid construction - something he does here with renewed determination. Hiatus permits tinder-box harmonies and a lumpy, tannine, heavy brew of beats to accrete, while Down seems to enter a parallel David Lynchian world, where Badalmenti has settled on the most pared down arrangements of his career, troubled by digital interventions. N resolves this dilemma in open-hearted, broadly euphoric fashion, a reconciled and contented mood, which is allowed to subsist inside Sizehoays core. The Cluster Theme dallies with a darker palette again, rotating around a subterranean 4/4 while deceptive childs-play keys soften the blow - delighting in roughing the rhythm then smoothing it with those icey melodies. Dropouts, finally, rounds up proceedings with ritalin beats, artificially accelerated, drum and ominous bass viewed from the other end of a telescope. Very good indeed...
Lackluster: What You Want Isn't What You Need: Textura Review
Certainly choosing a moniker like Lackluster is a risky move, even if it rolls off the tongue more easily than Esa Juhani Ruoho, the Finnish artist behind the mask. Luckily, the ten tracks constituting his New Speak debut are anything but lackluster. Given that the songs were produced between 1996 and 2003, Ruoho's seemingly cleaning out his cupboard yet the material, while not innovative or visionary, hardly sounds stale.
Songs sparkle dreamily as cascading keys, chiming music-box melodies, meditative synth clusters, and euphoric washes stream over jittery beats and softly shimmying rhythms. The album might just as easily have been titled The Many Moods of Esa Juhani Ruoho, given its propensity for segueing from one mood to another; “Down” weaves a brittle industrial ambiance, “Swamped” nurtures subtle melancholy from reverberant flutter, and “Dropouts” scampers with manic beatwork. Traces of Plaid's signature jubilance pervade “Kosmos7” when querulous electronic creatures awaken amidst snapping, squelchy beats while “0today8,” a comparative epic at 5 minutes, lurches to life with shuddering synth patterns, churning bass exhalations, and off-beat chimes. The collection's purely electronic sound is clean, inviting, and rich without being claustrophobic, and, at 37 succinct minutes, each song appears, makes its case with agreeable dispatch, and then gets out of the way. If tracks like “N” and “Bkt” show Ruoho's forte isn't titling songs, it matters little when the material is so consistently strong.
Lackluster: What You Want Isn't What You Need: Gridface Review
New Speak, 2005
It’s hard to believe this is the first Lackluster release I’ve covered. Finnish artist Esa Juhani Ruoho is both creative and prolific. Some of his tracks have an old Artificial Intelligence-era simplicity, but others are along the lines of recent material from Kettel and Metamatics. “Kosmos 7” is an example of a short, pretty track with some newish sounds. “Hiatus” is even better—lush electronic bells swarm over thick beats and bass. Another fun track is “N,” which sounds like a tune from Mega Man 2, with sweeping melancholy chords over a lo-fi beat. At under forty minutes, this is more an EP than an album. Nonetheless, it’s a great slice of music for fans of melodic electronics.
Jacob Arnold, Oct 20, 2005 in Reviews: IDM