released June 21, 2014
Finnish musician Esa Ruoho has been releasing experimental techno for about a decade, mainly under the name Lackluster. His real name is reserved for the more abstract, less rhythmical side of his work in electronic music. “Riversmouth”, his first release on Attenuation Circuit, is a perfect example of this. There are no beats, but lots of things happening in terms of shifting shapes of granular textures, high-frequency oscillations working against seismic trembles in the lower bass regions, and then the occasional hauntological voice-like overtone structures.
Full of harmonic tension, but never noisy, this release might appeal to fans of Asmus Tietchens, Alva Noto and other Mille Plateaux acts, or even Phill Niblock. Within the attenuation circuit catalogue, Esa Ruoho’s release provides an exciting new take on the drone/ambient borderland also inhabited by EMERGE, B°tong, Sghor, Mystified, and Sustained Development.
Although he’s been pursuing a prolific and critically-successful career making techno music as Lackluster, every now and again Helsinki’s Esa Ruoho releases something beatless under his given name. The last time was three years ago, so each new piece is an occasion, especially when issued in physical form and by as discriminating a house as Attenuation Circuit.
The river’s mouth is where the waterborne silt settles in the delta, a boundary zone between narrow and endless. Before debouching there, Ruoho follows the cloudy drift downstream to the sea, capturing every ripple and current with minimalist symphonic elegance. The flow is graceful but the sentiment is neutral, like nature itself. All sounds having been created by Ruoho himself, they shift in pitch and glide smoothly at his wet fingertips. They eddy in whirlpools until capable of freeing themselves from the centripetal force.
As the eluvial threshold is crossed, it simply slips away. A beautiful ambient work, tightly restrained yet flexile as a fish’s tail.
ESA RUOHOs Riversmouth (ACM 1009, 3" CD-R) ist dröhnminimalistisch von der Quelle bis zur Mündung. Vielleicht nur weil der Finne, der als Lackluster rhythmischere Sachen macht, Finne ist, überkommt mich unterwegs die Anmutung, dass sein Klangfluss irgendwas von Sibelius mitschwemmt, den 'Schwan von Tuonela' oder den 'Valse Triste'. Etwas melancholisch Romantisches jedenfalls in homöopathischer Verdünnung. Der Strom an sich ist auch nur an der Oberfläche glatt, an der er hell schimmert. Aber da sind auch dunkle Passagen und am Grund schürft er rau. Jetzt singt es sogar etwas geisterhaft, verschleppt, zeitlupig. Oder bilde ich mir das nur ein? Nein, da singt auf jeden Fall etwas in der Tiefe, gischtig überzischt. Auch wenn die Dröhnwelle davon unberührt ihren Lauf nimmt. Zuletzt mischt sich noch eine orchestrale Welle mit ein. Ruohos Fluss hat so seine Geheimnisse.
THE SOUND PROJECTOR
Another item from the Attenuation Circuit envelope of January 2012 is by the Finnish musician Esa Ruoho. As Lackluster, he’s been working in the area of avant-garde Techno music for a long time, but Riversmouth (ACM 1009) is not modern disco hoppery – it’s twenty minutes of ambiguous and exploratory drone work produced by digital means. We’re invited to savour its minimalist leanings, but Ruoho’s work here seems to me just a shade too cluttered to qualify as pure digital glitch, that near-inhuman genre of electronic music which constantly celebrates its characteristic steely glint and diamond claw. Ruoho prefers soft edges and undefined contours to the geometric Raster-Noton grid. He cannot resist introducing harmonies, textures, washes, and additional tones on top of the basic calm undercurrents he generates, almost adding elements at random until a certain pleasing unpredictability is achieved. The path is far from clear and the original aims are being steadily forgotten. The short piece feels like a journey across the surface of a huge lake that’s been half-filled with blue jelly.