Lackluster

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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)".

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