Sometimes it can be hard not to wonder when exactly the IDM movement stopped producing truly innovative works and started to become a cheap, Autechre-derivative parody of itself. By now, with the huge influx of homegrown computer music made by adolescent boys in suburban homes across America, much experimental music sounds, for the most part, surprisingly similar. Groups like Autechre, Plaid, and Boards of Canada have cornered the more "mainstream" experimental market with their innovative and more groundbreaking works, so it's up to relatively lesser-knowns like Lassi Nikko (who records as Brothomstates) to continue to push the boundaries.
Well, no boundaries are being pushed with his latest release, Claro, on the granddaddy of IDM, Warp Records. That's not to say that this record is by any means substandard or unremarkable -- that would be far from the truth. It's just that, by now, this sort of thing has been done, and done really, really well. But enough of that. Claro is a lovely record in and of itself, produced by a young Finnish man with an affinity for out-dated equipment. Nikko presents us here with a lovely, subtle, and refined document of intense emotion wrapped in layers of frost and delivered with an unusually sincere, touching grace.
Like his fellow Warp brethren (Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, and the aforementioned Boards immediately come to mind), Nikko has an alluring way about him. His compositions tease without provoking, intrigue without annoying, and soothe without falling flat. From the cautious and delicate opening of "In." to the ethereal bells of "25101999", Nikko seems to mine his homeland's physical characteristics for inspiration. "In." moves hesitantly, using spare, delicate instrumentals tinged with an eerie sense of foreboding. There's something a bit frigid and distant, yet irrepressibly attractive on display here. "25101999" continues to intrigue the listener using complicated, broken rhythms punctuated every so often with crashes and bangs here and there, and muted overall by carefully controlled echoes before moving fully into Tom Jenkinson-style twisted beat weirdness.
Indeed, Nikko does seem rather fond of arrhythmic, unusual percussion. Hints of drum&bass neaten up "Kivesq", a scattered glitch-tune underscored by a lonesome, Asian-inspired melodic line and breathy, heartfelt, and full-bodied strings. "Detectiv Plok" takes on a slightly more retro feel, employing atonal beat experimentation and a slightly trippy melody. He smoothes things out with tracks like "Mr. Kitschock", a disarming minimal electro tune full of smoothly textured bleeps and pops rounded out by low, hesitant strings, and "-", a creepy, burbling noise track which calls to mind a modernized score for a film about some crazy scientist.
What separates this disc from the scads of inferior albums which fall under the IDM umbrella is a purposeful, undeniable feeling of human emotion. Nikko isn't screwing around with synths just for the sake of being weird or different-that schtick is so, like, 1996. He seems to be working within the widely accepted confines of Warp-style experimentation, but does display a knack for injecting each piece with something that extends past the simple machinery which he uses to create and manipulate sounds. Though not exactly original or exciting, Claro is well-executed, precise, and an overall arresting listen.