Warp Records has built its reputation by embracing the odd and the exceptional. Home to misfits such as Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, and Autechre, the English label has continually opened its arms (and mind) to the world of eccentric electronica. Its latest label darling, the Finnish programmer Brothomstates, might embody a new benchmark for obscure instrumentalists. Born Lassi Nikko in Suomi, Finland, Brothomstates achieved notoriety as a "tracker" in the "demoscenes" of Finland and Russia. Trackers score music for computer-generated graphics called demos, using only the software on their home computers. They transform synthesized notes into soundtracks via their PC sound cards and release them over the Internet for free. Geeky Eastern European programmers consider these laptop orchestrations an art form -- they even have competitions. Brothomstates has tracked graphic illustrations since the mid-'90s, sometimes under programmer handles Dune and Orange.
The Fin's first LP on Warp, Claro, is akin to these past scores, but its sound is beefed up with the help of MIDI and modular synthesizers. The album of 12 songs works by extracting moods from a fluctuating array of synthetic sounds. It's a spacey soundtrack of sorts that doesn't engage as much as it creates atmosphere. The album's airy intro "In" is a perfect example. The song's easy, synthesized melody is better for building a setting than generating a plot. The disc's otherworldly soundscapes, comparable to those of labelmates Boards of Canada, usually open with scattered electronic beats before swelling into either warm, electric melodiousness ("MDRMX" and "Viimo") or obtuse, mechanical outbursts ("Te Noch Rp" and "25101999"). These contrasting arrangements can sometimes be alluring and imaginative, but most seep too easily into the background. Though Claro may be another inventive Warp release, it's one that's too subtle to make a lasting impression.