Produced in 1999, before Tomas Jirku’s debut CD Variants, Bleak 1999 came out in mid-2003. Its release could be interpreted as a sign of how Jirku was caught off guard by his relative success. Then again, it can be seen as a gift to fans waiting for a follow-up to Entropy. Recycling or not, Bleak 1999 is an excellent disc, displaying a surprising level of maturity for an artist who was still forging his approach. More dance-oriented than Variants (i.e. closer in sound to Jirku’s alias The Viceroy), this generous album (73 minutes) combines clicks ’n’ cuts, radio transmissions, and textural experiments. Nothing really new, you might say, there are plenty of electronic artists working in these fringes. True, but this album stands out because of the highly convincing balance the artist has reached between these elements. Click house beats surface to urge you on (Haloperidol, Ca), short abstract cuts (Clindamycin, LiCO3) throw things off balance regularly to check if you’re paying attention. A melody is sketched in wide strokes, a song structure can almost be recognized in the addition and subtraction of sound layers. Above all that is Jirku’s knack for keeping things from stretching out too long. His tracks make sense, they please the ear on first listen and captivate the imagination for many more. A comparison could be made with CoH, but Ivan Pavlov’s music has a dirty sense of humor that Jirku replaces with something more naive, almost tender. Recommended to both fans and newcomers.