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|Pure Tone Audiometry
CD Album 2003 | Silber 026
7 tracks, 45 minutes
$12 ($18 international, $5 download (256 kbps, ~79 megs))
: Press Release
While his indie rock style
du jour doesn't nearly approach the peaks of joy and frustration imposed
by Godspeed You Black Emperor or Mogwai, it's a little more sensitive and,
to a point, chill. "Ocean" is verging on folk with its simple mournful
vocals and solo guitar, until it switches halfway through with strings
and vocal overdubs to maximum effect. DeRosa's songs float from note to
note, and it's easy to discern his attempts to re-evaluate how sound still
functions for him. In this regard, DeRosa has a great debt to artists such
as Labradford or Jessamine, though his avowed influence of John Cage comes
through strongly via his working solely with processed organic sounds instead
of synthesized ones.
The centerpiece of the album is the last song, "Williamsburg Counterpoint," a reference to his Brooklyn residence. Starting off seamlessly from the previous song' fade out into delicate sine waves, the two act as a 17-minute gesture of patience, two sides of the same commentary which goes a long way to giving hope to both possibilities for cross-pollination of genres and DeRosa's continued musical evolution.
~ Andrew Schrock, Action Man Magazine
Pure Tone Audiometry is pure
bliss. On his third album as Aarktica, Jon DeRosa hit an ingenious balance
between avant-gardist guitar soundscapes, neo-folk songwriting and post-rock
dreaminess. "Out to Sea" opens the set with lush overdubbed and processed
female vocals (Lorraine Lelis) over backwards guitar. Then DeRosa sings
about "The Mimicry All Women Use" in a stark but ear-catching voice. The
simple strummed guitar accompaniment gets a boost halfway into the track
from Escapadeıs drummer Hadley Kahn -- at that point he should have
lost the drum machine track, as the two donıt always stay in sync,
but thatıs a minor point. "Snowstorm Ruins Birthday" offers a slab
of well-controlled atmospheric noise guitar before "Ocean" comes back to
the indie rock ballad format. For "Big Year" and "Williamsburg Counterpoint,"
Aarktica turns into a real band, adding Molly Sheridan and Mahoganyıs
Andrew Printz on strings, bassist Ernie Adzentovich and the aforementioned
Kahn. The former song is dark and understated, but the latter serves up
a thrilling 11-minute post-rock flight replete with a slow beat and a distorted
sustained guitar solo. These "band" tracks show a lot of promise, but it
is their power combined to the seditious charm of the smaller-scale songs
that make Pure Tone Audiometry such a delightful album. Recommended.
~ François Couture, All-Music Guide
Jon DeRosa is a multi-faceted
New York-based musician, & although certainly not lacking in focus,
the influences of his different bands & projects all shine through
on his third Aarktica album Pure Tone Audiometry. The fact
that he cites both John Cage & Johnny Cash as major influences should
really tell you all you need to know. Where much of his previous
work has either been pure drone bliss or song-based introspection, this
release marks an attempt to walk the tightrope between these poles.
& I am happy to report that the pay-off is immense for anyone that’s
determined to follow him on a guided tour through his vast musical landscapes.
He’ll show you the pastoral beauty of Flying Saucer Attack, & if you
look over your should you’ll find indie rock guitars over an almost constant
ambient backdrop. Neither of these will quite prepare you for the
epic closer “Williamsburg Counterpoint” which develops from static harmonium
drones into a meandering guitar lullaby & then slowly veers off to
a lovely climax. Organic, beautiful, & recommended.
~ Mats Gustafson, The Broken Face
Although I missed out on
his debut album under the name Aarktica, Jon DeRosa charmed me with his
contribution to Darla's Bliss Out series with the excellent ...Or You
Could Just Go Through Your Whole Life And Be Happy Anyway. That CD
was just over 40 minutes of dreamy, electronic pop songs, and it definitely
put more of a pulse into the music of Aarktica, which started out as more
of a drone outfit on the debut No Solace In Sleep. The slight style change
didn't seem to affect DeRosa one bit, as the release shifted gears ever
so slightly into new ground, and made that entry one of my favorites of
any Bliss Out recording I'd heard to date.
Pure Tone Audiometry is the third album by DeRosa as Aarktica (he also plays in a country band called Pale Horse And Rider), and it takes nearly equal parts from both of his first two releases, blending drone with slight touches of electronic rock into another excellent album. Once again, there seems to be sort of an obsession with large bodies of water in regards to the lyrics that are on the album, but given the nature of the songs, it works quite well.
The album opens with "Out To Sea," and it's one of the more song-based tracks on the entire release. The "rhythm" part of the track (if it can be called that) is build around an ebbing backwards guitar loop, and DeRosa shares vocal duties with Lorraine Lelis, creating beautiful multi-part harmonies until they become nothing more than undulating tones by the end of the track. It's part drone, part shoegazer, and all quite lovely. "The Mimicry All Women Use" lopes along with hollow percussion and reverberating sheets of guitar as DeRosa adds his warm baritone to the mix. "Snowstorm Ruins Birthday" takes things in a completely different direction, shearing things off into pure ripples of guitar feedback and noise, feeling like a slightly more dynamic Stars Of The Lid while "Water Wakes Dead Cells" drops a drone into a grain silo, echoing out loops of low-end and pulsing sound.
The centerpiece of the album couldn't be much better a track than "Ocean." Again encorporating the male/female vocals, the track builds on a quiet guitar melody and simply gains in beauty as it builds along, even adding a cello and quiet murmur of a beat. It's one of the shortest tracks on the album, yet it's the one that could have gone on even longer and I wouldn't tire of it. "Williamsburg Counterpoint" closes the album with 12 minutes of slowly-tightening tension, starting out with quiet waves of guitar and reaching a logical crescendo with controlled guitar squalls and some live drumming before it all drifts off into the fog again. Whether or not you enjoy the album will probably depend on how much drone you can stand, as the album is just about split in half in regards to tracks that follow more of a typical structure versus washed-out dronescapes. Fortunately, both are done well, and the disc easily contains several of the best tracks that DeRosa has ever done.
~ Almost Cool
Raleigh's Silber label is
like a fine jewel that one finds at the bottom of the ocean. This small,
eclectic label continues to release extraordinarily high quality releases
that are unique, experimental, and thoroughly entertaining. Aarktica is
Jon DeRosa. DeRosa's music is difficult to categorize. The man delves into
wide variety of styles and sounds to create his own unique mindspace. Pure
Tone Audiometry contains soft pop, ambient, electronic drone, and more.
Beginning with the soft, soothing, and eerie sounds of "Out To Sea" and
"The Mimicry All Women Use"... DeRosa then goes on to explore less obvious
territory. The electronics on this album are a far cry from the generic
sounds created by most modern electronic artists. DeRosa uses sounds to
evoke moods... and the results are most effective. The music is sometimes
unusual... sometimes strangely odd... and sometimes strikingly beautiful.
A well-crafted and ultimately satisfying trip into one man's world of imagination.
After releasing an album
on the decidedly more indie-pop Darla Records and one on the more experimental
and drone-focused Silber Records, Pure Tone Audiometry is perhaps
the perfect combination of pop and drone. Jon DeRosa, the mastermind behind
Aarktica, has perhaps crafted the most accessible and intimate Aarktica
album yet. As with his previous works under the Aarktica name, DeRosa layers
his guitars and manipulates them into washes of noise and sonic beauty,
never using a synthesizer despite falling under the drone category. Yet
on Pure Tone Audiometry, he's joined by members of Escapade, Mahogany,
and Plexus on assorted strings and other instruments, and with more emphasis
on vocals, many of these songs drift seductively into the realm of indie-pop.
Named after a behavioral test measure used to determine hearing sensitivity, which DeRosa underwent some years ago after losing hearing in his right ear, Pure Tone Audiometry's songs often refer to that theme, such as the recorded samples on "Out to Sea," which discuss the difficulty of remembering sound. This is the perfect album for those early morning wake-ups and late-night drifts to sleep. There are the longer, more experimental drone tracks that use washes of noise and intricately crafted guitar experimentation, and there are more intricate pop tunes. Yet all drift on a sea of spacey, dreamy, layered sound and a kind of hushed beauty that makes many of these songs shining masterpieces.
The sense of being adrift is also a common theme throughout this release, as demonstrated early on the hauntingly beautiful "Out to Sea." Male and female vocals sing together, deep and stark over a looped background. My favorite track, "Ocean," features gorgeous vocals and simple yet soft guitar. The song starts quiet but picks up with bass and strings. On "The Mimicry All Women Use," light drumming and shimmering guitar give the song a quieter pop feel, as DeRosa sings in his deep, conspirational voice.
The more drone-based, experimental side to Aarktica shines through on some of these tracks as well. On "Snowstorm Ruins Birthday," the drifting soundscapes are mesmorizing, yet they're not subtle or sleep-inducing, as great washes of looped guitars ebb and flow. Vocals fill out the subtle "Big Year," while "Water Wakes Dead Cells" is much more a traditional drone affair with a pulse, throbbing almost relentlessly in a mildly disturbing manner. It recedes into the 12-minute closer, "Williamsburg Counterpoint," a more traditional drone piece, more dreamy and atmospheric with light guitars and more depth to contrast its predecessor.
DeRosa seems to appreciate dichotomy. While Aarktica has always been his more experimental project, he has a new album due out this spring on Darla under his Pale Horse and Rider moniker that will show his more country-rock side. Even Pure Tone Audiometry shows his love of contrasts, as sweet pop structures are mixed with studio manipulation, creating songs that are equal parts pop tunes and experimental soundscapes. It results in a fantastic listen, clearly the most accessible and lovely album DeRosa has recorded to date.
~ Jeff Marsh, Delusions Of Adequacy
Backward tape loops, an ethereal
wordless vocal duet with Lorraine Lelis reminiscent of His Name is Alive's
Livonia, and rhyming "pure tonography" with "oceanography" are some of
the highlights of "Out To Sea," the leadoff track on Jon DeRosa's third
full-length under the name Aarktica. "The Mimicry All Women Use" adds a
normal vocal track that will be more familiar to DeRosa's other project,
Dead Leaves Rising. His relaxed, late-night, sexy vocals reminded me of
Richard Baskin's soundtrack for Welcome To L.A. (well worth seeking
out, by the way). A lengthy, full-band jam, "Mimicry...," will also be
a surprise to fans of Jon's debut, No Solace in Sleep (also on Silber),
which was a completely ambient, guitar-based solo effort.
"Snowstorm Ruins Birthday" is closer to those ambient effects and is an excellent example of "glass music" -- the sound made by running the index finger around the rims of glasses filled to various levels. The harmonics thus created are determined by the amount of air displaced by the liquid in each glass. Now I'm almost positive this is not how DeRosa created these sounds (almost all of his music is guitar-based and the by-now familiar "absolutely no synthesizers were used in the recording of this release" parental advisory applies), but you get the idea of what to expect. It's a relaxing technique that warms the blood and the heart, although I don't think there's been any tests on any correlation between the brand (and proof!) of liquid used and the resulting harmonics!
A more traditional song structure suits DeRosa well on "Ocean," a gently whispered love song that will appeal to fans of Bill Callahan/Smog. An interesting arrangement/production decision is made halfway through. Up to this point, it sounds like the song is emerging from a radio -- then we edit to the "studio version," thus enhancing the song's immediacy. I also applaud Molly Sheridan's mournful violin playing.
The title of the album refers to the audio test administered to measure one's hearing sensitivity (DeRosa is deaf in one ear), and it comes into play frequently throughout the recording with very quiet spoken-word segments in the background of both "Out To Sea" and "Big Year." It also results in a hearing test of your own, crossed with one of those subliminal recordings you would listen to help you calm down or improve your driving techniques, etc. Since the tests are administered with headphones, this is best appreciated thusly and is one of the best "headphone albums" in recent memory. This allows the listener to pick up sounds and nuances that might have otherwise been missed. And knowing what DeRosa is doing, I began to question my own hearing abilities: Am I hearing things that aren't really there and vice versa? Am I missing things that are there? That challenge of hearing things that aren't there vs. not hearing things that are makes it a very educational experience which questions the entire concept of "listening" and "hearing." But that's not to suggest this is a clinical, antiseptic recording. On the contrary, it's very warm and tender, with strong melody lines, particularly the lengthy "Ocean" and "Big Year."
The source of the sounds you listen to on a record is also examined on "Water Wakes Dead Cells." Could that be a heartbeat... a vibrating eardrum... or the industrial machinations that went into creating those sound effects in the warehouse scenes of David Lynch's Eraserhead where our hero makes the erasers? Or, just as easily, is it none of these? I don't think identifying the actual source is as important as the fact that it could be any, none, or all of these. In keeping with the analysis of the perception of sound and the experience of listening and hearing, the fact that a single sound could be produced from a myriad of natural causes, or created or manipulated in the recording studio in the mixing/engineering/production process is key to what's going on here.
At 12 1/2 minutes, the finale, "Williamsburg Counterpoint" (DeRosa lives in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn in NYC) goes on twice as long as necessary, but the first half is a lovely, ambient guitar piece worth hearing at least a few times. In closing, let me just suggest you rush out and pick this up and decide for yourself: is it live or is it DeRosa's studio-enhanced vision of what "sound" sounds like. In light of his expertise at recreating the limited "sounds" that he can pick up, this truly is the sound of one ear hearing. For students of the act of creating sound and lovers of those creations alike, Pure Tone Audiometry is an essential listening experience.
~ Jeff Penczak, Fakejazz
Texture seems to be the focus
of this pseudo-ambient chillout album by avant-pop outfit Aarktica. While
processed and looped electric guitars provide the timbral cantus firmus,
the disembodied vibe is aptly laced with violin, cello, and harmonium,
consequently grounding the hovering sound in the corporeal. Jon DeRosa,
the mastermind behind Aarktica, delivers a boyish, whispery vocal style
similar to bands like Her Space Holiday or the languid yearnings of Sigur
Ros. Pure Tone Audiometry offers ready for airplay tracks like "Ocean"
and the electronica-infused "Out To Sea," to more abstruse endeavors such
as "Williamsburg Counterpoint," assumingly a nod Steve Reich.
~ Randy Nordschow, New Music Box
When I learned that Aarktica
would be recording an album for Darla's Bliss Out series, I was pretty
overjoyed. In my mind, it seemed like a match made in heaven. Darla's series
was designed to let the more ambient-minded musicians in the indie realm
strut their stuff, and brought together such artists as Amp, Windy and
Carl, and Piano Magic. Coming off the heels of
No Solace in Sleep,
one of my favorite drone albums of time, Aarktica seemed like the ideal
artist for the series.
That's why I was so disappointed when I finally heard Or You Could Just Go Through Your Whole Life And Be Happy Anyway... Perhaps it was just a case of outrageous expectations, but I went in expecting more harrowing atmospheres and deep guitar ambience and was, well, shocked to hear actual songs. It just seemed way too incongruous for me, and it felt like DeRosa was ignoring his music's key strengths. I realize I could very well be in the minority here; when a friend of mine heard the CD, he couldn't believe my reaction. But then again, he has yet to hear No Solace In Sleep.
When I heard about Aarktica's new album, I'll admit to some slight trepidation. Part of me was excited to see what DeRosa would do next, but I didn't want to arrive at the same conclusion as I did with Or You Could... However, my anxiety was completely unfounded as I found Pure Tone Audiometry to be a thoroughly absorbing and captivating experience. DeRosa does delve into more song-like structures, but the atmospherics that dominated No Solace In Sleep are still there, haunting the album's 7 songs.
A fluctuating, backwards-running loop opens the album on a hallucinatory note, while DeRosa's vocals are joined by those of Lorraine Lelis (Mahogany). As the track continues, it blossoms into the first unexpected delight of the album, and sign of good things to come. The line between the DeRosa and Lelis' voices begins to blur until you can't tell where one ends and the other begins. All that's left is a delicate veil of sound that drifts across the song's surface like a gentle ocean breeze.
Shifting guitar layers open "The Mimicry All Woman Use", and if you're listening on headphones, you'll immediately notice your sense of depth being toyed with. Each strum of the guitar jockeys for position, as those in the background come rushing to the forefront, only to fade away just as quickly. There's a constant sense that the song is in freefall, barely held together by the stark drum programming. Meanwhile, DeRosa's tired vocals sleepwalk through the mix, like Mark Eitzel backed by Insides.
As the guitar constantly brushes by and collapses in on itself, it creates a fair amount of tension. One wonders if the song's structure can continue on this way, which is why it's a relief when DeRosa finally launches into a bit of noisy rock in the song's final moments.
Now, forget everything I've written up to this point that could possibly be seen as criticizing DeRosa for pursuing a more song-oriented direction. Forget all of it simply for the sake of one track. "Ocean" is the most song-oriented title on the album, and it also happens to be one of the most beautiful and affecting. The song achieves a crystalline symmetry between the delicately plucked guitar and DeRosa and Lelis' vocals, but the real clincher is Andrew Prinz' sad cello. His instrument beautifully echoes the song's poignant lyrics ("Tonight there's no prayer I can really think of/To keep you young just as I remember you"). How affecting is this song? There have been times when I've been tempted to skip this track while at work lest I break down right there at my desk.
If "Ocean" is the album's most affecting piece, "Big Year" is the most haunting. DeRosa's guitar takes on an endless sound, creating ghostly, bell-like tones that seem to hang suspended in the dark ocean depths. DeRosa's tired vocals have a sinking quality, as if lyrics like "Today I learned to tie my shoes/I can feed myself again/It's gonna be a big year/I think I'll even start to talk" are a weight dragging him down into the depths plumbed by his guitar. Far above, Prinz' cello can be glimpsed, filtering through the murky surface like dim rays of sunlight, forever out of reach.
As Pure Tone Audiometry closes, DeRosa sheds all structure and pop leanings and dives headfirst into the drone. "Water Wakes Dead Cells" opens on a violent note, but the churning, rumbling feedback eventually gives way to the slow, fluctuating tones of "Williamsburg Counterpoint". Chiming guitar notes and percussion gradually fade in, adding a sense of direction to the shapeless tones. Meanwhile, Prinz' cello sweeps in and graces the listener with another haunting arrangement.
Just when the piece finally seems to coalesce, DeRosa rips into it with well-placed stabs of noise and feedback, as if he intends to tear it apart one broken guitar string at a time. Finally, the piece collapses in a hail of noise and feedback, until all that's left is the delicate guitar progression DeRosa initially used to shape the song.
There's a quality to Pure Tone Audiometry that plays with your perception of the sounds therein. When a person loses one sense, the other senses become more acute, so as to compensate. And I wonder if that isn't what's going on with Aarktica's music, in a fashion. I wonder if DeRosa's partial deafness isn't somehow responsible for the hallucinatory feel his music often possesses. I suspect that somehow, his hearing loss allows him to hear and construct sounds in ways us "normal" people don't or simply can't.
For example, I can watch the display count down the time remaining on "Out To Sea," but when DeRosa and Lelis' vocals blend together, the song seems to stretch out, each second turning into 10 or 15. Meanwhile, "Big Year" lasts nearly 9 minutes, but it draws you in so completely that it's over before you know it. And that's doubly so for "Ocean", which could take up half the album as far as I'm concerned and yet it's gentle, comforting tone still seems to exist outside of time.
~ Jason Morehead, Opus Zine
Can there be any purpose
behind a master's degree in the psychology of music other than inevitably
attempting to rule the minds of men through the manipulative powers of
sound? I submit that there can not; the job prospects from a degree like
that are, like, what? Music therapist? I don't think so. The only career
I can imagine it successfully leading to is Supervillian.
It doesn't take a superhuman intellect to see through the aims of Jon DeRosa's education -- he's the arch-mastermind behind the warm, homey folk of Pale Horse and Rider, and has guested on several other records, including Debridement, a recent Chairkickers release by Rivulets. But none of his various projects are more dangerous, more insidious, than the icy calm of Aarktica's dreamy ambiance. In fact, his nefarious desire to lull listeners into a pliant, peaceful daydream (and then rob them, no doubt -- or worse!) could easily have succeeded with last year's Or You Could Just Go Through Your Whole Life and Be Happy Anyway if it weren't for the heroic actions of Pitchfo... hey, wait. That got a really positive review... uuuhhhh.... now... that... I think about it, Pure Tone Audiometry is really... pretty... oh, god, no... if I don't come back, tell Kathleen Hanna... I... love... her...
Wow... where was I?
I always get distracted by the lush, diffuse tones at the conclusion of "Out to Sea." The track opens Pure Tone Audiometry with a delicate, Magnetic Fields-ish male/female vocal dynamic between DeRosa and Lorraine Lelis, as they sweetly harmonize over the romantic notions of being lost at sea and never again seeing home. Before long, the voices become lost in the hazy ambiance completely, and the experimental pop is vaporized; only Lelis' seraphic call remains to try and navigate the listener through the droning fog. Eventually, even the music itself vanishes.
DeRosa's arrangements are intensely careful and subdued, and never once does he allow his deliberately constructed tranquility to be disturbed. The few real swells of emotion are thrilling, but momentary; such an austere, clinical tone is produced that it sometimes becomes stultifying, although I'm not sure emotive response is the aim here. Aarktica is cold, pure, and almost inescapably tranquil.
"Snowstorm Ruins Birthday" revisits the vapor that lingers from "Out to Sea." There was music here, but now only traces remain, surrounding the listener in a wintry mist of component sounds, atomic gray noise, a touching (but still distant) pop melody dissolved into its basic elements. Slowly, song structures reform; DeRosa's wispy vocals return alongside Lelis' stunning accompaniment, triumphantly welling up from miles beneath the faintly reverberating electric and simple acoustic plucking in "Ocean"'s beautiful climax. "Big Year" explores the darker regions of Aarktica's ethereal shoegazing like a slightly cheerier version of Projekt-based ambient artists Lycia; the listener is inexorably pulled deeper into the track's echoing maze of acoustics, subtly ominous drones, and trembling strings.
Until... total silence?
No, wait. Not total. DeRosa slipped up; "Water Wakes Dead Cells" is a five-minute foray into ultra-minimalist drone, just a rhythmic pulse wrapped in a barely audible hum, before eventually bowing out completely. The sheer vacancy of what amounts to little more than empty space is pretty unnecessary, and though it's anything but jarring, it still stands out as a glaring hole in an otherwise pristine calm. As a breather before "Williamsburg Counterpoint", Pure Tone Audiometry's twelve-minute centerpiece, "Water Wakes Dead Cells" is briefly very effective. By the halfway point, though, the album's hypnotic spell has been broken-- it served as an anticlimactic pause, but after a few minutes, it just seems like a good time to get a drink, to make my escape.
Ah, who am I kidding? Aarktica's attempt to pacify and control his audience into a narcotized lull is good but not perfect. Of course, it's too late for me, but at least you've been warned. Jon DeRosa is a madman! He wants to control the world with his beautiful, antiseptic melodies! He's nearly succeeded yet again! Tell the world before it's too late!
~ Eric Carr, Pitchfork Media
For its first 90 seconds,
opener "Out To Sea" sounds a little like a psychedelic Magnetic Fields:
a simple melody with quirky lyrics about being lost at sea, sung by a male-female
duo over a pulsing loop of backwards guitar. After that, what seems to
be a skewed pop tune drifts into a fog of wordless vocals, harmonic overtones
and a cut-up sample reminding us that "it is difficult to remember sound."
Jon DeRosa's third album as Aarktica is a difficult thing to pin down, and for the first few listens it can seem a little opaque. For every relatively straightforward song like "The Mimicry All Women Use" -- a stately indie-rock elegy that builds to a majestic crescendo reminiscent of Slowdive -- there's a pleasant but indistinct ambient mass like "Snowstorm Ruins Birthday."
But there's a cumulative power to this album, an overarching shape that reveals itself after five or six listens, when your back is turned and you're paying attention to something else. On first listen, "Ocean" is a gorgeously sad melody that's almost too straightforward in this context, "Big Year" is eight minutes of wobbly, defocused repetition, and "Water Wakes Dead Cells" sounds like a TR-505 drum machine doing a load of permanent press; after a few listens, a unity of atmosphere emerges and all these disparate pieces begin to suggest a hazy, evanescent whole.
In its careful blend of electronics, guitars and chamber music, it's reminiscent of This Mortal Coil at their most elusive and introverted. It's not going to reach out and grab you by the lapels, and it moves at its own deliberate pace: twelve minute closer "Williamsburg Counterpoint" is nearly static for its opening minutes, with gradual layers of guitar, drums and strings applied and then immersed in guitar feedback. It's not a novel formula, but there's a wealth of sonic detail that unfolds languorously.
At times a listener may wish there were a little more substance beneath the album's lovely filigree, and the oceanic imagery of the titles sometimes seems like a description of the intended sound rather than an actual focus. But at its best, Pure Tone Audiometry weaves a slow spell that's no less beguiling for its lack of solidity.
~ Sean Thomas, Splendid eZine
Aarktica's Pure Tone Audiometry
(Silber) holds its own uneasy alliance. A handful of sparkling pop gems
out-Kranky Low themselves, fading into patiently melodic drone-rock jams
and extended passages of pure Tony Conrad effluvia.
~ Michael Chamy, Austin Chronicle
Jon DeRosa returns with a
new album under the Aarktica guise, following a short stint focusing on
his alt-country Pale Horse & Rider outfit.
Pure Tone Audiometry
is an impressively panoramic, yet cohesive effort from one of slo-core's
most dominating voices. Opening with the looping sadcore of "Out to Sea,"
a track of dizzy, ghostly wailing, DeRosa moves from the disturbed folk
song "The Mimicry All Women Use" to the gurgling wall of organic noise
that is "Snowstorm Ruins Birthday"; from "Ocean," a heartbreaking duet
with Lorraine Lelis to the sweeping glory of the extended instrumental
"Williamsburg Counterpoint." DeRosa's approach is more conventionally melodic
and accessible than most of his Silber/Chairkickers slo-core fellows, but
he is as uncompromising and individual as any of his peers. Pure Tone
Audiometry is an album of huge, swirling beauty, the finest Aarktica
~ Stein Haukland, Ink 19
Records like this should
be made more often in order to come to a synthesis between two opposite,
seemingly antithetical genres as avant-garde and rock. De Rosa claimed
that his music aims to find the link between John Cage and Johnny Cash;
a thing, that one, that might get quite a few people to throw up, nonetheless
it’s true, although it sounds impossible. Drones and songs co-exist in
his dictionary of sounds by merging in a convincing way, just as if these
two genres could really co-exist: the guitar sounds tearing and rough,
the voice, the rock sound-like drums are not in the slightest disturbed
by the tearing, atonal, electronic inserts, or by the noise, or by pulsations;
far from it, the good thing is that no synthesiser was used to generate
either the drones or the effects, which were obtained by an electronic
treatment of acoustic instruments (violin, cello, double-bass, harmonium).
It’s a strange sensation to listen to sprouting, distorted strings one
moment, and then to feel oneself slide into a crystal-clear, John Martin-like
folksong. An even stranger sensation is to hear the acoustic guitar being
joined by the cello and sided by electric showers at the same time, while
a stranger sound comes up like from nowhere; a dissonance, a tiny noise,
yet the global structure is ready to show up. Aarktica is looking for new
languages arising from the union of the known and the unknown thanks to
an extremely organic, euphonic process.
~ Gianluigi Gasparetti, Deep Listening