Aarktica - Pure Tone Audiometry
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Aarktica
Pure Tone Audiometry

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.

rating: 7.7510
Aaron Coleman 2003-06-19 00:00:00