Aarktica - "Pure Tone Audiometry"
(Silber Records 2002, 026)

From Aural Innovations #23 (April 2003)

Pure Tone Audiometry is the third album release in as many years by Brooklyn based Jon DeRosa. Recording under the name of Aarktica, DeRosa composes pieces of music that touch upon the more subtle sides of sound creation. The tracks flow with momentum, pulsing with lucidity, whilst sometimes giving a false illusion of synthesised sounds.

Pure Tone Audiometry is just under fifty minutes in length, its seven tracks make an interesting journey into the world of stringed instruments manipulated, and made to become ambient/floating/sound collages. Guitars & Vocals are by DeRosa as well as the Programming and Looping. He collaborates here with a host of musicians, Hadley Kahn of Escapade on Drums, Andrew Prinz of Mahogany on Cello, Lorraine Lelis of Mahogany on Vocals, Ernie Adentovich of Plexus on Upright Bass, Molly Sheridan on Violin, and Charles Newman on Harmonium. All involved play their part with feeling, each musician treads subtly, never over indulging, rather getting it just right.

Track 1 ‘Out to Sea’ is based around a rolling backward loop, its mellow feel begins promising, the vocals slowly absorbing into the brain. Lorraine Lelis shares vocal duties with DeRosa, and together their harmonies are faultless, their voices working emotionally in unison. Lorraine Lelis has a stunning voice, her vocal style and sound stood out to me straight away, sort of folky in a way, but not the finger in the ear stuff, more subtle/calming. The album motions round the string arrangements in an almost Nick Drake fashion. ‘Ocean’ has some nice Violin by Molly Sheridan and Cello by Andrew Prinz; they create a stirring ambience in the latter stages of the track. They have a certain aura to them; the mellowness that they create is endearing.

There is also a couple of strange instrumental tracks, the first is ‘Water Wakes Dead Cells’, this is a throbbing almost synth like pulse rhythm, rarely changing, haunting as it passes through its five minutes. ‘Williamsburg Counterpoint’ is the other. It flows from ‘Water Wakes Dead Cells’ into a nice slow hypnotic sound. Gradually Hadley Kahn’s drums make the piece roll more dramatically as Molly Sheridan & Andrew Prinz take the chance to stir sombre images; there is a definite sadness inside this piece.

Overall Pure Tone Audiometry has a different kind of strangeness. The string stuff mixed with acoustic style songs and pulsing synth like loops makes it an interesting album. Although the entire album is not up to scratch, the majority was pleasant to listen too. Remember that they do not use synthesisers, working with acoustic instruments only. Aarktica make this style their own... easy listening in a strange way.

For more information you can visit the Aarktica web site at http://www.aarktica.net.
Pure Tone Audiometry is distributed by Silber Records. You can visit their web site at: http://www.silbermedia.com.
Contact via snail mail c/o Silber Records; PO Box 18062; Raleigh, NC 27619.

Reviewed by Albert Pollard

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