Aarktica is a musical collective based in New York City, United States, conceived in the winter of 1998 when sole member Jon DeRosa's permanently lost his hearing in his right ear. As his hearing loss became less of a distraction and more of a new way of listening, Aarktica became a means to execute the soundtrack of the life in mono he now faced; one of audio distortions, aural hallucinations and a reliance on painkillers. The first album "No Solace in Sleep", released in 2000 on Silber Records, was a series of minimal guitar and tape compositions, glacially paced and effected, recorded on a 4-track cassette recorder in various NYU dorm rooms.
This release echoed across the Atlantic, and Aarktica soon released the "Morning One" EP on Ochre Records in 2001, gaining accolades and airplay from the venerable John Peel.
Soon after, Aarktica released "Or You Could Just Go Through Your Whole Life and Be Happy Anyway, Bliss Out v.18" (Darla Records, 2002) and "Pure Tone Audiometry" (Silber Records, 2003). These releases combine lo-fi electro, noise and shoegaze with the ambient textures of modern composers like Morton Feldman and Ingram Marshall, defining Aarktica’s innovative drone pop hybrid. These were also the first Aarktica albums to feature guest musicians to realize DeRosa’s ultimate goal: to create drones and textures from the timbres of instruments, not solely from reverb units and delay pedals.
It was also during this time that DeRosa began his classical Indian vocal studies with La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela. Their mentorship would be extremely influential to DeRosa and would affect all of his musical output, in every genre from this time forward. DeRosa also studied extensively with Michael Harrison, a former disciple of Young and Zazeela, and a composer specializing in harmonic tuning systems.
Aarktica's fourth full-length release "Bleeding Light" (Darla Records, 2005) was an homage to New York City, in both its lyrics and compositions. DeRosa enlisted many friends and NYC free-jazz luminaries (Nate Wooley, Seth Misterka, Mike Pride), forgoing the often glacial guitars, for a more chaotic, eerie and psychedelic sound.
After releasing a limited split 12" with Aaron Spectre on Berlin's Moonbunny Records, Aarktica relocated to Southern California in Summer 2007 and released its fifth album "Matchless Years" (Darla Records) in Fall 2007.
In Summer 2008, DeRosa moved back to Brooklyn, NY to work on the sequel to Aarktica's 2000 debut "No Solace in Sleep". The result was "In Sea" (Silber Records, 2009), a return to Aarktica’s original guitar/ambient sound. A particular highlight of this release is Aarktica’s cover of the 1988 Danzig song “Am I Demon?” which closes the album, and its accompanying video.
In 2010, Silber Records released "In Sea Remixes", a limited release of 500 copies of the entire In Sea album remixed entirely by other artists. Remixers include Suckers, Declining Winter, Landing, Yellow 6 and Keith Canisius.
Aarktica plans to release new material in 2012.
Aarktica selected discography:
In Sea Remixes CD / Silber Records / February 2010
In Sea CD / Silber Records / September 2009
Matchless Years CD / Darla Records / November 2007
Live at KUCI (digital release) / Silber Records / 2006
Bleeding Light CD / Darla Records / January 2005
Pure Tone Audiometry CD / Silber Records / March 2003
…Or you could just go through your whole life and be happy anyway (Bliss Out V.18) CD / Darla Records / February 2002
Morning One CD EP / Ochre Records / 2001
No Solace in Sleep CD / Silber Records / July 2000
Aarktica's songs are extended reveries, built on loops of guitars and drums and occasional voices. The musical elements hover and circle, float by or bristle with distortion as the songs drift through serenity and trouble. - Jon Pareles, The New York Times
Aarktica is cold, pure, and almost inescapably tranquil. –Pitchfork
Guitars, voices and electronic pulses are layered together in stately, gradually changing, mostly instrumental songs that could come from a less neurotic version of the Cure. – The New York Times
I was talking to a friend about the music of Aarktica and threw out the term "drone pop" after which we both had a bit of a chuckle (simply because the terms seem like the exact opposite of one another), but in all honesty it's one of the best explanations of the kind of musical worlds that DeRosa creates. –Almost Cool
Soft, soothing sounds for baby from spacepop pinup Jon DeRosa. Amidst the Indian harmonium, Vini Reilly-esque delayed guitar, and Jon's own cooing, there are songs - but they drift along seamlessly. – Chickfactor
DeRosa combines ambient sounds with subtle pop elements to create a sound that is all his own. His music is not obvious…but is, instead, a peculiar blend of odd sounds and slightly surreal instrumental passages. Just when you think things are starting to sound somewhat normal…the music suddenly takes a turn and heads into deeper waters. – Babysue
Ambient sounds and backwards vocals drift in the background like the start of a surreal dream. Then the beat picks up and moves fast under drifting guitar, while static hiss and spacious notes reverberate. Soft vocals, almost spoken, slip through the sounds and cold desert and white plains are lost in the tundra. Haunting guitars echo between walls and fall soft between scraps of sound, found and played in the spaces that are left empty and waiting. Pulled apart by strung out saxophone and pushed together by the random solidity of the drum machine. – Marcel Feldman, The Big Takeover
Aarktica takes new wave ballads of despair (a la Depeche Mode's loneliest moments) and stretches them out, accentuating both the beauty and the sadness through atmosphere and a slow pace…It's a serene mix of minimalism, ambience and melody, spectacularly done. There's a solitary feeling to that's both comforting and lonely, like it's both a soundtrack to the loneliest evening ever and a prelude to eternal love. – Erasing Clouds
Why isn’t Jon DeRosa’s work as Aarktica mentioned in the same breath as Stars of the Lid or Eluvium when discussing ambient/drone music? Ever since losing hearing in his right ear in 1999, DeRosa has succeeded in using the drifting guitar tones of Aarktica to conjure up the underwater experience that hearing music has become for him. - Popmatters
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