Aarktica
...Or You Could Just Go Through Your Whole Life and Be Happy Anyway
Darla
2002
B-



in what is becoming fast one of the most important series of music in the independent music scene, Darla’s Bliss Out project has yielded some of the finest releases in the careers of Amp, Piano Magic, and the Japancakes. You can now add Aarktica to that list. Not that there was that much to surpass. On No Solace in Sleep, Jon DeRosa (Aarktica’s main architect) produced an ambient album not dissimilar from some of the work of ambient artists such as Stars of the Lid. The album certainly wasn’t a poor work, it just lacked a certain element- an element that is picked up in ...Or You Could Just Go Through Your Whole Life and Be Happy Anyway: humanity.

Here, DeRosa enlists the help of Lorraine Lelis of Mahogany on the opening track and, realistically, it eclipses the entire rest of the album. “Aura Lee” begins with a simple cymbal tapping out a rhythm, but is soon joined by fuzzy guitars laying out a simplistic melodic backdrop. The ostensibly marginal background is augmented by the emergence of both DeRosa’s and Lelis’ vocals, which build from a whisper to a crying moan. Each phoneme sounds as though the greatest sadness has befallen them both. Proving that some of the simplest songs are the best, “Aura Lee” puts a great deal of Slowdive’s earlier material to shame in one drum machine aided swoop.

As said before, however, it’s not the drum machine nor the addition of DJ Aaron Spectre to the proceedings that make ...Or You Could such a giant leap from No Solace in quality and in scope. Admittedly, the beats that float between both stereo channels are entrancing and more than DeRosa’s is more than able to evoke melancholy throughout the proceedings with his longer instrumental tracks, but it is the tracks where DeRosa or Lelis appear that have the most depth and intimacy.

The song, “Correspondence in Film” floats by, surely, but with a strong vocal presence it perhaps could have been made all the greater. It is the final song on the disc, “Song for a Free Williamsburg” that makes it clear the success of newly found vocal presence. The song would be little without DeRosa’s digitally processed out laughs and leering unintelligible vocalizing in the middle of the track. Even by this time, when DeRosa’s voice has become little more than an instrument of the composer to use for effect- the humanity remains, in its most distorted state, leaving the listener to pick up the pieces and start the disc over from the beginning.


Reviewed by: Todd Burns
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01
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