Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Aarktica

In Sea:
This album of starkly beautiful (mostly) guitar tracks is perfect for the darkest time of the year before the sun starts it slow return. Jon DeRosa, the sole person behind this project, lost most of his hearing in his right ear in 1999. Like other musicians who have suffered this, he struggled to come to terms with it. The result was his d├ębut “No Solace In Sleep” in 2000. I am familiar with how tragic hearing loss in a musician can be; Jason Diemilio from the Azusa Plane (a friend to many of my friends) took his own life because of his hearing problems. This record marks the sixth release of Jon DeRosa's career; I am glad he has stayed with us because this is stunning music.

I was only familiar with DeRosa’s work because we both appeared on Silber Comps together. I listened to this album for a long time before I read the press release. I slowly formed my own opinion of the work. I knew it was about loss or mourning, but I did not know about what. When I read it was about Jon’s hearing loss suddenly the album became even more poignant and beautiful. The album title “In Sea” refers to the Terry Riley masterwork “In C.”

The album opens with “I am in Ice” sorrowful tones that move as slowly as snowdrifts across an arctic landscape. Layers of guitar build on top of each other, one never overpowering the other. It almost sounds orchestral. It ends with washes of reverb. "LYMZ" is a tribute to his teachers La Monte Young & Marian Zazeela, who helped him overcome his hearing loss by teaching him to develop new ways of hearing via sound vibrations in his instruments & vocal chords.

Hollow Earth Theory” is the first track album that features Jon's vocals, which has a sweetly baritone sound. It is one of the most anthem-ic songs on the album. Soaring vocals and back masked guitars meld into one. It is the “hit” of the record. “A Plauge of Frost (In the Guise of Diamonds)” sends listeners back into the frigid landscape. The title track “In Sea” reminds me of the bedroom minimalism of the early Roy Montgomery sound. Swells of sound and backwards audio build up dense and thick but not overpowering--more like chocolate syrup that has been left out in an unheated car overnight. “Onward” has the feel of “Hallow Earth Theory” strummed Mogwai-esque guitars with soaring tones underneath. Like the best Mogwai, it does not hammer you but waits, and is patient, and gets you with a sucker punch. “Young Light” builds on the energy of “Onward!,” and is even more hopeful. It is one of those great driving tunes that might cause if you to find yourself slowly pushing the gas pedal as you grin like an idiot as the trees and cars fly by. Autumnal” seems like another shift in the record. It slows down from the previous two tracks. No longer manic, it seems content. It takes a darker turn on “Corpse Reviver No. 2.”

What is most surprising about this disc is the last song which is a cover of Danzig. My house mate in college LOVED Danzig, along with such bands as Type O Negative. We did not see eye to eye musically. Anyways, it will probably shock her to hear me say this, but I kind of dig this Danzig cover. I am not familiar with the original work but Jon’s take on it is admirable.

This disc, while tending slightly to the over droney and ambient, has enough variety and changes of textures to keep things interesting. It never seems indulgent or aimless. It also features a not too shabby pop tune “Hallow Earth Theory” and cover by an artist that I would think that never in a million years I would appreciate, but his take on it works. (Silber) (Dan Cohoon)