Recent Reviews of Aarktica, Carta, Sarah June, etc….

Really mellow album of remixes from lots of artists of Aarktica’s cool post-rock/folky/ambient album. Really great, while Aarktica’s album had this very large atmospheric feel, the remixes are sort of like personal interpretations of the record into 14 individual separate landscapes. Sometimes a bit Boards Of Canada-y. Some more ambient, some more beat-based, some more vocal-based. AND three remixes of an acoustic Danzig’s “Am I Evil?” Fun fact: this dude has a digital “Live at KUCI” EP from 2005.
~ Matt Buga, KUCI

Back in Vital Weekly 703 I discussed ‘In Sea’ by Aarktica and was not blown away by it. It lacked variation mostly, in my opinion. Jon DeRosa, the behind behind Aarktica played guitar, lots of echo and reverb and a bit of singing. I’m not sure why this album needed a remix treatment, perhaps because ‘the material on the original lent itself well to reworking’, and surely its a nice passtime to create remixes. Perhaps it will boast the sales of the original too. Lots of names here of which I never heard, like Planar, Al Qaeda (well, I heard of the other one), Pan, Landing, Ramses II, as well as some I recognized such as Mason Jones, Slicnaton, Remora and Yellow6. Up until the eleventh piece its all fairly ok in terms of remixing. Everybody seems to be emphasizing the ambient structures set forward on the original, sometimes with a bigger role for a guitar, or for effects or for the vocals, but it all makes a pretty decent listening. Not great, not bad, not highly original. The James Duncan remix then takes everything into a whole new territory, with a house based remixed. Totally out of place, but perhaps therefore quite alright. Declining Water, an off-shoot of Hood, has a nice piece for strings, following that, Pan brings in drum machines again. Those three, all at the end, make the right sort of wrong moves: they take the original into a whole new area, which I believe to be the best thing for a remix album. Attract a new audience to your music. Throughout quite an alright compilation, quite pleasant to listen.
~ Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly

This is a really pretty and melancholy record thats in the vein of slow-core and post-rock, sort of like Low. Very delicate strings and piano peppered with vocals here and there to create an atmospheric calming album. fun little fact: member Sacha Galvagna can be heard on the “Up In the Air” soundtrack.
~ Matt Buga, KUCI

This combines elements of post rock, slowcore and shoegaze to create an album worthy of adding to your collection. The recording and mixing of this was intended to “make things sound like they have been recovered from a broken ship” resulting in thirteen tracks of reflective mood with a sinister tone. Another fine release from Silber. Please support this label!!!
~ David Carter, Pins & Cathedral Bells

Carta’s second album finds bandleader Kyle Monday and a supporting sextet of players, most prominently multi-instrumentalist Sacha Galvagna, creating an hourlong work that, like its predecessor, works within a clear tradition of moody, romantically inclined rock-as-atmosphere bands while finding its own space over its 13 tracks. Monday certainly isn’t trying to pretend otherwise — calling a song “The Likeness is Undeniable,” which in its slow moody build into a rock arrangement inevitably suggests bands like Slint and Mogwai, is a clever way of acknowledging the connections, but Carta know that simply repeating one style song for song would not reward multiple listens (or potentially even a first). So for every song like “Who Killed the Clerk?,” which sounds like it could end a big thriller movie, there’s a sweeter, calmer ramble like “Hourglass,” with its shuffling pace and easy grace. As with The Glass Bottom Boat, vocals are few and far between through An Index of Birds, but when they do appear their impact is almost shocking — thus, the lengthy “Descension” may be the slowest build of all throughout the album, but the addition of singing gives a focus that makes the song’s fantastic conclusion all that much more powerful, an arrangement that showcases Monday’s ear for the dramatic at its best. Other songs like “Building Bridges” and the striking “Santander” show Carta’s ability at creating a feeling that’s quietly entrancing instead of dramatically gripping, while “Sidereal” is the closest thing to full-on peppiness on An Index of Birds, following a calmer start with a more energetic conclusion. “Bank of England,” meanwhile, suggests another path for the future, with the electronic beats and filtered textures sounding like nothing so much as Depeche Mode’s darkly powerful Ultra.
~ Ned Raggett, All Music Guide

The classical framework of Sarah June’s guitar playing captures an uncommon style on the enchanting In Black Robes. Her reverbed, child-like vocals and dark lyrics cast light on the shadows of her days in Detroit. Though it’s only her voice and a guitar (except for the jazz infused “Brand of Bitterness), June acheives haunting, un-ignorable pieces regarding the reaper, judgement day, skeletons and dreaming in black & white. There will be no talking when she’s playing live. NONE!
~ Kenyon Hopkin, Advance Copy

A little gothic-tinged Americana folk with pretty unique vocals. Unique as in Joanna Newsom-unique.
~ Matt Buga, KUCI

It’s amazing what someone can do with just an acoustic guitar and a beautiful voice. Case in point, this super great disc released by Silber Records out of Raleigh, NC. Ms. Sarah June’s vocals do sound somewhat like Alison Shaw from the Cranes, but this is definitely an original release with a lot of the songs lyrics being based upon death and loss. Great artwork to boot! For fans of Joanna Newsom, PJ Harvey and Jarboe.
~ David Carter, Pins & Cathedral Bells

The latest disc from NYC’s Aarktica, In Sea showcases a band fully in mastery of a genre. The slow but beautiful ambient sound collages create an atmosphere over which a willing mind may set itself adrift. Aarktica could be the heir apparent to a style of music once championed by Brian Eno and later by bands like Black Tape for a Blue Girl from the Projekt label.
I listened to In Sea recently while driving on a pre-dawn Midwest winter morning. The crystalline sounds coming from the car stereo blended seamlessly with the icy road, frozen fields and leaden skies that revealed themselves as I passed. As the cold sun rose, I felt as though all of life was being washed over by eternal winter. Quite an effect, I assure you. Rarely have I found a band so perfectly named.
Aarktica, since inception in 1998, has primarily been a solo project of multi-instrumentalist Jon De Rosa. Other releases include No Solace in Sleep (1998), the wonderfully titled Or You Could Just Go Through Your Whole Life and Be Happy Anyway, Bliss Out v.18 (2002), Pure Tone Audiometry (2003), and Bleeding Light (2005). It is worth noting that De Rosa began the Aarktica project as a distraction from other musical interests after suffering permanent loss of hearing in one ear. Perhaps because of this, there exists in much of Aarktica’s music a humanity I find missing from the output of most ambient artists.
Like the other Aarktica releases, In Sea is for the most part an instrumental affair. De Rosa seems quite comfortable letting the wonderfully crafted soundscapes do the talking for him. Although he displays a fine voice and knack for vocal melody, the lone vocal on ‘Hollow Earth Theory’ makes this one song seem rather out of its element. But just when you think you’ve got Aarktica figured out, De Rosa manages to trot out an amazing version of Danzig’s ‘Am I Demon?’ as the closer for In Sea. The cold, unforgiving permafrost of Aarktica transforms the song into a beautiful and chilling coda for what is really a sterling effort.
~ Tim Ferguson, Bad Acid

Avec Matchless Years, son précédent album, Aarktica n’avait p
as vraiment convaincu, tout au plus suscité l’étonnement. Dix ans après ses débuts, Jon DeRosa y endossait des atours résolument plus colorés, une parure presque pop, qui lui donnait une silhouette certes agréable mais bien moins troublante que celle de ses jeunes années. C’est donc presque un soulagement d’entamer In Sea avec « I Am (The Ice) » dont les sonorités renouent totalement avec cette mélancolie ralentie, tout en nappes envoûtantes et en échos de guitares tourbillonnants, à laquelle on avait jadis succombé. De nouveau seul aux commandes, l’Américain en profite pour abandonner les arrangements parfois inopportuns de son précédent opus, et enfante une oeuvre aux allures de retour aux sources, mise en abîme de sa propre musique intérieure. Quoi de plus naturel quand on connaît la genèse du projet, puisque c’est au moment où DeRosa perdait l’usage d’une partie de son audition, qu’il se jetait à corps perdu dans Aarktica, comme s’il cherchait à communiquer au monde extérieur, sa perception altérée de l’univers sonore. Bien souvent instrumentales – mais pas exclusivement – ses créations restent trop méconnues, alors qu’elles mériteraient d’être citées comme des références du genre, au même titre que celles de Labradford (à l’écoute d’un titre comme « Corpse Reviver No2 », on ne peut s’empêcher de penser à l’austérité fascinante de leur Stable Reference), Stars Of The Lid ou Windy & Carl. Mais avec ses lumineuses lignes de guitare en apesanteur façon Robin Guthrie, In Sea s’inscrit aussi dans cette tradition douce-amère, que célébraient les premiers Piano Magic ou plus récemment, les disques de July Skies. Son manteau brumeux d’orgue (« LYMZ » ou « A Plague of Frost ») rappelle d’autres pensionnaires du label Silber (Northern Valentine), signe que le retour d’Aarktica au sein du giron new-yorkais n’a rien d’incongru, et installe bien plus encore le groupe comme influence notoire d’une partie de cette scène contemplative. Et si DeRosa soigne ses ambiances, il sait aussi mettre en valeur son agréable timbre vocal : « Hollow Earth Theory » (qui ravive les effets de pistes passées à l’envers datant de l’excellent Pure Tone Audiometry) ou l’incroyable reprise du « Am I Demon ? » de Danzig (à la teinte bien plus inquiétante que l’originale) donnent alors une dimension plus humaine à ses fresques sonores languides. In Sea est un glacier à la dérive, calme et majestueux, massif et fragile à la fois.
~ Arnaud Lemoine, Noise

A mix of indie rock and post rock, that’s what Aarktica offers you on its sixth album In Sea. Since 2000 this band, that revolves around Jon DeRosa, delivers music with a high degree of ambience and picturesque quality. Call it post-modern or avant-garde, Aarktica has a sense of classical experimentalism. Vocals play a modest role on In Sea (only two songs contains lyrics), the emphasis is on delicate instrumental textures. Brittle, dreamy guitar play forms the basis of the tracks on In Sea. It comes forward as drone music on “I am (the ice)”, “In sea”, “Corpse reviver no.2″, “Instill” and “A plague of frost (in the guise of diamonds)”. On “LYMC” a pump organ is brought in for extra effect. “When we’re ghosts”, “Onward!”, “Young light” and, to a lesser extend, “Autumnal” bring in more melodic variations. “Hollow earth theory” is a piece of psychedelic indie rock and the closing track is a placid cover of “Am I demon?”, a 1988 song by the blues rock/metal band Danzig.
~ Gothtronic

I non molti che si fossero imbattuti nei precedenti lavori realizzati, nella sua decennale attività sotto l’alias Aarktica, dal newyorkese John DeRosa forse già conoscono l’aneddoto preliminare al suo avvicinamento a una creazione artistica incentrata su toni, onde e oscillazioni collocate in un territorio liminare tra vista e udito. La peculiare sinestesia della musica di DeRosa deriva infatti dall’improvvisa sordità che nel 1999 lo ha colpito all’orecchio destro: da allora DeRosa ha pubblicato cinque album nei quali, con il saltuario ausilio di vari collaboratori, ha sviluppato un proprio percorso a cavallo tra drone ambientali, pop atmosferico e sporadiche incursioni in affini territori wave-shoegaze.
Nonostante la sigla Aarktica si sia quasi sempre associata a opere di buona qualità (da ricordare in particolare il primo album “No Solace In Sleep” e il successivo Ep “Morning One”), per uno di quegli strani casi che spesso capitano in ambiti musicali sotterranei, non è mai assurta a un livello di considerazione paragonabile, ad esempio, a quello degli Stars Of The Lid o di Windy & Carl.
Nelle loro varie sfumature, infatti, i dischi di DeRosa non sono poi stati mai molto distanti dalle sonorità di casa Kranky, alle quali con il suo sesto “In Sea” si riaccosta con decisione, dopo le non del tutto convincenti divagazioni in chiave sintetica del precedente “Matchless Years”.
DeRosa ritrova qui l’essenza più pura e personale della sua ispirazione, attraverso l’utilizzo soltanto delle chitarre e del suo antico organo a pompa Bilhorn, più che sufficienti, tuttavia, ad offrire un saggio ad ampio spettro di glaciali sinfonie ambientali, schegge di canzoni dal sapore sognante e inafferrabili ondulazioni, che traducono in maniera compiuta la tematica “liquida” concettualmente sottesa al lavoro.
Nel corso dei cinquantasei minuti di “In Sea”, drone di organo si fondono con toni e riverberi chitarristici policromi, in una serie di combinazioni ben più ricche di quanto la semplice strumentazione utilizzata potrebbe lasciare presagire. Dalle solenni dilatazioni percorse da distorsioni circolari dell’iniziale “I Am (The Ice)” alle calde tonalità di “Onward” e “Young Light”, fino alla tenebrosa uniformità di “Autumnal” e “Instill”, DeRosa passa in rassegna le diverse sfumature di una musica al tempo stesso incantata come il ghiaccio e in incessante movimento tra correnti di modulazioni e distorsioni, ora esili ora decisamente più concrete. La persistenza impalpabile della concezione di musica ambientale dell’artista newyorkese trova poi sublimazione nell’omaggio a LaMonte Young e Marian Zazeela (suoi maestri nei tempi immediatamente successivi alla sua menomazione fisica) di “LYMZ” e nella lunga elegia “A Plague Of Frost (In The Guise Of Diamonds)”, frutto, al pari di “Corpse Reviver No. 2″, di una tecnica casalinga di registrazione in bassa fedeltà a velocità doppia rispetto a quella di esecuzione (tecnica già presente nei dischi di Aarktica fin dal primo “No Solace In Sleep”).
In parallelo con gli aspetti più dilatati e sperimentali del lavoro, non implicano tuttavia la rinuncia da parte di DeRosa alla sua vena melodica, riscontrabile anche in gran parte dei brani strumentali ed espressa in due vere e proprie canzoni – “Hollow Earth Theory” e la delicatissima cover dei Danzig “Am I Demon” – nelle quali si manifestano altresì compiutamente pennellate oscure e dense di sentori shoegaze, rielaborati al tempo del digitale.
È questa versatilità, peraltro comune a quasi tutti i dischi di Aarktica, a fare di “In Sea” un album dalle tante sfaccettature, che descrive con raffinato sguardo da regista onde ghiacciate, reali e figurate, avvolte in tiepido bozzolo sonoro di espansa e multiforme intensità.
~ Raffaello Russo, Onda Rock

Ambient and shoegaze music is tricky to review. How can you really do justice to a genre that by its very nature isn’t meant to even distract you from day to day life? Throw avant-garde into the mix and you’re left thinking that if you don’t like the album, maybe it’s an extremely surreal and complex joke on you after all.
Luckily for Vlor’s new long player Six-Winged the job is largely done for you, as in the space of forty-six minutes you get everything good and bad about ambient, shoegaze and avant-garde wrapped up into one. On the negative side, many of the brief songs are half-finished ideas and some of them, like the utterly pointless ‘Tolerate The Wicked,’ seem to go literally nowhere befor
e just ending abruptly. On the positive side, the album barrels through sixteen tracks across its runtime, which means even the weaker songs don’t tend to overstay their welcome – and what’s more, the better ambient pieces, like the dreamy ‘Without Blame’, are constantly in some kind of sinister motion, never destined to become just wallpaper. At times, the album just forgets its source material entirely and goes mental, as on the demented ‘Watch Me Bleed’, which sounds like a Stooges outtake. Brilliant closer ‘I Have Left Home (reprise)’ meanwhile is some kind of major-key battle between REM and Mogwai that ends things on a truly majestic note.
At the end of the day Six-Winged is simply a bemusing experience, a schizophrenic Frankenstein’s monster that would be difficult for anyone but the most eclectic to truly love. However anyone who appreciates an MP3 player’s shuffle function will get a lot out of it by choosing their favourite songs.
~ Gaz Hughes, Rock Midgets

This release of “post rock, slow core and indie ambient” is quite good indeed. The band is made up of a virtual cornucopia of established musicians from such groups as: Remora, Aarktica, 6PM, Goddakk, Rollerball, Infant Cycle and Electric Bird Noise among others. Sixteen tracks of pure bliss on Silber Records.
~ David Carter, Pins & Cathedral Bells

Il progetto Remora è attivo fin dal 1996, ma era dal 2005 che l’eclettico Brian John Mitchell non pubblicava un full lenght.
La band, nel corso degli anni, si è cimentata in vari generi e sperimentazioni – compreso un EP a cappella, “Songs I Sing” -, ma questo nuovo lavoro – interamente strumentale – presenta un mood nettamente unidirezionale, incentrato su ipnotici loop dalle spiccate venature ambient, drone e psichedeliche, molto suggestivi, anche se a tratti alquanto statici.
“Derivative” è come un viaggio a senso unico in una landa desolata e onirica di suoni lenti e cadenzati, dai tratti oscuri ed evocativi, di piacevole ascolto, pur se caratterizzato da una certa piattezza di fondo, nella quale nessun brano prevale sull’altro, ma tutti si snodano, eterei, come un’unica, lunga traccia di suggestiva monotonia.
Alcuni brani sanno davvero ipnotizzare, come l’allucinata “Why Did You See There?”, i cui robotici loop chitarristici conducono per mano l’ascoltatore in una dimensione parallela di tetri, lisergici incubi. In definitiva, un buon ascolto.
~ Alone Music

The biggest group of comics in the bunch was the “Lost Kisses” collection, which is a DVD containing ten issues of the comic as well as a ‘making of’ issue where Brian describes the creation process.  In going through all of the issues, this title has actually eme4rged as my favorite, because it’s so personal and raw.  Each issue sees Mitchell examining an aspect of himself in a sometimes humorous, sometimes depressing manner.  He talks frankly and openly about past loves, addiction,  and feeling lost and uninspired.  The stick figure drawings are a perfect match for the tone of the comics, as they leave the focus on the story.
~ Brian LeTendre, Secret Identity Podcast

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