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. While the band has gone in many directions and encompassed many collaborators, it has remained consistent throughout what has been a focus on beautiful, disorienting sound. In Sea sees DeRosa working solo with just guitar and Bilhorn Telescopic Pump Organ and returning largely to the wordless ambience of 2000’s No Solace in Sleep with stunning results.
Here DeRosa only sings twice, on the lovely “Hollow Earth Theory” and the calm cover of Danzig’s “Am I Demon?” that closes the album; the rest of the time, the listener is set adrift in seemingly endless fields and sheets of gentle sound. Despite the small selection of instruments and techniques DeRosa draws on, he proves adept at conveying a wide range of emotions, from the optimism of “Young Light” to the distorted regret of “When We’re Ghosts” to the calm of “LYMZ”.
To really get the subtlety and appeal of Aarktica’s music, you have to dive into In Sea as a whole. In a genre where so much of the music is disposable-but-pleasant wallpaper, DeRosa deserves to stand with the aforementioned, more well-known bands. That an album of echoing, overlapping guitar tones and peaceful organ drones can take you on as compelling a journey as Aarktica does here is something to be cherished. The result is so impressive it’s tempting to say that DeRosa probably won’t top In Sea and the way it perfectly encapsulates what’s great about his music. Even if he never does, this album is the kind of pinnacle to be proud of.