erasing clouds

Aarktica, Bleeding Light

reviewed by dave heaton

On Bleeding Light, Aarktica takes urban loneliness and forms it into an album-length wave, like an impressionistic version of Sinatra's In the Wee Small Hours. All of the recordings that Jon DeRosa has made as Aarktica in the past have used sadness and longing to birth gorgeous sonic clouds that float between pop music and experimental exploration; Bleeding Light does so even more successfully than the others. While feeling more experimental, it also feels more intimate. For such a gentle, pretty album, it's also quite raw, filled with emotion. It's an album that often feels like the musical embodiment of one person's thoughts, the soundtrack to what's going on inside one mind.

Aarktica's contribution to last year's Fuzzy Boombox v.2 compilation was called "Raga for the Pale Blue Lights," and stylistically it wore its title well. But that title could work for much of this album, too. Several songs are clearly influenced by Indian ragas, and incorporate those forms quite naturally into Aarktica's style of ambient pop. Free jazz is a factor too, with DeRosa joined by ex-members of the Anthony Braxton Ensemble. An exploratory feeling and meditative quality are something shared by ragas, jazz and electronic soundscapes; Bleeding Light lives at that crossroads. The album is mostly instrumental, and most of the times that DeRosa sings he uses his voices for mantras rather than verses or choruses.

The way the music swirls and repeats, plus recurring allusions to the sea and to New York City, drive home the feeling of being lost. The album's final sentiment is that we all feel like this - "every one of us is lost in our own way." But that's not presented as a hopeful thought, really; it's as loaded with confusion and sadness as the rest of the album, from the first track "Depression Modern" onward. Often the loneliest music is also the most invigorating, though, and that's certainly true here. Aarktica's Bleeding Light is an intimate epic which takes raw feelings and lets the music flow naturally from them. It's a genuinely exciting album, one that matches emotion with experimentation in powerful ways.


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