Aarktica – No Solace in Sleep

Aarktica
No Solace in Sleep

I’ve always been intrigued by the concept of dying in the cold. Perhaps since reading To Light a Fire in grade school, the intricacies of being so cold that your body literally stops moving, internally and externally, has fascinated me. They say it’s like going to sleep, calm and peaceful, and the cold goes away. Not that I ever intend to try it, but I’ve wondered what those last moments feel like, when you no longer worry about finding warmth and embrace the cold. Aarktica sounds like the soundtrack to that experience.

No Solace in Sleep is the first release by Jon DeRosa, a music technology major at NYU, guitarist for the melodic pop band Flare and also a member of the indie folk band The Dead Leaves Rising. Aarktica is a side project of his, an experimental project that proposes to set the stage for continued sonic innovation, to break down the expectations of what something should sound like.

If such is DeRosa’s goal, I’d say he’s moving in the right direction. For nothing here is really quite what you would expect from his previous work. Rather, No Solace in Sleep, despite being separated into eight tracks, almost seems to be one long drone or one long sound wave. This is evident on the first 13-plus-minute track, entitled “Glacia.” It’s a very light wash of sound, slowly waxing and waning, a sort of subtle sonic wave that moves about as fast as a glacier. Rather than coldness, this sound, this experimental noise, seems to exude warmth and comfort. Very light guitar and drums can be heard on “Indie,” which takes on a much more melodious structure. There’s a much more orchestrated and subtly melancholy sound to “Elena,” while “You Have Cured a Million Ghosts From Roaming in My Head” takes on a less ambient feel, even leaning a bit toward the softer side of a band like Mogwai. “Inebria” picks up where “Glacia” leaves off, having a white noise effect for another 10 minutes. “Welcome Home” has a melodic Tristeza-esque feel to it, a nicely flowing instrumental that puts more focus on the guitars. And the closer, “I Remember Life Above the Surface,” finishes like the album started, only this song makes me feel cold and lonely, a bitterly chilling sonic wash of sound.

Kurt Ralske, mastermind behind the band Ultra Vivid Scene, recorded an album entitled Kyrie Eleison that consisted entirely of soft, comforting drones of sound completely created on a computer. It had the feel of a comforting wash of soft noise, as does Aarktica. But while Ralske was turning away from conventional instrumentation, DeRosa uses guitars and other instruments as well as keyboards and computers to create his noises. Hints of low, moaning strings can be heard now and then, as can the light almost tinkle of bells, the subtle strum of a guitar and the distant echo of a drum. But nothing sounds like you think it should, and that, I assume, is DeRosa’s point.

No Solace in Sleep ends up being a long, sleep-inducing work that is extremely difficult to listen to at times. It is not a conscious album but rather a subconscious work, best appreciated with the lights off and accompanying the thoughts in your own head. If DeRosa is intending to push the limits of experimental sonic instrumentation, I don’t think he really has. For I would expect such an experiment to be harsh and unyielding, while No Solace in Sleep is comforting and hauntingly beautiful. This is what I would want to hear while relinquishing those last moments of life to sleep.