As 2001 extended itself under the nascent gleam of a new millennium, Brooklyn musician Jon DeRosa, under his artistic alias Aarktica, journeyed into the fleeting realms of shoegaze ballads and ethereal guitar musings. The once-elusive Morning One has found rebirth, now resplendent in a finely composed, expanded edition.
Jon DeRosa had, in his indomitable fashion, set the stage for his contemporaries. Morning One brimmed with emotion and a touch of the blues, yet shone like a beacon. If one’s heart didn’t flutter at its minimal grace, one had to wonder if it ever fluttered at all. Aarktica deftly heightened the intricacy, drawing one into a web of anticipation while sidestepping the pitfall of mere noise or pompous display. Each element — from the piercing chime of a glockenspiel, to a voice-over that seemed to have walked straight out of a tragic romance, to the sedate drift of a glacial guitar — held a gravitas and poignant depth.
In addition to the re-release of this masterwork, three more hitherto concealed tracks emerge, offering intimate insights into the embryonic shifts of Aarktica’s hallmark sound—a seamless melding of “beautiful noise” with understated guitar resonances. Released not long after their inaugural work, No Solace in Sleep (2000), Morning One serves as a beacon, highlighting Aarktica’s metamorphosis from pure guitar ambience to the atmospheric drone-pop amalgam that would become their signature.
“In many ways Morning One is the ‘missing link’ in the catalogue,” says DeRosa. “It’s an important release for me, a transitional release, from a time when I was really feeling out what I wanted Aarktica to become. I was influenced by bands like Flying Saucer Attack, Slowdive and Mogwai, but I was also a composition student studying Indian classical music with La Monte Young and becoming more interested in how to create ambient textures in a compositional way. I was listening to composers like Ingram Marshall and was so in awe of his ability to bridge the ambient/electronic world into that of modern classical. And in much the same way, I was listening to bands like Godspeed You Black Emperor! who were doing very much the same but in reverse.”
These influences are noticeable on the unreleased bonus track “Drone on a Theme By Thomas Tallis,” a response to Vaughan Williams’ “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis.” This fuzzy and noisy interpretation of the original Tallis melody develops through layered, overdriven electric guitars creating tone clouds and layered drones with hints of the harmonic structure peeking through.
In the evocatively titled “(Less Than or Equal To) 23,” DeRosa weaves sampled vocals with the ethereal strands of piano, glockenspiel, and subdued guitar. Conversely, on “Morning One,” he presents a meticulously crafted “duo for strings” employing sustained electric guitars that, intriguingly, resonate with the timbre of organs, lending an otherworldly buoyancy. Yet, standing resplendent is the opening piece “These Days Fail To Bring Me Near,” a radiant exemplar of Aarktica’s songwriting prowess. This ethereal psych-shoegaze ballad marks a seminal moment in their oeuvre as the premier song to be graced by vocals. An accompanying gem from 2002 is a reimagining by Aaron Spectre, known in the electronic sphere as Drumcorps. This version beckons with a sultry, slowed tempo, melding darkly rhythmic pulses with the percussive charm of a hammered dulcimer.
“When I think back, I remember Morning One introduced Aarktica to John Peel,” muses DeRosa. “It originally came out on a UK label. It reached him, and I remember the delight in tuning into the BBC via the internet one afternoon (a very novel thing at the time) and hearing his praise for ‘These Days Fail…’ before playing it.”
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