Aarktica: Paeans (Digital)

Product Description

1. A Leaf’s Prayer
2. Arcturan Transmission
3. Morning Chorus
4. Golden Hour at Pyramid House
5. Elegiac
6. Sky Family

Exposé "…peaceful, introspective, and meditative, with the ambient guitars and loops mingling with the strings to create an intense floating, shimmering tapestry of color, luminance and shadows… Adjectives like warm, graceful, elegant, and intuitive go far to describe the feelings that these pieces express to the listener." -Peter Thelen

Genre: Ambient, Indie Rock
RIYL: Stars of the Lid, Eluvium, Windy and Carl, Harold Budd, Black Tape For A Blue Girl

Alan Sparhawk, vocalist/guitarist of the band Low, recently described Aarktica as “a beautiful and dynamic ride between ambient electric symphony and intimate human song.”

Aarktica’s latest release in a career dating back to 1999 is an album of hushed, glacially-paced guitar atmospheres, crystalline textures and vocal-less, almost hymnal meditations complemented by soaring strings. It’s 43 minutes of ambient guitar washes and celestial sweeping tapestries, both achingly visceral and softly stirring.

Paeans inspired me to get back to a very quiet, very clear place inside and tune out the part of my brain that tends to overthink,” says Jon DeRosa, who has created 11 albums as Aarktica. “There’s an honesty and authenticity that exists in there. And getting back to working with just the guitar in a more ambient style allowed me to do this.”

“I told my brain it could turn back on later,” DeRosa laughs, “But capturing those first melodies and atmospheres from that quiet inner place, without the head noise, felt really important, like they were natural transmissions. It brought back a lot of memories of how I made my first albums. A bit of that intimacy, trust, optimism, and joy, really.”

Stylistically, Paeans is a welcome homecoming for Aarktica, an artist known for being sonically adventurous, incorporating influences of shoegaze, raga, electronic and indie rock into their sound over the course of their career. Even Aarktica’s 2022 album We Will Find the Light (Darla Records) presented a diverse blend of atmospheric folk, ambient guitars, plaintive vocals, and minimalist string arrangements into a darkly uplifting collection of songs.

Karen Vogt at “Lost, Found, and Lost Again” radio show: “Paeans is a sumptuously meditative album that is heart warming, yet elegant. It somehow manages to express aching and longing, while still being soothing and deeply comforting.”

Now on Paeans, DeRosa presents a collection of hushed, glacially-paced guitar atmospheres, crystalline textures and vocal-less, almost hymnal meditations that celebrate both terrestrial and extraterrestrial themes. And as is characteristic of Aarktica, DeRosa accomplishes this with the use of guitars and organic instruments as opposed to synthesizers and keyboards. The main addition here are the orchestral strings of cellist/violist Henrik Meierkord.

“When I began composing the songs for Paeans, each of them started with some kind of skeletal guitar melody or processed guitar loop I built upon. I wanted to keep these songs sparse and minimal, but they were in need of another color, another texture,” says DeRosa. “So I reached out to Henrik, and he provided an array of possibilities. I was able to arrange and edit his strings while forging the shapes of these compositions, and in doing so there was a seamless interaction. They blended beautifully.”

Paeans refers to “songs of praise” and was a deliberate choice of title for DeRosa, who composed these songs in between his work in the fields of somatic healing as well as shamanic healing.

“I found myself emerging from these profound experiences, these changes in consciousness, that offer me the privilege to fully see glimpses of the beauty and true nature of many things that I’m typically not able to express in words. For me, the songs on Paeans are wordless prayers and songs of awe. For the majesty of nature, for the peace and silence we find when we go truly inward, for the infinite beauty that exists all around us. These songs emerged when I began to really meditate on these things in a profound way.”

+ Paeans is the first entirely instrumental Aarktica album since the 2000 debut No Solace in Sleep
+ Follows on the heels of 2022’s We Will Find the Light (Darla Records)
+ Jon DeRosa is also the vocalist in Black Tape for a Blue Girl
+ Aarktica called “Best New Music” by NPR, fall 2022

All songs by Jon DeRosa (p) Glacia Music Publishing (BMI). Recorded at Glacia Home Studio, Los Angeles, California, June 2022 – November 2022. Mixed and produced by Lewis Pesacov at Ahata Sound, Los Angeles, CA, November 2022. Mastered by Taylor Deupree at 12K Mastering, Pound Ridge, NY.

Jon DeRosa: Guitar
Henrik Meierkord: Cello and Viola

Projekt release: May 5 2023

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  1. Reviews Editor

    Audion #75

    The ambient project of one Jon DeRosa, who has been making music under this name since 1998, with some 15 releases documented on his web pages. In that it largely features cascading guitar patterns and sustained synth/keyboard pads, along with swirly washes of glissandi and reverbed synthetic tones, the mood is all somewhat like very early Bernard Xolotl recordings, with touches of other things mixed-in. For instance the glissandi element recalls Steve Hillage’s Rainbow Dome Music and Chas Smith’s Nakadai, whereas the use of rotating melodic elements recall some of the gentler Fripp & Eno numbers, or Brian Eno himself, particularly where occasional piano notes feature, and with some such tones subjected to the same sort of combined reverb with pitch bending. Actually, a lot of this is way too grandiose and majestic in feel to be truly ambient, in that it grabs the attention rather than being aural wallpaper. Also, especially in track 5 Elegiac, the underlying mood is also often somewhat akin to the pensive lulls in many of Godspeed You Black Emperor’s dark symphonies.

    So, it’s ambient that’s not really ambient, or new age that’s not new age. Paeans has a purpose behind each of its six tracks, all of them carefully composed, thus different and not the usual wafty aimless drone layers one often gets in such music. -Alan Freeman

  2. Reviews Editor

    From Exposé

    Paeans: hymns of praise, especially ones sung in ancient Greece to invoke or thank a deity. Aarktica is the solo ambient / atmospheric vehicle of Jon DeRosa, who is also a member of Black Tape for a Blue Girl, and though through the years Aarktica has taken on a number of different styles, from post-rock to ambient to dream-pop to shoegaze, often with vocals, Paeans is the first album since the 2000 debut No Solace in Sleep to be entirely instrumental. Often in past endeavors DeRosa has brought in guest players to join on this track or that, often on entire albums, and for Paeans that guest is violist / cellist Henrik Meierkord, while DeRosa plays guitars, loops, and effects exclusively — no keyboards or synthesizers here. The sound throughout the album’s six tracks is peaceful, introspective, and meditative, with the ambient guitars and loops mingling with the strings to create an intense floating, shimmering tapestry of color, luminance and shadows. There’s no mystery that the foundation of the music is guitar based, especially at times when the dreamy loops subside and the guitars clearly define themselves as such, as on “Arcturan Transmission,” though on other pieces like “Golden Hour at Pyramid House” the textural ebbs and swells are pretty much unique to the guitar as well, and DeRosa has done a splendid job composing and arranging these pieces, with Meierkord’s string contributions being essential to the album as a whole. Adjectives like warm, graceful, elegant, and intuitive go far to describe the feelings that these pieces express to the listener, but as gentle and relaxed as they tend to be, this music won’t put you to sleep. -Peter Thelen

  3. Reviews Editor

    From Muse Anima

    Sweet introductions. A constant sensation of floating under the surface of the ocean and mixing, in our mind, the visions of light and our imagination. Paeans is a rare work. Of those who, as soon as they take hold of you, take you where you have never been. There is always something organic, something tangible. A skin, a hand, the texture of the body and materials that we had never discovered. Aarktica likes to explore them, over the course of its opuses. Not being satisfied with repetitive harmonies but, on the contrary, making them move in their very essence. Listening is active, constantly on the lookout for what will differentiate one measure from the following. An unreal tone, a transition whose clarity becomes evident.

    The precise and conscientious work of Jon DeRosa gives birth to an album where guitar and ethereal sounds seek each other ever more intensely. Sometimes, agile and affectionate strings come to mingle with the intimate ballet of the elements. To listen to Paeans is to observe, around us, the molecules of the air, the pollens of unknown flowers, the dust of existence, the ashes of history. From dawn to dusk, the disc draws the landscapes and creatures of a world resembling ours, without however espousing its restricted functioning. To ecstasy rather than engrave what is. Exposing the invisible. Aarktica carries out this moving mission with wisdom and a rare science of sensitivity. -Raphael Duprez

    Original French:
    De douces introductions. Une sensation constante de flotter sous la surface de l’océan et de mêler, dans notre esprit, les visions de la lumière et notre imagination. Paeans est une œuvre rare. De celles qui, dès qu’elles s’emparent de vous, vous entraînent là où vous n’êtes jamais allés. Il y a constamment quelque chose d’organique, de palpable. Une peau, une main, la texture de corps et de matières que nous n’avions jamais découvertes. Aarktica aime les explorer, au fil de ses opus. Ne pas se contenter d’harmonies répétitives mais, à l’opposé, les faire se mouvoir dans leur essence même. L’écoute est active, constamment à l’affût de ce qui différenciera une mesure des suivantes. Une tonalité irréelle, une transition dont la clarté se mue en évidence.

    Le travail précis et consciencieux de Jon DeRosa donne naissance à un album où la guitare et les sons éthérés se cherchent toujours plus intensément. Quelquefois, des cordes agiles et affectueuses viennent se mêler au ballet intime des éléments. Écouter Paeans, c’est observer, autour de nous, les molécules de l’air, les pollens de fleurs inconnues, les poussières de l’existence, les cendres de l’histoire. D’aubes en crépuscules, le disque dessine les paysages et créatures d’un monde ressemblant au nôtre, sans pour autant en épouser le fonctionnement restreint. Extasier plutôt que graver ce qui est. Exposer l’invisible. Aarktica mène cette émouvante mission avec sagesse et une science rare de la sensibilité. -Raphael Duprez

  4. Reviews Editor

    From York Calling UK.
    By Jane Howkins. Aarktica is an ambient/atmospheric project created by American composer Jon DeRosa, with Elegiac coming from his latest album Paeans. Elegiac is stunningly beautiful, featuring a slew of atmospheric synths and strings in the background, as the track builds up over time. A slow guitar melody is added after a while, weaving its way in and out of the music in a lovely way. The song is actually rather beautiful at times, showing just how skilled this composer really is! It’s quite a subtle piece of work, and it won’t be for everyone, but those who like their music on the more experimental end of things should take a listen to Elegiac.

  5. Reviews Editor

    From Last Day Deaf

    Jon DeRosa, the mastermind behind the ambient/atmospheric project Aarktica, has been captivating listeners with his diverse musical catalog since 1998. Collaborating with a rotating lineup of talented musicians, DeRosa recently released the mesmerizing album Paeans through the esteemed label Projekt. Among the standout tracks on this album, Elegiac truly shines: True to its name, it embarks on an epic sonic odyssey, seamlessly blending elements of cinematic, ambient, post rock, and neoclassical music. Adding to the grandeur of the composition, Henrik Meierkord’s skillful orchestral cello playing enhances the emotional depth.

    As you delve into this epic and melancholic composition, reminiscent of Labradford’s magnetic album Mi Media Naranja (Kranky, 1997), prepare for a profound and introspective musical journey.

  6. Reviews Editor

    From Dusted

    One of the most distinct and striking things about Jon DeRosa’s work as Aarktica has always been the way he blends more ‘pure’ ambient material with songs, both his own and others (everyone from Danzig to Peruvian shamanic songwriter Artur Mena). The new Paeans actually marks the first Aarktica LP without DeRosa’s vocals since his debut, 2000’s No Solace for Sleep. Coming on the heels of last year’s magnificent We Will Find the Light, this record could have just felt like a post-banquet digestif, but instead it’s a reminder of the beautiful, clear atmospheres DeRosa can make with just his guitar (here ably assisted by Henrik Meierkord on cello and viola). Whether it’s going Ashra-stratospheric on “Arcturan Transmission” or drifting towards Stars of the Lid on “Golden Hour at Pyramid House,” the result is a reminder of how vital his ambient work is. -Ian Mathers

  7. Reviews Editor

    From Opus Zine

    Aarktica’s eleventh album is characterized by a peaceful, contemplative interplay between guitar, cello, and viola.

    The title of Aarktica’s latest album refers to songs of praise or triumph. That might lead one to think that these six instrumentals are loud and bombastic in nature. Of course, if you’ve been following Jon DeRosa’s music at all over the last twenty-odd years, then you’d know that’s most likely not the case. His drone-oriented compositions under the Aarktica moniker can certainly be powerful and overwhelming — I still remember the first time I heard 2000’s No Solace In Sleep, and just how harrowing it was — but bombastic or over-the-top? Never.

    Still, there is something triumphant about “Morning Chorus,” even with its sedate and contemplative nature. Or perhaps because of it. For nine-and-a-half minutes, DeRosa’s swelling drones and shimmering notes — around which Henrik Meierkord’s string arrangements drift and swirl — create a mood of supreme peace, the perfect mindset with which to greet the dawning sun as it breaks over the horizon. Although “Morning Chorus” contains no field recordings of any kind, you can practically hear nature welcoming (praising, even) a new day full of promise and possibility. (DeRosa’s training in somatic healing and therapy undoubtedly influenced the mood here.)

    Indeed, all of Paeans’ 42 minutes tap into a similar vibe, sonically and aesthetically, thanks to the gentle-yet-deliberate interplay between DeRosa’s guitar and Meierkord’s cello and viola à la Stars of the Lid and A Winged Victory for the Sullen.

    The aptly titled “Golden Hour at Pyramid House” conjures up a similarly contemplative mood that pairs well with the album’s cover photo, which depicts a wooded area glimpsed through a window, the entire scene suffused with warm, golden light. As per its title, “Elegiac” adopts a slightly darker tone. One that’s well-suited to an evening spent flipping through dusty old photos and mementos, particularly when DeRosa wrings a few well-placed melodic fragments from his six-string.

    Aarktica has certainly come a long way since No Solace In Sleep, with a catalog that now contains eleven albums plus numerous EPs, collaborations, and compilation appearances. (And that’s to say nothing of DeRosa’s other musical projects, including Dead Leaves Rising and Pale Horse and Rider.) While reviewing Paeans, I gave No Solace In Sleep a spin, if only to gain a bit more context for DeRosa’s latest. Aarktica’s debut remains a good deal more ominous and intense on songs like “The Ice (Feels Three Feet Thick Between Us)” and “I Remember Life Above the Surface.”

    That makes it an interesting sonic counterpart for Paeans, and serves as proof that DeRosa’s knack for creating emotional soundscapes has not diminished one bit during the intervening years. -Jason Morehead

  8. Reviews Editor

    From Tome to the Weather Machine

    We’ve been fans of Jon DeRosa’s expansive Aarktica project almost since the beginning of the Tome. Expanding on his guitar-based ambient work “Sky Family” from the album Paeans, is a further shift into DeRosa’s “deep, meditative sounds for cosmic journeys.’ “Sky Family” is well suited for that journey. Plenty of spacious drones, resonant tonal shifts and poignant stray melodies that ebb and flow in time with universal breath. -Ryan Hall

  9. Reviews Editor

    From Lost, Found, and Lost Again

    Paeans is a sumptuously meditative album that is heart warming, yet elegant. It somehow manages to express aching and longing, while still being soothing and deeply comforting. -Karen Vogt

  10. Reviews Editor

    From Indie Tapes

    Jon DeRosa aka Aarktica is no stranger to IndieTapes. A couple of months ago, we shared his beautiful ambient track ‘Like Embers’ with you, and his latest release, ‘Sky Family’ is another fantastic addition to our playlist. I really like the atmospheric, dreamy, and slightly dark guitar textures this 6-minute instrumental piece has to offer. If you dig it, feel free to listen to the full album Paeans on Spotify. It’s worth it! -Adrian

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