Aarktica's third full-length release, from March 2003.
"...I always get distracted by the lush, diffuse tones at the conclusion of "Out to Sea". The track opens Pure Tone Audiometry with a delicate, Magnetic Fields-ish male/female vocal dynamic between DeRosa and Lorraine Lelis, as they sweetly harmonize over the romantic notions of being lost at sea and never again seeing home. Before long, the voices become lost in the hazy ambiance completely, and the experimental pop is vaporized; only Lelis' seraphic call remains to try and navigate the listener through the droning fog. Eventually, even the music itself vanishes.
DeRosa's arrangements are intensely careful and subdued, and never once does he allow his deliberately constructed tranquility to be disturbed. The few real swells of emotion are thrilling, but momentary; such an austere, clinical tone is produced that it sometimes becomes stultifying, although I'm not sure emotive response is the aim here. Aarktica is cold, pure, and almost inescapably tranquil.
"Snowstorm Ruins Birthday" revisits the vapor that lingers from "Out to Sea". There was music here, but now only traces remain, surrounding the listener in a wintry mist of component sounds, atomic gray noise, a touching (but still distant) pop melody dissolved into its basic elements. Slowly, song structures reform; DeRosa's wispy vocals return alongside Lelis' stunning accompaniment, triumphantly welling up from miles beneath the faintly reverberating electric and simple acoustic plucking in "Ocean"'s beautiful climax. "Big Year" explores the darker regions of Aarktica's ethereal shoegazing like a slightly cheerier version of Projekt-based ambient artists Lycia; the listener is inexorably pulled deeper into the track's echoing maze of acoustics, subtly ominous drones, and trembling strings.
Until... total silence?
No, wait. Not total. DeRosa slipped up; "Water Wakes Dead Cells" is a five-minute foray into ultra-minimalist drone, just a rhythmic pulse wrapped in a barely audible hum, before eventually bowing out completely. The sheer vacancy of what amounts to little more than empty space is pretty unnecessary, and though it's anything but jarring, it still stands out as a glaring hole in an otherwise pristine calm. As a breather before "Williamsburg Counterpoint", Pure Tone Audiometry's twelve-minute centerpiece, "Water Wakes Dead Cells" is briefly very effective. By the halfway point, though, the album's hypnotic spell has been broken-- it served as an anticlimactic pause, but after a few minutes, it just seems like a good time to get a drink, to make my escape.
Ah, who am I kidding? Aarktica's attempt to pacify and control his audience into a narcotized lull is good but not perfect. Of course, it's too late for me, but at least you've been warned. Jon DeRosa is a madman! He wants to control the world with his beautiful, antiseptic melodies! He's nearly succeeded yet again! Tell the world before it's too late!" - Eric Carr, Pitchfork