Jon DeRosa has been creating albums under the name Aarktica for over half a decade now. Bleeding Light is his fourth full-length release under that guise (he's also released alt-country albums under the name Horse And Rider), and like his previous efforts shows a slight change of styles that will surely interest new fans and possibly cause some people who have heard his music before to scratch their heads a bit.
I was talking to a friend about the music of Aarktica and threw out the term "drone pop" after which we both had a bit of a chuckle (simply because the terms seem like the exact opposite of one another), but in all honesty it's one of the best explanations of the kind of musical worlds that DeRosa creates. While his excellent Darla Bliss-Out release ...Or You Could Just Go Through Your Whole Life And Be Happy Anyway seemed to experiment more with rhythms and slighty more typical song structures, his last release Pure Tone Audiometry stripped back many of those layers once again.
Bleeding Light incorporates many of the elements from past releases, as well as bringing in a whole new semi-dissonant free jazz feel to some tracks that help make the release easily the most challenging one from DeRosa. While he's always taken his time and stretched things out, Bleeding Light pushes the average track length out to well over six minutes, and backed by ensembles of horns, strings, and percussion, the album alternates between sounding like the most lush thing that DeRosa has done and the most stripped-down.
"Depression Modern" opens the release and gives the listener a good idea of what they're in for with an almost dirging build of horns, single note bass strikes, backwards guitar loops, brushed percussion and layers of filtered vocals. The track builds a sense of dread by slowly adding uneasy layers and then winding down before providing any sort of resolution. "OJ Gude" follows, and while it feels a bit more light with a brighter guitar melody, it's also content to linger in the shadows with static-filled rhythmic programming and dense layers of drones and vocals.
From there, the album really slows down as "A Shadow Knife (Draws The Bleeding Light)" stretches out to over eight minutes with sparse guitar drones and horns before piling on some electronic programming and building harshness towards the end while "Twilght Insects" is another track of densely-layered filtered vocal and guitar drones that is content to seriously drift. The album-titled "Bleeding Light" is the longest track on the entire release and also one of the most successful, drawing on North Indian instrumental elements and a slowly-progressing (but quite heavy) rhythmic backing to build the track from quiet to dense and loud over the course of nine excellent minutes.
On first listen, Bleeding Light didn't do very much for me, but like DeRosa's earlier releases it grew on me with multiple listens. More than any of his other releases, it requires more of a proper listening environment as well, simply because it works in different ways than his other albums. It's much more uneasy listening at times, and although it presents some great new ideas, it also feels like a transitional release in which those ideas are still being integrated fully into his overall sound.