CR Hougaard tries to show us “the charm in the weird and scary” on his new release, Aethereal, using synthesizer, guitars, and effects pedals “altered by an old tape recorder.” He manages to get the weird and scary part down, but finding charm in this mix of noise will be a matter of individual taste. If you’re not amenable to noise, you may be put off by the clatter and screech of the 15-minute opener, “Eine: Reise ans Ende des Verstandes.” To his credit, Hougaard creates a distinct atmosphere, loaded to the brim with grim uncertainty and a touch of claustrophobia. But it’s a long ride to take and a lot of sonic debris to get through–again, if you’re not among those who appreciate the heavily experimental stuff. I find myself skimming through the first several tracks until I come to the other long piece here, “Liftoff.” It’s quieter than its predecessors, falling somewhere between drone and drift, but Hougaard works in some dissonance to give it an edge. As the track progresses, the sound begins to decay under additional elements and processing, the textures on the perimeter much rougher while he maintains much of the comparatively simple aspects of what’s come before. This, I’d assume, is the power of liftoff, and it’s well done. The later tracks are more spacey than the earlier ones, the mix of drone and drift without the heavy hand on the noise. “Pacific” is a great example of what Hougaard can craft that’s more along the lines of straightforward ambient. Long pads stretch out under a white-noise hiss, the two elements trading prominence.
I had no simple point of entry into Aethereal, and that may be the artist’s point. If I had to pin a narrative on it, we go from the metallic clatter of the industry required to develop a rocket, through the bone-jarring propulsion of takeoff, and finally into the cold and strange drifts of space. Getting there isn’t easy, however, and I’m not sure how many listeners will take the ride. Sonically hearty wayfarers will want to give this a go to see what they can find amidst the noise. An interesting and challenging release.
Available at the artist’s Bandcamp page.