Aether, the latest release from ambient/electronic musical artist Zerfranzt, is more than a bit of an enigma. Zerfranzt is a storytelling vaporscape/atmospheric electronica composer based in Austria who makes ultra-personal narrative music that each listener must interpret for themselves. His style is cryptic, emotive, and cinematic and definitely lives on the more intellectual fringe of the electronic music universe. Aether is a work of remarkable suggestive power and listeners will quickly find themselves inside of it, even on the first time through. This is music for contemplation that is deceptively engaging. Even so, the spacious synth arrangements, minimalist beats, and disembodied voices that make up this set allow for much free thought and individual experience.
Some of the tracks on Aether have a lush synthwave feel that will pull in fans of vintage electronic music. “Ocho Cinco Ready” vibes like music from the greatest 80s science fiction film that never got made and is instantly hypnotizing. It feels like the beginning of a journey and will swiftly pull you into its unique world. “What It Is” is abstract downtempo headspace built on long, droning synth tones and pulsating, effected percussion that comes and goes. Voices speak in German but are processed enough to feel more like another instrument than a human speaker. It’s almost psychedelic and induces a calm disorientation during a listening session.
“Secret Number” is a haunting composition based on the idea of a Numbers Station, a mysterious radio signal that broadcasts sequences of formatted numerals. Zerfranzt builds the tension here with big analog bass synths in the middle that eventually fade back to the lighter bass and piano sounds of the next section, which soon fade away themselves. All the while, a female voice keeps reading off the numbers. The overall effect is otherworldly and unnerving. Other crucial tracks here include “Opacity,” “Hope,” and “Metaphysics.”
No matter how you interpret the storyline, Aether is a beautiful and compelling set of electronic music deserves to be heard as foreground, despite its entrancing ambient qualities. Zerfranzt is an artist of no small vision and he makes us decode his message on our own. He’s clearly one of the most important artists currently doing this kind of work and Aether is all the proof of that statement’s truth anyone could ever need.
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