Erika Hansen’s latest, near-theatrical EP moves through various genres and textures while still holding together a concise, effective statement.

The cover of Erika Hansen’s latest EP, Like Waves, manipulates a familiar scene—clouds in the sky—repeatedly to create an entirely new image. The music that follows takes a similar path, notably through its washed out, echoey production, and shows off its pop-savvy familiarity and aptitude for pushing boundaries.

 

The Boston-based singer-songwriter beautifully blends experimental elements of shoegaze with rhythm-conscious pop, which is especially apparent in the EP’s more left-field tracks, such as “The Fall.” At the minute and a half mark, the song begins with eerie ambiance accented by flecks of high-frequency feedback, and slowly builds up to something more recognizable: scattered guitar plucks that almost ebb and flow around a beat, creating a reluctant swing for the track. The song is a hybrid of the both the experimental and accessible sides of Hansen’s musicianship.

In regards to that combination, the EP is impressive not just in its unique, distinct sound, but also in its exploration of such different approaches to music-making: from the abrasive sonic amalgam of “The Fall” to simultaneously reserved and energy-packed opener “I Know.”, Like Waves seems to be Hansen’s grounds for musical exploration.

“I Know” begins calmly with tranquil waves of spacey guitar work before building up to an explosive peak—one of several throughout the track—with Hansen’s voice riding comfortably, almost triumphantly atop it all, backed by noisy, almost cushioning strumming.

The following interlude track, “Among the Violets,” offers brief respite from the noisy atmosphere of the previous song through moody, minimalist synth swells and something that sounds along the lines of amp feedback. And the EP’s title track is reminiscent of “I Know”, but with more reverb and an overall “spacier” environment, hearkening more directly back to what many may deem “proper” shoegaze.

The almost-six-minute-long closer, “Me and The Dust,” sheds, for the majority of the song, most of the previous tracks’ experimental air and slowly builds into a noisy, synth-backed climax, afterward devolving into scattered guitar plucks (at first reversed and, after a while, played forward) and building high-frequency swells. “Me and the Dust” concludes the album, releasing much of its built-up energy in one final, cathartic, emotional statement.

Like Waves is a breathtaking foray into experimental pop and, in its sonic diversity, has much to offer to many listeners across communities and musical preferences. Above all, its spread across styles and implementation of experimental elements serves mainly as a testament to Hansen’s flexibility as a musician and willingness to embrace unconventional techniques in order to create a unique, fresh sound.

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