Described as a meditation on the process of grieving, Nicole Marxen makes a bold entrance with her debut Tether EP; across four tracks and sixteen-and-a-half minutes, the former Midnight Opera vocalist plunges the listener into disconcerting and cavernous layers of monstrous distortion and insistent rhythms, her ghostly voice hovering like an almost disembodied presence hinting at themes of loss and reverie. The opening title track conjures an almost martial procession of droning synths and stomping drums that this writer likens to Peter Gabriel’s “The Rhythm of the Heat.” Eventually, Marxen’s subtle harmonies and shrill electronics enter with beats energetic yet pensive, making for a powerful opening. Granted, most of the songs follow a similar structural pattern, wallowing first in atmosphere and soon erupting into explosive and grizzly layers of synths, drums, and noisy guitars, but this formula is hardly a detriment. For instance, “Bones / Dust” pulsates with gritty electronics akin to those of Android Lust, her high-pitched and dreamy vocals bringing to mind the wistful playfulness of Cranes; the drums and the overdriven synths seemingly crash through the speakers, crackling as the melodies threaten to dissipate, as the title suggests, from bones into dust. “Moonflower” feels almost like a soundtrack to a city street after midnight, the sustained shrieks of feedback topped off by a mournful and despondent vocal like eyeing silhouettes through the moonlit fog, while “Wild Again” veers almost into doom territory as the searing synths and siren-esque howls of guitar, along with Marxen’s layered vocals, sound like the cries of spirits unwilling to depart – the gothic trip-hop of the Black Taffy remix of “Wild Again” is added as a bonus track. Ultimately, Tether is a strong debut that should appeal to those who enjoy the lyrically coarse and bleak ambience of Zola Jesus or Chelsea Wolfe, with hints of the noisier aggression of a Lingua Ignota or Pharmakon. The production is solid, even as it seems to straddle the line of lower fidelity, but it makes for an engaging first impression.