What is Ethereal Wave?
Ethereal wave is best understood as “dark fairy music.”
A subgenre of darkwave, ethereal wave is characterized by an atmospheric arrangement of guitar, synths and typically female vocals.
“Atmosphere” means something very specific here; the vibe of ethereal wave is dreamy and psychic like the ash-tinged smoke rippling from the burning end of an incense stick.
- “In the Presence of the Frost” – Virgine Dramatica
- “In Dreaming” – Diva Destruction
- “Green Velvet” – The Shroud
The Shroud projects a paganistic interpretation of the ethereal wave genre.
Calling to mind images of Ophelia, The Shroud embodies the concept of the darkly beautiful feminine.
- “For A Day” – This Ascension
- “Drown” – Strange Boutique
- “Invisible” – Switchblade Symphony
Switchblade Symphony is an iconic band that blends gothic rock with classical music.
Tinged with a cigarette-smoke grunginess, Switchblade Symphony exist as pioneers of female voices in a largely male-centric space.
- “how it came to be this way” – Autumn
- “Witches” – Faith & Disease
- “Alle In Asche” – Mephisto Walz
- “The Unshakable Demon” – Autumn’s Grey Solace
- “City Moon” – Love Spirals Downwards
- “Hitherto” – Cocteau Twins
Cocteau Twins is a classic ethereal wave band, probably among the first names to come up in association with the genre.
I feel like, for this reason, it’s integral that they be included in this playlist. However, in the name of exploring perhaps lesser-known artists, I’ve relegated them to the latter half of this playlist.
- “Naturally Cruel” – Mors Syphilitica
- “Slide” – Cranes
- “Bare” – Lycia
Lycia demonstrates a multiplicity of styles within the realm of darkwave, electronic rock and ethereal wave.
I first encountered the band through their cold, echoing track “Failure,” which, while not ethereal in the genre-related sense, is unequivocally impactful.
“Bare” illustrates another side of Lycia’s sound, taking their abilities to another level.
Ethereal wave is a beautiful genre.
The kind of music best enjoyed on gloomy autumnal evenings, the genre’s lack of mainstream acclaim only serves to hide the massive breadth of artistry within.
For individuals who may not enjoy traditional darkwave, ethereal wave is a great way to break into the genre.