Fans of IDM have long been familiar with the works of Scott Hansen, producer, graphic artist and musician who operates under the moniker Tycho. Hansen set off on his musical journey as his alter ego Tycho in the early 00’s gaining significant notice with his 2002 four track EP “The Science of Patterns”. Since that time Tycho has evolved into a band and is famed for their dedicated fan base and their astonishing ability to break into the Billboard Top 40 charts, typically a difficult feat for IDM artists.
In late September of last year Tycho released a surprise download of Epoch which was the follow up to the popular and critically touted 2014 release Awake. The hard copy of “Epoch” was released in late January of this year. For Hansen and his fellow band members each release is an attempt to find approachability while aiming for the edges of electronica and pushing beyond the genre’s interstellar limits.
When Hansen was first starting off his career he was aided by significant exposure on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programming. This exposure helped Tycho become an incredibly popular live act appearing at influential festivals and headlining sold out shows. In 2010 Hansen recruited a full band to flesh out his sound both in the studio and live. He added Zak Brown on guitar and bass, Rory O Connor on drums and more recently Billy Kim on bass, guitar and keyboards. The live shows are marked by a hybridizing of the electronic music experience with live instrumentation producing a dynamic and energizing effect.
The music live is continually presented as a “push me pull me” situation which attempts to balance the fluid nature of a live show and physical elements with a desire to stay true to the sounds of the album’s contents. Each Tycho album has been a progression where hints of what is to come are seeded in the latest release. Tycho has seen an increase in commercial success with each release. 2014’s widely hailed Awake garnered a #23 charting on Billboard’s top 200 album chart, a true accomplishment for the IDM genre. What has set the band apart from many of their peers is their focus on clearly defined song tracks rather than the extended mood pieces so common in Dream Electronica.
On Epoch Tycho conveys an even crisper sound than in their prior works. There is a feeling of total mastery and confidence throughout the record. Bass lines are more prominent while the icy chill of the synths remains providing a sleekness that is alluring. The release is relatable, immediate, epic, triumphant and approachable. The themes circle around yearning, nostalgia and a wide eyed atmospheric natural world. There continues to be more differentiation between the tracks than on “Awake”. That release was more of a concept album that needed to be listened to in its entirety and where the tracks bled into each other. On “Epoch it is completely possible to take one track off the album and put it in a play list without losing any impact or need for surrounding songs to provide context.
Glider acts as a bridge from “Awake”. The track smoothly progresses away from the prior release as the song unspools. The selection is breathtakingly crisp and sleek with each band member supplying an important piece to the sum of the sonic impression. It is loaded with exultant emotion that seems to expand in an infinite manner. Horizon commences on a higher note with a bright and lush combination that mixes familiar Tycho sonics with new engaging touches. The song is to the point and less sprawling. Slack is a darker number with a more urban less organic feel. The song is both immediate and urgent with more a foreboding feeling than the usual Tycho offering. Receiver is a departure from earlier Tycho offerings with a decided Baroque feeling provided by the keyboards. The song is autumnal and moody in the beginning with a simple keyboard and then morphs into an ethereal interstellar sound. It is probably my favorite on the release.
The centerpiece of the album is the title track Epoch. The selection displays the biggest departure from their other works. Scott Hansen proves he is the true maestro of the genre with this track. The song is so crisp and icy it is like a blizzard of swirling sophisticated sound. It is at this point in the recording that Tycho turns to more rock influenced sonics; exploring the use of guitar and bass to build the tracks. Division spotlights the importance of the guitar and drums in the composition. It also emphasizes the benefits of having multiple musicians contributing to the track. The song is impressive and one of the strongest tracks on the album. On Source the percussion steps out front and center with intricate combinations that make the track exciting. Local is very original with the use of a LoFi effect in the introduction and then building the instrumentation until it seems to explode out of the speakers in a climatic rush. “Local” in particular reminded me of the works of fellow genre practitioner The Gaslamp Killer. It is simply a brilliant creation.
Rings provides that interstellar fix that delights fans of Tycho. With its cathedral like sound it gives off the feeling of gliding through space and slipping the surly bonds of gravity. Headphones reveal so much on Tycho releases, this track justifies using them, it is mind blowing. Continuum is a lovely twittering interlude before the final track Field. On “Field” Tycho utilizes a great guitar riff supported by the excellent musical mastery of each member. The selection is a gorgeous send off to another transcendent release.
The blissful melancholy of dream electronica IDM is not for everyone and possibly not the soundtrack for every event that makes up the listener’s day. However the music is a pleasure for those who enjoy the genre and Tycho is certainly at the top of the heap when considering the performers of the musical styling. “Epoch” is a continuation of quality and is definitely worth the listen. Scott Hansen and the other members that make up Tycho provide a spectacular new addition to an esteemed discography and again expanded the palette of their sound.