Until quite recently, I found myself no longer able to listen to and enjoy Tycho, the dreamy electronic music project of designer and producer Scott Hansen.
It reminded me all too lucidly of jittery and lonely nights writing a seemingly endless dissertation last year. Five coffees deep and an increasing necessity to progress, Tycho’s instrumental soundscapes took the edge off without distraction; their ambience calmed me whilst their driving rhythms kept me focussed.
It's funny, because if the songs of Tycho could talk they would say something along the lines of 'CHILL OUT. LOOK AT THIS SUNNY SAN FRAN VISTA'. But I had etched 'CHILL OUT' so many times with every listen in that period that whenever I revisted a Tycho track I could only feel 'WORK. WORK IN THIS DINGY ROOM IN NOTTS'.
Eventually I suppose this association faded, as all things do with time — a sentiment that fuelled the release of Tycho's fourth studio album Epoch. Whilst the physical release is due in January, Hansen felt impatient with the standard process of waiting months after a records completion, and wanted to give a sense of immediacy to it by releasing it digitally almost immediately. Speaking to Best Fit in September, he noted that "I think all art is in some way shaped by the current state of the world around the person creating it so there's a element of zeitgiest built into any album. We finished this record about a month before it was to come out so I'm hoping people pick up on that and get a sense that this music is directly connected to the time they are experiencing it in".
Epoch continues in much the same vein as 2014's Awake, which injected a crispier, analogue element to the dreamy ambience of earlier material. The live elements do sound better here, such as the distorted bass in "Division", and the drums throughout.
But on the whole most of the record sounds a little too alike its predecessors, clear from the beginning with opening tracks "Glider" and "Horizon". There are some surprises though. "Local" sounds like a short garage rock track drenched in phasers, whilst "Retriever" is a lucid, stripped back example of Hansen's songwriting style. Layers build slowly and therapeutically to the extent that it borders on mediation music, as simple but pretty melodies trickle down over low chimes.
The album's title track is its strongest, building up cleverly to its climax which is explosive in a way that a lot of other Tycho tracks aim to but fall short of being.
Whilst it is a pleasure to hear Tycho again with new ears, it's difficult to argue that what is being heard is anything new.