cone magazine

Review: Tycho – Epoch


American ambient ensemble, Tycho, deliver elevating synth-led dreamscapes on their fourth full-length offering, Epoch.

A glimmering aural display and rhythmic beating slowly transcend into an enlivened melody where peaking high notes melt into deep pulsing synth – ‘Glider’ is the first track on Scott Hansen and co’s fourth studio album ‘Epoch,’ and if it’s distinctively marked by anything, it’s the fact that the rolling euphonies and stuttering beats are unmistakably Tycho.

Scott Hansen’s electronic dreamscape is his first full-length studio release since 2014, and is a project which sees him evolve from a solo artist to playing alongside 3 other musicians. The result is 42 minutes and 50 seconds of indulgent synth and introspective mood music, both alleviating and elevating at the same time.

Released via Ghostly International, ‘Epoch’ was set to come out in January 2017, but Hansen completed it early and felt that any delay in its release to the public would be nothing short of criminal:

“I’ve never been fond of handing in an album then waiting 4 months for it to be released. I wanted to be more connected to the people consuming the music. There is a kind of visceral fulfillment you get from sharing something that you’ve just created with other people. That’s a very satisfying feeling as an artist.”

Here is another excellent example of the significance of the perception of art; the narrative process of Hansen’s music becomes more than just the writing and performance of his work: it extends outward to include the role of the listener. The creation and reception of music is thereby turning into a conversation which frees works like Epoch from many definitive bounds, and also entitles it to a weighted importance relative to its release date.

 “All art is in some way shaped by the current state of the world around the person creating it, so there’s an element of zeitgeist built into any album. I’m hoping people get a sense that this music is directly connected to the time they are experiencing it in.”

So what message is Hansen trying to evoke? Is it one of political downfall? One of environmental collapse? A true Barthes of his age, Hansen leaves it up to his listeners to decide.

‘Receiver’ sounds as though you woke up in a coruscating, snowy landscape, the aftermath of blizzard – all is pure and new – and the effect is a mass blanketing of noise, be it social, political, environmental or simply in musical proportions. The sound levels out on title track ‘Epoch’: a middle ground between the intensely ambient and the markedly indulgent and soaring synth. Not that Tycho is ever too heavy; the instrumentals peter out here and there in softer tracks of the album such as ‘Glider’, ‘Receiver’ and ‘Continuum’, then rev up to a climactic, velvety resonance in songs like ‘Slack’. 

’Source’ and ‘Division’ seem to culminate from restless guitar into stormy surges, whilst ‘Local’ takes a different turn; soupy chords provide a thickened atmosphere before electric guitar cuts through the track with an aureate blade.

Closing number, ‘Field’, is far more toned down, featuring somewhat soft-pedalled strings and ghostly electronic waves. It all ends very abruptly, and it might be possible to draw some explanation for this through Epoch’s artwork, or perhaps even the title of the track itself. In any case, it’s all speculative, which it’s clear is half the point of this album. This feat is both reflective and vitalising – probably one of the more stimulating and provoking albums to fall under the ever-expanding ‘ambient’ genre.

‘Epoch’ was released on September 30th. You can stream Epoch here and even purchase the LP over at Ghostly International’s website.

Words by Robyn Bainbridge


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