A command, a principle of summer, and a word that recalls none other than Tycho’s second studio album. While he’s most known for that 2012 album you probably came across on the sidebar of Youtube and fell in love with, Tycho’s Scott Hansen has been making music like this for the better part of a decade.
It’s been three years since Tycho has refreshed us with (truly) new music, and this year’s comeback is nothing short of a surprise. A refreshingly short record of eight songs, every note of ‘Weather’ feels scrupulously calculated and deliberately aimed to exasperate listeners hoping for a sequel of ‘Dive’, diverging almost entirely from the winding, wordless arias that characterized much of his earlier works.
For better or for worse, this record takes a bold step in the right direction, and is easily the most mature of any of his albums. ‘Weather’, while daring, feels intrinsic to Tycho’s musical identity, and that’s evident even in the album’s opening lines. The garish, digitized blips of 'Easy’s initial seconds dissolve rapidly into an atmosphere of smooth progression, wordless vocals, and breathy drumbeats, laying the foundation for an album built yet again on the strength of its techno-beat melodies rather than any shoehorned lyricism.
This is precisely why the vocals fit: while they may be difficult to adjust to, they add an extra level of ambience that simply couldn’t exist before, deepening the tracks beyond just a set of computer-generated sounds. They add emotion without overwhelming, serving to remind you someone is there, that someone made this, that someone is along with you for the ride.
Where Tycho’s ambient tunes (that in many ways bear similarities to Brian Eno’s 'Music For...' series) have in the past felt one-sided and minimalist despite their elegance, this new album combines the sweet urgency of indie-pop with the dignity of previous albums, transforming it into something four-dimensional.
The voice of Scott Hansen’s musical partner-in-crime Hannah Cottrell / Saint Sinner fills in the blanks between imaginary verses, between ebbs and flows and curves of technical music that can sometimes feel impersonal. Her vocals cut through a void long left empty, making the songs that much more memorable, that much easier to get stuck in your head, that much easier to find yourself humming along after you’ve turned it off. A blessing and a curse, of sorts, that is— but nevertheless refreshing.
Songs on ‘Weather’ can be sharply divided into two categories: songs that feel like audio clips ripped directly from 1982 Blade Runner (much like Tycho’s earlier work), and those that pull vocals into sharp focus, add an endearing touch to a saturated musical landscape. 'Pink & Blue', with its clear, direct vocals, fall in stark contrast to instrumental tracks 'Easy', 'Into the Woods', and 'Weather' - a beginning, an interlude, and an end - yet the disparity creates an aesthetic of its own.
While it can’t be denied that an abundance of songs from the latter category does make ‘Weather’ sound like a Saint Sinner album mastered by Tycho, the record marks the beginning of a turning point for both of them. 'Pink And Blue' brings in distant, foamy synths with a renewed vigor, finding a fresh start in beautiful falsetto with a light, lilting melody that leaves behind an over-reliance on crossfeed and reverberance.
Listen on, and you’ll see this is not the only song that sees him taking a completely different direction: the intro of 'Skate' recalls the the opening chords of the ever famous 'Islands' by The xx - get lost in the track and you’ll think you’re listening to ‘xx’. The lyrics of 'Japan' are something different too; while a little uninspired and superficial, they do manage to evoke that classic indie-feel that walks the line between lo-fi and classic pop. And title-track ‘Weather’ closes out the album, bringing back Tycho’s electro-pop with a flushed intensity, finishing the record strong.
With lyrics noticeable enough to stir up feeling, yet paltry enough to fade into the background if need be, ‘Weather’ offers up a slew of rich aural textures that make it a gorgeous little ambient-indie-pop record. Rather than hiding behind Saint Sinner’s bell-like musings, Tycho places a greater emphasis on real instruments, striking a delicate balance between unemotional computerized creations and warm, human vocals.
It’s a big push forward - made even more poignant by Tycho having boxed himself in a little with his unique, trademark sound - but it’s a linear progression that makes a lot of sense. It’s actually exactly what should come after 2016’s 'Epoch': 2014’s 'Awake' saw him adding a full-fledged band as support, and 'Epoch' a greater emphasis on post-rock style guitar and percussion, so it’s only fitting that this one’s surprise is the addition of vocals.
During the transition, though, Tycho never loses sight of what he is known for: the skillful mastery of crafting brilliant ambient soundscapes from bare computer programs. And believe it or not, his sound here is that much more captivating.
Words: Valerie Magan
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