Tycho would probably have to be the most perfect example of the new sort of band that has opened my eyes (and my ears), to the vast, expansive world of purely instrumental music. Tycho goes hand in hand with the likes of Bibio, Mount Kimbie, and Public Service Broadcasting, all of whom have inspired me to listen to more music without the use of traditional lyrics. I’ve found over the years that there’s something soothing and wonderful about a melody without a distinct narrative, and it’s a concept I knew I would have to be older to even appreciate. Tycho, also known as Scott Hansen, creates stunning soundscapes that compel you to actively use your mind and supply your own meaning to what you’re hearing, whether that is something simple and casual or something even deeper.
Scott Hansen formed Tycho as a side project to his work as a graphic designer (under the name ISO50). Knowing that, the music he makes as Tycho makes a little more sense, seeing as though they sound like a design project that’s come to life. His work (both his designs and his music) is crisp, colorful, and complex, but at the same time supplies gentle tranquility. It is the epitome of ambient music, and that’s exactly what he did with his first album Past is Prologue (2006), as well as his second and third albums. Since there are no lyrics and his music is forced to be propelled by beats, samples, and synth powered sounds, it can be quite hard to describe his individual songs except for noting it’s various colors and textures. In his second album Dive, all of the sounds that were heard in his debut album seemed to evolve and get more and more mature and luxurious, along with the emergence of new techniques and styles. “A Walk” starts out with a flicker and glimmer of tones and builds slowly with gentle beats, while “Hours” takes a more bluesy, rambling approach with a more 60’s and 70’s vibe. “Daydream,” “Dive,” and “Coastal Brake” seem to all flow together, and is almost like the trifecta to the album itself. “Daydream” supplies the fantasy and whimsy with glittering sounds and a fast paced percussion track, “Dive” is sophisticated and a little mysterious, and “Coastal Break” is warm, inviting, and seems to envelop you with a feeling of familiarity and affection. “Epigram” and “Elegy” join forces and wrap up the album with a more minimal (as far as Tycho goes with minimal) approach.
Awake would probably have to be my favorite Tycho album simply because of the obvious evolution into more mature sounds and a newer, profound sense of intelligence. More techniques are used in newer, better, more efficient ways and as a result the music is more complex, cerebral, and overall incredibly gorgeous. Awake was the first album Tycho recorded as a three-piece band, which makes sense considering all the little bits and pieces of instrumentation you hear sprinkled throughout and placed underneath and between the main melody. The title track “Awake” solidifies that observation with a techno style of instrumentals, along with a simple sample that makes me think of old school video games. It’s nostalgic and beautiful all at once. “Montana” is joyous and light, which is a contrast to the darker, edgier song “Dye,” which includes the melancholic strums of a lone guitar thrown into the mix. Things pick up again with my favorites, “Apogee” and “Spectre,” which both sound loose, ambient, and exhilarating, while “Plains” finishes the album with a soft, introspective overtone that leaves things on a soothing note. The great thing about Awake is that it doesn’t overwhelm you with track after track of complex instrumentals and keeps things short and sweet.
While purely instrumental music is relaxing, the lack of lyrics and a narrative seem to take it’s toll on a listener and often times leave things dry and stale after a few plays. However, Tycho along with other experimental instrumental artists know how to tweak their sounds to keep things interesting and leave you inspired each and every time.