Tycho Features Live Vocals For First Time On Creatively Inspired ‘Weather’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Tycho’s music has always been difficult to classify. Too upbeat to be truly ambient, but nonetheless fulfilling a similar purpose in its undeniable chillness. The characteristic clean guitar motifs have shades of post-rock about them, the samples and beats reminiscent of chillwave electronica, while all awash in a mellow haze of delay and reverb making it all feel somehow like drone music. With it all together, it seems lead creative force Scott Hansen has happened upon a magic recipe. A perfect guitar tone – and oh my is it exquisite – birthed from presumably years of meddling, incredibly tight production and a penchant for seemingly endless gorgeous melodies methodically built atop one another in simple but stunning compositions. By sounding like everything all at once and nothing in particular, Tycho only really sound like Tycho, and what could easily have been brushed aside as another bedroom chill-step pretender has instead emerged as a benchmark in the downtempo scene. 

Since perfecting his formula with his previous three records, the thematic trilogy of Dive, Awake and Epoch, it’s fair to ask the question of where to next. A fourth album in the same vein could easily begin to feel like overkill, so with Weather, Tycho made the understandable decision to fully feature live vocals for the first time by engaging the services of Hannah Cottrell (Saint Sinner). “I wanted to finally fulfill what has been a vision of mine since the beginning, to incorporate the most organic instrument of all, the human voice,” Hansen has said. By all accounts, it played out more of a collaboration than merely a feature, and the influence of that is notable in the songwriting. There’s a distinct shift from Tycho’s customary compositions into more indie-rock territory, which doesn’t always serve the music. Cottrell’s voice is airy and breathy, seemingly forged specifically for Tycho’s music, but it’s in fact when it takes centre stage, the record stutters. Tycho’s beauty was in the remarkable way they had created a unique sound, something that gets lost within many of these tracks that play out as good but fairly standard down-tempo dream-pop. 

It’s most notable on the lead singles. ‘Pink & Blue” is pretty enough, but drifts forward without a whole lot of purpose, while ‘No Stress’ suffers similar pitfalls. Lyrics along the lines of “if it doesn’t work the first time, don’t stress don’t stress,” feel there to simply be there, without offering much in the way of meaning. It’s when Cottrell’s voice is included as an interwoven element of the soundscapes Hansen constructs that it feels most effective. Opener ‘Easy’ feels more like an evolution of the Tycho sound, the ethereal vocals serving to expand the beautifully building layers with its weaving synth line and off-kilter rhythms, a trick repeated with intimate subtlety on the gorgeous inclusion ‘Into the Woods’. Cottrell is best used on ‘Skate’, a track which – much like the entire album – owes much to The xx, and where the wider sound is given the chance to build into its own around the lead vocals. It speaks volumes, however, that the closing title track is probably the best on the album, and also distinctively the only true instrumental. That said, any new direction takes time to get right. Tycho needed something new, Weather is a bold step forward, and one can certainly see them striking the right balance before too long.

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