As someone who grew up listening to tunes ranging from Billie Holiday to Blur to Beastie Boys, finding new music means seeking alternative channels – especially in Asia where local artists tend to be on top of the charts. Gone are the days when MTV was the go-to for groundbreaking pop music. Magazines like Rolling Stone and Spin have taken a different direction editorially, opting for some cheesy, easy fluff covering pop politics, and reality TV shows. Tower Records, with their comprehensive in-house magazine called Pulse!, has closed. Now that internet has become a massive tool for seeking out information, finding things has never been easier. Enter YouTube with its excellent Recommended Section and Mixes, my music investigation/education has become synonymous with getting lost in it. Here’s Tycho, my latest YouTube discovery.
AKA Scott Hansen, Tycho has been around the music since 2002 and this review is about Dive, which was released in 2011. Four years down the line, I think it’s pretty impressive that people can still gain access to it, and listen to its timelessness. Timeless may not be even the correct word. The album title, Dive, is apt because it lets you, the listener, get lost in the sea of sonic wonder. As one writer put it, “[Dive] enable[s] the listener to feel the track on every exposed cell of their skin, Dive is a collection to plunge into and drift within”.
There is a layered approach to Hansen’s music: it lets you explore the depths of the surface of atmospherics, the bright sparkles that are supported by heavy bass and beats, reflections and waves of electronica that seem to go on forever – but you know they don’t. Granted that Hansen’s approach to work is nowhere near singular, as his graphic designs are (Hansen has been a graphic designer prior to becoming a musician and does his own photography and design), his musical arrangements parallel to a lot of indietronica outfits like Toro Y Moi, Bibio, Cliff Martinez and Chromatics. There are shades of Vangelis thrown in too, adding familiar sci-fi melodies and that tug of nostalgia – again, reminiscent of his graphic collateral that echoes 1970s sci-fi art that you probably will see in back issues of Heavy Metal with Moebius and Richard Corben art.
A Walk opens the album with slow, cool beats that give it a Close Encounters of the Third Kind vibe. Very atmospheric, it can drive your mind to a place of loneliness – the good kind – where you can see yourself chilling in a dark room watching cityscapes. It is a perfect toe in the water track that would give foresight to what lies beneath. Hours and Daydream, replete with synths that glide over the bass are effortless – perfect ascent to to the climax of the album which is Dive – cheerful, liquid and strong at the same time, with the introduction of skillfully played shoegaze-y guitars. Then enter Coastal Brake, suggesting denouement with blissful beats perfect for roadtrip sunsets, and long, drawn out summer days of yore. It is followed by Ascension which evokes feelings of hopefulness after a tragedy – fit for a soundtrack of an indie movie for Sundance.
Titles like Adrift, Ascenscion and Elegy don’t leave much to the imagination, especially with the way they are arranged in the mix. It’s a good concept album, and like most concept albums, it is designed to be listened to as opposed to letting it play in the background. While instrumental, each track resonates a feeling, an emotional investment – a story waiting to happen in your mind. It complements a lazy, no-work state of mind that is needed in this fast-paced life. So slow down and take a drag of Tycho to reach that high.