Scott Hansen—better known by his pseudonym, Tycho—is nothing short of a modern-day Renaissance man.
In addition to composing and producing organic, vintage, and chilled-out electronic music, he is also an accomplished visual artist. Going by yet another name for his photography and design work, ISO50, Hansen is the rare sort of artist who border-crosses genres and artistic media with ease. In fact, taking a look at his blog will indicate that Hansen does not seem to view visual art, design, and music as being as separate or compartmentalized entities. Often in posts, he will pair his highly stylized and evocative works of art with his music, creating a multisensory experience for the consumer
And anyone who is familiar with Hansen's music knows that, typically, Tycho privileges mood, ambiance, texture, and emotional gravity over lyrics and conventional song structures (verse, chorus, verse, bridge, etc.). Instead, Tycho's music tends to unfurl effortlessly—with chords, melodies, and harmonies seeming to merely occur, as opposed to being composed and fit into a rigid or pre-determined structure. Tycho's music is like a lucky snapshot of a mountainous landscape bathed in dusky light, sounding as if it has always existed; all Hansen had to do was record it.
Perhaps, this is why Tycho's music is so versatile, why his songs make for the perfect backdrop to nearly any activity. 2011's Drive, for instance, is perfect for a quiet night in, perhaps lulling the listener to sleep with mellow and hypnotic flourish; but it works just as well as the soundtrack to a late-night drive to clear your head or let your thoughts wander. Awake, on the other hand, released in 2016, is great background music for hunkering down and getting some work done; it is also the perfect companion to an intimate conversation with close friends—its unassuming and chilled-out motion seems to guide the mind toward a peaceful state of focus.
On his latest album, Weather, however, Tycho takes a different approach. After four albums of doing more or less the same thing (making meandering mood music), Hansen has opted to give fans something a bit closer to that traditional song structure that he has spent years evading with grace.
The first song of the album, "Easy," places us firmly in the sonic world that we have come to expect from Tycho: synth-heavy and warm, calming, up-tempo, and largely instrumental. It serves as a segue from his previous work to the new directions taken on Weather, with a female vocalist singing words that cannot be clearly discerned underneath a heavy current of tranquil electronica.
By the second track, though, longtime Tycho listeners may be taken aback. "Pink and Blue" features a guest vocalist, an unprecedented move for Tycho's solo work. Saint Sinner's voice opens the song, crooning, "Oh pink and blue, yeah, you know I look good on you" with an airy and buoyant melody that sounds surprisingly natural alongside Tycho's signature soundscape, as unexpected as it may be on a first listen.
The rest of the album, too, features Saint Sinner heavily. On every track save two Saint Sinner's soothing voice acts as a perfect counterpart to Tycho's electronic meditations, grounding the music in more conventional structures without overpowering the sonic vistas Tycho paints. If anything, Saint Sinner's poetic lyrics and smart melodic sensibilities add a new layer of paint to Hansen's already lush canvas.
Weather, then, comes off as a distinctly collaborative effort. Yet, as easily as Saint Sinner's voice fits into Tycho's even and impactful mixes, the addition of a vocalist to Hansen's work does, at times, compromise what made Tycho, Tycho. In his richly layered and complex compositions the absence of lyrics always made plenty of space for you to inhabit—to fill in the blanks and let the song become whatever you needed it to be.
That's not to say Weather is not an enjoyable listen. It definitely is—from a production and songwriting standpoint. But, frankly, this doesn't sound as much like a Tycho album as it does a particularly successful album by, say, The XX. What made Tycho so different on his first four studio releases was the way in which his music served as a versatile and almost interactive experience between artist and listener. This was, for many fans, what made Tycho's music so special and unique: how every song on Drive or Awake could take on profound meanings in myriad unrelated ways. He would provide the vista, and you would decide how to interpret it. On Weather, though, Tycho paints the picture, and then Saint Sinner tells you what it means.