Ghostly International • September 30th, 2016
By: Joseph Ruane
*Out of 5
Surprise album drops are gaining popularity, with notable albums The Life of Pablo by Kanye West and Lemonade by Beyoncé released this way in 2016. Tycho joins this trend with the release of his fourth studio album, Epoch. Tycho’s previous full-length release, Awake, was a resounding success, spawning a world tour and peaking at number 23 on Billboard’s Top 200 albums list. Suffice to say, Epoch has some large shoes to fill.
Originally making his living through graphic design, Scott Hansen transitioned into full-time music production as Tycho with the release of the Dive in late 2011. His design style, simplistic and nostalgic, continues to be reflected in album artwork and heard in the music. Epoch’s album artwork is a refinement on previous album designs, as it combines elements into a simplified form. Epoch’s artwork is made up of just two shapes: a trapezoid and a circle at the trapezoid’s apex. Circles have been a recurring theme with Tycho album artwork, being the primary subject of both Dive and Awake. Trapezoids have been used as the artwork for single Montana and in promotional posters. Tycho treats the music within Epoch the same way he treats the album artwork by advancing and stripping down elements found in previous work.
One of the more notable tracks, “Slack,” represents a larger departure from Tycho’s previous work. It has a more aggressive beat than what we heard on Awake. “Slack’s” aggression is accentuated with a satisfyingly decisive ending, breaking from Tycho’s usual fade out. Out of all the tracks on Epoch, “Source” is the most reserved. It has a very familiar sound and stays within the style that Tycho has cultivated, starting off with echoey electric guitar, slowly bringing in smooth long synth notes and percussion as additional layers. “Local” has a very full sound. Starting off strong, it does away with the typical Tycho slow build, and instead fades into what sounds like the half-way point of a longer song. It is one of the more complex, layered tracks on Epoch, but also one of the shorter tracks; clocking in at just under three minutes.
A lot of Epoch is experimentation. The title track, for example, tries to catch the listener off guard; it feels improvised and constantly shifts between styles that were successful in Dive and Awake. Tycho is using the same arsenal of tools, but is creating something that challenges our notions of his musical style. Because of the album’s surprise release, it seems fitting that its namesake track also provides the listener with some surprises.
The length of Epoch isn’t defined by physical albums. There is no 70-minute quota to fill, and Epoch ends after a mere 43 minutes, leaving the listener wanting for more. When listening to Epoch, fans will instantly recognize his unique style and new fans will have a great introduction to the range of his music style. 4.5/5.