Monday, November 28, 2011

Dive - Tycho


Ghostly International.

SCQ Rating: 83%

As an umbrella word used to pigeonhole tastes, “independent rock” has always garnered the same crooked brow as when someone utters the term “electronica”. They’re both spineless indicators of underground leanings and loaded with presumptions; it was only a matter of time before they got in bed together. And as many indie-rock bands continue to flock toward electronic production techniques (not to mention major labels), the purpose of distinguishing between genres shrivels further. Many champion this congealing effect as though we listeners are breaking down stale and rigid markers of taste but it seems just as viable that the indie-rock-slash-electronica zenith reached maturation well before its commercial swan-dive, with everything that followed building toward a point of homogenous over-saturation.

Scott Hansen’s long-awaited full-length successor to Sunrise Projector restores walls that existed for a reason and bridges back to the aforementioned peak that gave us true hybridized marvels like A Strangely Isolated Place and Up In Flames. Arriving at the tail end of a year that has seen chill-wave written off yet secretly infiltrating independent pop music with its maximalist’s euphoria, Dive seems an unlikely enema; its songs composed of shimmering guitar tones and modern synth swells, its cover-art steeped in the sun-drenched nostalgia every laptop artist has been musing after. But Dive distinguishes itself on a song-by-song basis, whether it’s something explicit (like the tumbling melodic bubbles that accumulate over ‘A Walk’’s heart-racing arc) or an apparent detail (like how the drums in ‘Daydream’ act as both break-beats and real, lived-in rails of percussion). Throughout it all, Tycho remains sonically indebted to the original haze-makers Boards Of Canada but his songwriting approach rarely drifts into ethers; the atmospheric acoustics of ‘Coastal Brake’ latch onto a gorgeous dance pulse while the title track playfully adds then negates layers for a weaving, epic triptych.

Dive treads the grey area dividing a great many certainties, existing somewhere between Helios’ gentle electronic compositions and Cut/Copy’s rave-up anthems, at the fringe of Four Tet’s nostalgic moments and Ulrich Schnauss’ rock-inspired pushes. It would be wrong to call Dive an IDM album – let’s face it: it’s wrong to use the term IDM in the first place – but one can hear why people might choose to associate Tycho with that slice of electronica still unspoiled by the mainstream. Over optimistic cloud-surfing jams like ‘Hours’ and couch-melting beats as on ‘Adrift’, Dive’s palette remains a sparkling but insular one which builds a sanctuary for its listener over the course of fifty minutes. Perhaps that secluded feel is due to Tycho’s stable equilibrium; a discipline largely displaced by today’s trends which utilizes tasteful guitar on occasions that invigorate Hansen’s electronic-based mood.

Call it what you will: chillwave, “indie-tronica”, you name it. Attempting to classify Dive has been, for this writer, more of an appeal to understand what sets it so gloriously apart from the homogeny implicit to those genres. Because Dive has wits about it, not to mention a way of luring you on its starry-eyed, late-night cruises. It may have taken Hansen eight years to finish but his tardiness rewards with a modern record that brings back all of the magic and possibility inherent to his scene's once futurist ambitions.

Tycho - Coastal Brake by Tycho

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