Tycho's fifth studio album, Weather introduces vocal-led tracks for the first time in the collective's history – a change which signals reinvention, but delivers iteration.
Tycho's creative output has been a steady exercise in refinement. While Past is Prologue was almost entirely electronic, electric and bass guitar entered the band's repertoire by Dive, with guitars being emphasised yet further in Awake – all coming to a head with a more nuanced balance between everything that had come to represent the signature Tycho soundscape in Epoch. The addition of vocals is, to hear frontman and graphic designer Scott Hansell tell it, something that Tycho have been driving towards since the very beginning. Why, then, does Weather feel hesitant as a whole?
The album's 29-minute running time doesn't help things, feeling like an EP, a toe dipped in vocal-filled waters, rather than a wholly new chapter for Tycho. Though it is hardly a criticism to say that there isn't enough of an album, you can't come away from Weather not feeling like it's a teaser for greater things to come.
The record feels more like a Saint Sinner (a.k.a. Hannah Cottrell, Tycho's only vocalist on Weather) album than a Tycho album. Tycho's signature sound is very much present here, but even the album artwork gives us a clue as to who should take centre stage this time around. Gone are Hansell's iconic designs, replaced whole cloth with photography hinting at the delicate intimacy that Cottrell's vocals add into proceedings. It's only fair too, as Cottrell is the perfect finishing touch on Tycho's sprawling soundscapes, to the extent that makes you wonder why they didn't do this years earlier.
‘Pink & Blue’, ‘For How Long’ and ‘No Stress’ are clear highlights, both representing perfect realisations of (presumably) everything Hansell and co. were striving for when they decided to add vocals into their sonic palette. The closest comparison I can think of in what the end result achieves, is The xx – particularly in their latest and most effective I See You-era guise emphasising Jamie xx more than ever before. The vocals are ethereal, the beats are thumping with soaring, eminently remix-able guitar hooks flickering in and out of each song's horizons.
‘Easy’, ‘Into the Woods’ and ‘Weather’ are more traditional Tycho tracks in their composition, with whispers of vocal samples layered amongst that signature sound. It's no secret that the musician can construct one hell of a soundscape, and that sentiment is just as true here as it has ever been. ‘Easy’ and ‘Weather’ in particular bookend the album, and seem designed to ease you into something more radically un-Tycho in the remaining six tracks, but the transition to vocals is much more seamless than the band seem to have thought. If anything, they could have gone bolder.
That, in essence, is the only flaw (if you can even call it a flaw) in Weather. It is a thoroughly enjoyable listen. The experiment of adding vocals into the mix is a triumph, but doesn't feel fully explored in its short runtime. As I said earlier, it is hardly a criticism to say that there isn't enough of an album, but Weather feels more EP than album. It feels like a teaser, one that only makes the wait for Tycho's sixth studio album all the more agonising.
Weather is out now via Ninja Tune.