Tycho: Dive

Few will come away from Dive, Tycho's follow-up album to 2004's Sunrise Projector and 2006's Past Is Prologue, without noting the sonic similarities between Boards of Canada and the aural lovechild of San Francisco artist-producer Scott Hansen, given that many of Dive's songs possess that out-of-focus warble that the Warp act perfected on Music Has the Right to Children and Geogaddi years ago. The neon-lit whistle of analogue synthesizer melodies dominates Tycho's music in a way that can't help but invite comparison, and it wouldn't take much to conceive of Dive's “Adrift” as a Geogaddi track that for whatever reason ended up on the cutting-room floor. In both cases, funky downtempo beats provide firm foundations for willowy melodic elements that are less sundrenched than sunblinded, and, like Board of Canada's, Tycho's music achieves the puzzling effect of sounding both oversaturated and drained of colour. Still, if there's one thing that separates Hansen's sound from that of his better-known counterpart, it's the prominent presence of guitar on a number of the album's tracks. The moment a song such as “Ascension” starts to sound a little too much like you-know-who for comfort, an acoustic guitar appears to put some distance between them, even if the instrument introduces a pastoral dimension that's also evident in the Warp act's material.

All comparisons aside, Dive, taken on its own terms, has much to recommend it. It opens on a high note with the wistful bliss of “A Walk,” the tune's downtempo lope a powerful intoxicant and its synth melodies and choral breaths seductive, too. Hansen shows himself to be a deft arranger and song stylist, as well, in arresting the song's motion for a guitar-laced breakdown before reanimating it with an even more forceful gallop. “Hours” is strong, too, though in this case the appeal lies in the way the song's plodding groove and overall trance-like flow translates into shoegaze-pop splendour, and there's no denying the gauzy charms of “Daydream” either, whose faded kodachrome atmospheres receive a strong kick from a funkily pulsating bass line and crisp beat pattern. The title track's wave-like surges exude the forward thrust of trance, while “Coastal Brake” struts with the jubilant motion of radiant pop as it all the while builds its keyboard sounds into a swirl of euphoric effervescence. It's worth noting that the heavier emphasis on guitar-generated reverb and tremolo in the bucolic, trance-fueled closer “Elegy” suggests a way forward for Hansen that could enable him to establish a sound that's more uniquely his and less derivative. One suspects that that's something his next release will more than likely bring into clearer focus.

December 2011