Last September, the ambient electronic composer Tycho released a new album titled Epoch. After listening to the album all the way through, I could tell that the style of music lives up to its surreal name. The meaning of the word epoch is defined in Tycho’s online store where the album can be purchased – “an extended period of time typically characterized by a distinctive development or by a memorable series of events.” With the thought provoking title and minimalist album cover, I knew that listening to Epoch would be an experience.
The first time I heard the album was with a friend on a long drive to Mount Rainier on a rainy Saturday night. We started listening once we got off the busy highway and onto the deserted forest roads leading to the mountain. Once the music started playing, the haunting harmonies made me drift into a trance. The setting seemed fitting – an empty road, heavy rain hitting the windshield and complete darkness on the road ahead. Although it would have seemed unsettling without the music playing, the desolation was serene when paired with Tycho’s melodies.
All of the songs in the album share similarities in composition and flow together to form one continuous evocative masterpiece. And yet, despite the connectivity, none of the songs strike me as uneventful or dull. The same synth, guitar and drum elements are commonly used throughout the album, but shift through different phases that evoke a different mood. This fits into the album’s title – a series of events defining a period of time.
It’s hard to explain the effect that listening to Epoch has on my state of mind, but it is unlike that of any other artist that I’ve listened to. Sometimes I feel as if I have been put into a trance when I listen to Tycho’s melodic genius. The music plunges me into a state where I feel disconnected from my surroundings, and I am left in a dreamlike state alone with my thoughts.
Epoch is not an album that I would play for my friends when I’m on aux duty in a car ride. It provokes thought, and takes a certain amount of serenity and concentration to fully enjoy. It may not be suitable for those who like more upbeat and shallow music that lightens a mood or energizes a party, but more so for those who like to take time alone to get in tune with themselves and their thoughts.
One of the interesting elements that Tycho incorporates into his compositions is the absence of sound. “Source,” one of the tracks on Epoch, opens with a simple strum of a guitar that echoes away into silence. After a few repetitions of this pattern, layers of synth are added to fill in the gaps in the sound. Halfway through the song, the added layers suddenly drop out to reveal the same echoing tone of the guitar. Even though the same elements are repeated and layered throughout the song, the flow keeps my interest the whole way through.
Not only can Tycho’s music catch my focus and amaze me in its complexity, it can increase my ability to concentrate. Depending on what I’m doing while listening, I can get work done more effectively or just simply contemplate my existence through the music. Regardless of what role the music has when listened to, I would encourage anyone to try listening to this alternative style of music. I never would have thought that I would take a liking to a style so ambient, but no one does it better than Tycho.