Scott Hansen’s take on electronica is one rooted as much in aesthetics as it is sound. A musician with a strong sense of visual communication, Hansen’s compositions have typically found a balance not unlike the space on an artist’s pad – colourful, contextually informative, and direct in all the right places, while sparse and minimalistic in others. It’s this balance that has resulted in a canon undetermined by fad or the changing tastes of an audience; Hansen’s work is signature and conforms to little else than a singular vision.
This thread of idiosyncrasy can be traced back to 2011’s Dive; the beginning of something of a triptych of Tyco releases through Ghostly International. The first forays into ambient proper, Dive conceded much of what Awake would elicit. Hansen’s second full-length was delivered in insular tones, nuanced by much more hard-edged analogue timbres and compounded with a sense of urgency – it champed at the bit compared to the stationary, reflective pool of its predecessor.
Epoch, his latest effort, is wholly indicative of the best of both. Though perhaps not the conclusive tail end some might have hoped for, the record is thick with atmospheric excursions, wobbly electronica, and astute instrumentation.
Rhythmic, charming and slick, ‘Glider’ opens the album with optimistic flourishes of live-stage dynamics and studio electronics – again, an example of the kind of balance frequently struck by Hansen throughout his back catalogue. There are shades of James Lavelle’s and DJ Shadow’s UNKLE project to be found throughout Epoch, as Hansen calls upon his band to inject proceedings with melodically charged indie refrains and repetitions; ‘Slack’, ‘Division’, and ‘Local’ are all echo chamber guitars and scooped-mid percussion sections. The only missing component to these tracks is a soaring, treated vocal sample – but we’ll refrain from playing devil’s advocate too profusely.
Though obviously indebted to math rock and guitar bands in general, Hansen’s project at times leans heavily on synthesiser purism, and it’s easy to differentiate sections of tracks that have been written with electronic melody in mind, but then supplemented with layered arrangements to form the overall end-result. As such, there’s much in the way of sine-wave cherry picking to be done when tracks never quite reach the culmination of their buildup, often falling short of perfection as jangling guitars kick in or fade out. ‘Rings’, as an example, might have been stronger with a ‘less is more’ approach, while ‘Horizon’ could easily be reframed as a bubbling, analogue composition to the benefit of the record as a whole.
In any case, there’s a lot to enjoy in Epoch, and whether you’re a fan of post-rock, electronica, trip- hop, or conventional indie, you’ll likely find something to celebrate, though maybe not all at once. Aaron Drain