TYCHO – SIMULCAST
Okay, you’re getting a bonus review this week because I can’t compress my thoughts on this one down to a single paragraph for the end-of-the-month post. Simulcast is a companion album to Weather, Tycho’s release from last year. As such, I will be referring back to that album quite a bit in this review, so I highly recommend that you watch my review of it here. But the bottom line with Weather is that I liked it quite a bit because I happen to enjoy Tycho’s brand of laid-back electronic music and it’s inclusion of vocals from Saint Sinner gave it that little extra something.
Like I said, Simulcast is intended to be a companion album to Weather, but this time around it’s all instrumental. I actually hesitate to call this a new release because 3 of the 8 tracks on it are the 3 instrumental tracks from Weather with no changes (“Weather,” “Into The Woods,” and “Easy”). And the remaining 5 are just instrumental reworkings of everything else. So I guess you could call this a remix album? But only like, 5/8 of a remix album? I don’t know, the electronic music world can be weird sometimes.
It’s important to point out that while this is an instrumental companion to the previous album, the reworked tracks are not just the vocal-less backing tracks. They truly have been reworked. They have key defining characteristics that tie them to their lyrical counterpart and maintain the same spirit, but Tycho has given them new embellishments to fill in the gaps left by the vocals. These tracks also have new titles and most have longer running times. Interestingly, the only new title that gives you any hint to the original is “Stress,” a heavy rework of “No Stress” from Weather.
So the real question here is whether Tycho managed to sufficiently replace Saint Sinner’s vocals. The answer is… mostly. Some tracks like “Cypress” (companion to “Japan”), are still pretty basic and sound like backing tracks despite being stretched out to almost twice the length. Others like “Outer Sunset” (companion to “Skate”) have clearly recognizable parts but benefit from additional percussion and synths. And then there’s songs like “Alright” which I think is the companion to “For How Long,” but it honestly sounds like an entirely different song.
The second question is if the tracks are any good. And I personally think they are. People like to give Tycho a hard time because his music is so inoffensive. It’s background music for the kitchen or office, only slightly more creative than lo-fi hip hop beats to study to. And I won’t deny it’s good music for that, but I also think it’s impressive that an artist has set out to make music like this and still make it distinctly their own. Despite being electronic music, Tycho finds ways to make it feel organic with electric guitars and vocal improvisations (still provided by Saint Sinner, by the way). And these little touches make the songs unquestionably his, and very rewarding when listening actively with headphones.
At first, I wondered if this album was really necessary. Weather was already so good. Tycho took his music to new places when he incorporated lyrics. Did we really need an instrumental companion? At the end of the day, maybe we didn’t, but I’m not upset that it exists. The vocal-less tracks from Weather represented some of Tycho’s best instrumental work up to that point, and the reworks on Simulcast are just as good, if not better. And if there are people out there who wished that Weather didn’t have vocals, well now you have your wish. I do still think Weather is the stronger release here, but Simulcast is still a strong entry in Tycho’s catalog.