Scott Hansen, also known as Tycho, creates immersive, down-tempo electronica soundscapes that are as dreamy as they are expansive. Think wide open spaces — think waking up to find yourself lying on the floor of a canyon engulfed by stars kind of expansive. Listening to a Tycho album all the way through is a commitment — this is music you can easily get lost in, music that transports you to an entirely different mental space. Building on an already impressive body of work, Awake is Tycho’s fourth release, and the follow up to the hugely successful Dive.
Tycho’s latest effort seems oddly familiar at first — nothing catches the ear by surprise, and some tracks certainly reek of complacency. Despite the album’s striking similarity to previous material, however, Tycho’s latest release showcases an artist trying to fine-tune a signature sound, and a pretty decent one at that. With pounding drums layered over synthy undertones, Awake features track after track of powerful lead guitar riffs that narrate the euphoric rises as well as the subtle, tension-releasing comedowns, bringing to mind the work of artists such as Ulrich Schnauss, Boards of Canada, and July Skies. Smooth transitions give the album the sense of being a singular, unified composition rather than a chopped and snipped track-by-track melee. Chock-full of driving beats, smooth, echoing guitars, and colorful synthesizers, Awake strikes a fine balance between dreamy and forward-moving, hazy and euphoric.
“Montana,” the second single off the album, is nothing short of captivating. Gentle guitar riffs take the listener by the hand and lead the way toward an inevitable explosion of sound. Building and building, “Montana” is otherworldly and thrusts the listener firmly into the web of serenity Scott Hansen has spun for himself. Cloudy, misty, and spacey, a Tycho track wouldn’t sound out of place in something like “Lost In Translation,” a dream-like trance of a film.
As one of the biggest names in instrumental electronic music, Tycho has certainly proven himself capable of producing expressive music full of unspoken narratives (one of the reasons why Dive was such a hit). Where Dive passed with flying colors, however, Awake fails miserably — it’s boring, uninspired, and guilty of resorting to the same sounds over and over again. Out of context, no single track on the album sounds bad, but if you listen to Awake from start to finish, it sounds, well, stale. Despite some engaging moments, Awake is by-and-large an unexciting snooze-fest.
Written by Noveen Bajpai