Tycho, Awake – Album review

Tycho, AwakeI first uncovered Tycho while searching the net for inspiration as a graphic design student. The ambient shimmering electronic tones produced by Scott Hansen surrounded my university days.

I was enthralled with his beautiful vintage-inspired graphics, which he also creates under the name ISO50. His music at the time was being used to complement his graphics in the background, with the option to move from track to track and further explore either his poster and CD designs or music. Electronic music was a common element to my surroundings at the time. I found his music soothing, as well as perfect easy listening, to complement my late nights working on my design portfolio. The tracks triggered my visual imagination, encouraging my mind to follow more of an intuitive approach, similar to what I feel his music is driven by. ‘The Daydream’, ‘Sunrise Projector’, ‘The Disconnect’, ‘Adrift’ and ‘From Home’ quickly became the soundtrack to my late creative nights.

Tycho’s tracks, which are vocal-less, have the ability to connect with the imagination, causing it to dive into a world of sunny days, beams of light, sun flares, glistening waters, beaches and rainbows, just like a lot of his earlier graphics illustrate.

Since these earlier days, Scott has added a drummer and bass player to the outfit in time for his new album Awake, which is also the name given to the album-opener. Zac Brown comes in on guitars and bass and Rory O’Connor on drums. Both, particularly Rory, have inspired a new vision in Hansen’s approach. The music implies the surface is only just beginning to be scratched at this stage, suggesting there are some exciting possibilities for further exploration to progress within Tycho’s signature style in the future. The intensity and overall feel of some tracks has been complimented greatly through the addition of a driving build-up of bass and drum rhythms in parts, which were absent in Tycho’s earlier music.

‘Awake’ is a favourite track, as well as the most unique, on the album. It is textured with the sound of light, shimmery keys against glittery guitar strings, which sets a steady pace and achieves the vibe of an early morning awakening, as the name implies even before glancing to see what its title is. Envisions of early morning runs and walks in the crisp open air, coastal beaches framed by a sunrise come to mind; along with that rush felt when rising early for a flight to a distant land or city; or alternatively coming home at the end of a great night out.

The album’s second song, ‘Montana’, picks up pace slightly but maintains the light high-pitched tones, with some bass strings added. This provides a similar feel to Boards of Canada, however maintaining Scott Hansen’s signature sound. The faster pace and light tones invent visions such as one of a sunny day road trip, flying along as scenery rushes past around you.

Next, ‘L’, offers a gorgeous emersion of tones that sounds like glistening falling stars at night or the gleaming reflection of sunlight on sky-blue ocean, before Tycho’s signature synthesised key melody makes its way in.

The following tracks, ‘Dye’, and ‘See’, take a step back from the driving force of the start of the album and lean more towards Hansen’s older music. ‘Dye’ appears to be popular with many, however I found it took a while to grow on me. I didn’t find it offered anything new or distinctive. ‘See’ makes up for this, delivering an enticing bass build-up, generating atmospheric tones.

‘Apogee’ then meshes break-beat rhythms in to the usual style of synthesised harmonies, offering variety. ‘Spectre’ brings back the exhilarating upbeat sounds of the opening part of the album, taking full advantage of incorporating Rory’s drumming in to the mix. Drumming is most evident in this track. A perfect lead up to the final offering ‘Plains’, which does the alternative and highlights Zac’s dazzling, gentle guitar playing, taking the listener out on a mellow but high note.

Overall the album maintains Hansen’s distinctive, synthesised and pristine melodies, while offering some more engaging additions of drumming and guitar, especially for ‘Awake’ and ‘Montana’. Like all of Tycho’s music, this is a great album for some laid-back, sleepy, meditative, background easy-listening. It provides feel good, summery, soothing tones. Tracks such as ‘Dye’, ‘Plains’ and ‘Apogee’ were enjoyable while suggesting there will be more areas that can be explored with the introduction of new drumbeats and guitar elements, offering exciting developments for future Tycho productions.



Tycho, Awake review by Heather Vousden.