36:55 min • Ghostly International • March 18, 2014
Andrew Darley reviews
Scott Hansen has been creating music, remixes and visual art as Tycho for over a decade. The Californian-based artist most notably pushed himself to the forefront of the music world with his 2010 record Dive, an album glowing with Balearic electronica and a sense of vitality. It invited us into Hansen’s vision of Californian summers with moments of drying off from bathing in the sea, nighttime campfires and a thirst for the future.
Flash forward four years and Tycho is releasing the successor and sonic extension of that album. Awake is his fourth full-length record and as the title suggests new elements are stirring in his music. After touring Dive across the world accompanied by a live band, he discovered that his compositions became more textured and bodied when performed with live instruments. With this in mind, when came to write new music he made a decision to incorporate musicians in the recording process to see where it would go. Bringing in live drums and turning up the guitar, this record intends to be fuller, more energetic. He has even gone as far to say that this is “in many ways, the first true Tycho” – which is a big statement to make with three records already behind you.
Awake essentially picks up right where his last album left off. Songs like ‘Dye’ and ‘See’ capture his familiar exotic, sun-soaked atmosphere. However, they have an added dimension with chiming guitars, drums and hand-clapping, which course through the entire album. His choice in direction shifts Tycho away from his previous studio-focused experimentations into an act that you can visualize, almost hear, in a live music setting.
Despite his decision to expand on his sound, a feeling pervades that it could have been developed further. There is a niggling feeling that the band dynamic was not utilized in a way that could have brought a new features to his song writing style and structures. Instead, the album does what Tycho has done finely before, with a surplus layer of instrumentation. At times the music blurs into the onslaught of indie pop bands of the past ten years who have worked guitar and electronic strands together.
Awake is no doubt a pleasure to listen to. ‘L’ and the title track contain soothing melodies that are at once joyful and nostalgic. It’s shortcoming is that it lacks in going the distance or properly teasing out the potentials of what Tycho can be. As the atmospheric ambiance sounds out on the final song, ‘Plains’, a question lingers of whether the band is necessary since the stimulating aspect of Hansen’s music is the electronic he builds it on.