Monday, 31 March 2014

Album Review:Tycho – Awake

(Ghostly International)

Up until recently Tycho main man Scott Hansen split his time between his music and graphic design work, but it is easy to see how these two disciplines could overlap. Hansen's music seems to express a singular aesthetic in his smooth clean and focused productions. Tycho's sound took the old synthesizers and hip hop drum beats of Boards of Canada into a more positive direction which saw Tycho labelled alongside artists like Toro y Moi and Washed Out. There was a lot to like about Tycho's last album Dive, it's laid back sunny sound was one you could get lost in as hazy synth lines would blend together alongside reverb soaked drum machines into a electronic daydreams.

His latest album Awake, is the first where he has been able to focus only on the music part of his dual careers and has brought his live band (made up of Zac Brown on guitar and Rory O’Connor on drums) into the studio with him during the creation of the album. Awake starts the album of with familiar tones, palm muted guitars and airy synthesizers fill the track as they tirelessly switch between melodies, creating an ever-changing forward motion. The track See has a bit more momentum recalling ambient dance of The Field and the Balearic electronica of the short-lived duo Air France with it's bright and upbeat sound and chiming delayed guitar licks that feels warm enough to soundtrack the summer months ahead.

Montana shows how the live drums can work with Tycho's sound it's a much more rousing effort than listeners may be used to but that extra energy that infuses these track really helps drive the album. There is something to be said for the way these three musicians flit between riffs and drum patterns with a tireless ease. Guitar melodies float about on Spectre in the spaces between crashing stop-start drum beats before the ambient soundscapes of album closer Plains enter. The track shows an attention to detail in these creations and creates a nice change of pace as the album winds to a close with waves of synth and reverb roll around a cleanly picked guitar while the rest of the sounds play about low in the mix.

This album manages to break away from a lot of the easy comparisons to trip-hop and BoC into something that stands up on its own that lingers around like half remember nostalgia. Whilst there is a lot to enjoy in the sound Hansen has intricately crafted productions but it falls short with its lack of range and even with the expanded line-up it never really straying to far from Tycho's already established light and breezy template making Awake an album that’s easy to like but a little harder to love.

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