Album Reviews

Tycho – Awake

(Ghostly International) UK release date: 17 March 2014

Tycho - Awake Tycho’s stylish ambient sounds are immediately apparent from the lush ether of title track Awake. It’s a humming, clicking construction of sibilant percussion sounds and glistening atmospherics, lightly dusted with hand-clap pops and feather-light guitar leads.

Over the eight magnificent tracks that comprise the album – also handily titled Awake – the stratospheric tone and teary nostalgia that Tycho has always conjured are back in regal fashion.

The track Awake found its way into the world in 2013, resplendent in its stripped-back, comforting soundscape. Scott Hansen, the main man behind the Tycho name, has added a couple of likeminded bliss-heads in Zac Brown (guitars) and Rory O’Connor (drumkit) to turn the project into a three-piece band, and the instrumentation throughout is superb.

Matthew Dear‘s Ghostly International, the label behind Tycho, are building an incredible rep for releasing crepuscular music – Ghostly are gearing up to release the night-time twin of Awake in the nocturnal HTRK’s Psychic 9-5 Club –  and the sound of Awake, as one would expect, is like the best dawn of your life.

Second track Montana opens with a thoroughly iridescent guitar twinkle, before adding tightly-wound (but tactfully gentle) post-punk bass and elegantly crashing drums. It evokes early Foals on a week-long Brian Eno binge, or the recent Alcest eye-opener Shelter. It gives off a warm, comforting vibe – it’s an opulent, sunshine sound that listeners reach for in the depth of summer, a dreamy, nostalgic sound that Sigur Rós have largely dominated in recent years (rightly so).

Dye and L, which are amongst the album highlights, shift the feel from lazy mornings to ‘waking with purpose’. The driving rhythm of L is supplemented by the record’s densest instrumentation – the listener, by this point, has no hope of feeling anything but blissed out. The xx-style clean guitar lines echo and ring around the entire record, but the snatches of guitar you can pick up on L are sublime.

The relatively heavy, thudding percussion, the deep pools of bass and the raspy brass sounds that invade the gossamer aesthetic of Dye are welcome – they never stay too long to break up all the feel-good work laid down by the earlier tracks, but they are a necessary embellishment. See, which follows, opens with synthetic handclaps, and features stunning guitar work, which again feels transplanted from the more ethereal post-punk acts of yore. It flows along on a dynamic rhythm, filling in the gaps with euphoric, dance synth patterns that come in and out of focus every few bars.

Apogee’s first few bars hint at a stylistic shift, but Hansen guides the track back into ecstatic, bug-eyed euphoria with a rolling guitar lead and crystalline production. The washing, immersive sound Tycho produce is none more apparent than on Apogee – the pea-soup hi-hat patterns and kick-drum-led rhythm frame the relentless exoticism of the track perfectly. Spectre comes on like the morning-after the chemically-enhanced party of the earlier tunes: glassy Robert Smith-esque guitar shimmers and pounding, four-on-the-floor drums from O’Connor amount to a tune that covers the mid-way point between euphoric The Cure and hazy Boards Of Canada.

The album closes with Plains, where the stylistic shift hinted at in the earlier tracks comes to fruition. It’s more dream-pop than electronica, with massive periods of overwhelming emptiness, and a barely-there almost-silent coda, allowing the listener to either turn the record over and start again, or drift off into a peaceful siesta.

Miserablists will find this album unbearably hard work, as Hansen is so adept at crafting beautiful, but ultimately one-dimensional soundscapes. However, this record undoubtedly has tonnes of appeal, and will satisfy Tycho’s familiars and fans no end. This kind of feel-good vibe is thoroughly infectious: the pastel palette and narcotic haze are a potent combination. Awake is in many ways a perfect record, but if the listener isn’t prepared for a full-on ecstatic assault, it’s hard to see them making it beyond the first track. As such, this record is recommendable to the happy, the loved-up, the chemically-stimulated and the drowsy. If you’re one of these, Awake could be the record of your summer.

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Tycho – Awake