I’ll start out with what I’d usually bury three-quarters of the way down the article: the title track (also the first track) of this album is the best. Surprise, surprise. If you’re being generous you could argue that that means it must be an elegant thesis, the spiritual core of the album. If you’re being cynical you could argue that it means that, like me, Tycho just doesn’t want to bury the lead. Anyway, some context?
Tycho, a.k.a Scott Hansen is a promising producer at the more cogent end of ambient chillwave. He is known for shimmering guitar-pick and synth-based textures, and a general feeling that you’re on a beach with a few mates and few beers at sunset. A perfect summation of Tycho’s raison d’être can be found in the (I’m picking up on a pattern here) first track of his debut album, A Walk. Tycho at his best is a euphoric and oddly nostalgic summerfest. Also, if you’re into that kind of thing, he’s a visual artist too. He designed the wonderfully fitting album artwork and does many other things under the ISO50 name.
On Awake, Hansen is far more guitar conscious than on previous efforts. In fact, he’s far more band-centric altogether. Where we would have found synthetic soundscapes on previous releases, we find a guitar plugged into what sounds like the world’s largest delay pedal. On tracks like Spectre, there’s a distinctly live instrument vibe, with that ever more present guitar tone and even crackly drum breaks. Those drums, whilst perfectly laid back, do pull me out of my zen place a little.
That’s the thing about Tycho, though: when he isn’t bringing those wistful melodies across with timbres so smooth you could curl on them, there’s not much left. So when those drums, that are just a little too heavy on the high end and a little too raucous, I lose interest a bit. By the time we reach Apogee (pun intended) things have started to sound like a blend between drum ‘n’ bass and a PlayStation 1 loading screen. You might be reading that and thinking gimme gimme, which is fine, but it’s just not what I signed up for.
So, I’ll be adding the title track, Awake, to my mental list of canonical Tycho, and not much else from this release. Perhaps I should mellow out a little though, it’s chillwave after all. I mean, I’m not as hot on this record as the debut, but that’s just like, my opinion, man.