Tycho - Awake | Album Review | By Volume

The kid that went down isn't dead; he just can't find his phone. The Hold Steady - Almost Everything



You can see clearly where Awake comes from, but it’s much harder to predict where it’s going.

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Author: on March 17, 2014
Ghostly International

Hearing Awake feels like listening to the heartbeat of some alien creature. The album has its ebb and flow, its thump, its palpitations and little hiccups, but it feels distinctly alive. Awake is a fitting title, then, as the record comes across as a rebirth of sorts for Tycho. Its organic nature gives it an animalistic soul that was lacking on Tycho’s previous albums. While his first two records, essentially the same LP with slight track list variations, are a pitch-perfect mix of Boards of Canada-esque IDM and little heart-on-sleeve trance, they lacked a beating heart. Tycho’s previous effort as well, wasn’t as alive. While crafted with significantly more live instrumentation samples and downtempo beats, Dive was an apt title, as you couldn’t breathe it in deep – the music required an oxygen tank and wetsuit; you were always submerged. Awake, though, breaks from the chillwave undercurrent of Dive’s beachy atmosphere and Sunrise Projector / Past Is Prologue’s lost-in-this-foggy-city aesthetic for a wide-open, almost childlike approach to post-rock by way of ambient pop. It’s short, it’s sweet and I still wish there were a few more than just eight tracks.

One could cry that it’s a bit one-note at times, but I feel like Awake is so breezy, so impulsively listenable, that its lack of tension is a strong point to a great get-in and get-out album. Opener “Awake” and back-ender “Spectre” offer serene guitar riffs coupled with warm basslines that are utterly delectable. “Montana”, and its spacey guitar line, is an infectious pop-rock tune. Softer tracks “Dye” and sendoff “Plains” provide a reprieve from the beat oriented tunes, and accentuate Awake’s ambient undertones, while the kaleidoscopic “See” and “Apogee” could slot right in next to Slowdive’s post-pop instrumentals during the Souvlaki era and no one would be any the wiser. That’s it though, and there’s not much more to it. I’m not warming up to a gimmick; it’s actually a fitting aspect of Hansen’s music. He grabs from various excellent sources, mashes them together in interesting and exciting ways, and you have a pastiche of easily identifiable influences that amount to much more than their compiled sum. The greatest part of Tycho’s music is, you may see where it’s all coming from, but it’s difficult to tell where Hansen’s music is going, so his LPs are always stimulating.

Stimulating about sums it up though, as Awake isn’t short enough to be forgettable but also not quite long enough to settle into and get comfy. Akin to being invited to a friend’s house and then asked to swiftly depart right after kicking off your shoes – Awake invites you in the door all friendly-like but you both know this meet-up cannot last very long. By the time the acoustic strums of “Plains” slink in, it feels less like a sendoff, and more like a mid-record switch between movements. Awake may feel like an incomplete experience, but what’s offered is so choice, so delightful, that it’s difficult not to just hit play once more after the record fades out into nothingness.


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