What's immediately clear from the opening bars of Tycho's new album, 'Awake', is that this is a more guitar-focussed and organic work than the glacial percussive synths of 2011's 'Dive'. Following that album, Scott Hansen toured extensively with a full on-stage band and so Tycho grew from a one man project to the driving three-piece behind this new work.
Tycho's sound is not your typical whispy ambient or Balearic chill out. Pulsing guitars are at the music's core, gradually layered with soft beats and heavily reverbed computerised melodies for light and open textures. The synths are icy, but a multitude of warm melodies take the place of vocals to add a human touch, with each track expanding upon a single melodic idea. There's an immediacy here that doesn't so much demand your attention as whisper softly in your ears. The music may be relaxed, but it's always driving forward, never lying back. It's this sense of push-pull that leaves the listener hanging in suspense.
Is it formulaic? Certainly. Yet Hansen and co. change up the soft-focused rock-electronica sound just enough across the album's eight tracks that they never lack invention. Collectively, they create a single soundscape that pauses only momentarily between tracks, like a breath. From the driving guitars of the title track, to the space-age synths of L, the live drums at the forefront of Apogee and the Americana twangs of Plains, each track is distinctive yet collectively reflects a single vision that, ironically enough for the album's title, is like a single beautiful dream.
'Awake' is an incredibly transportative album that takes the listener on a journey through blissful tranquility, subtle melancholy and heartfelt nostalgia. It might not be a huge leap from Tycho's previous album, but the increased use of live instrumentation ensures this is breezy yet propulsive instrumental music with true heart and soul.
Listen: 'Awake' is released on March 17th.