Defining an album by Californian dream pop electronica producer Scott Hansen aka TYCHO by its songs is quite difficult. His albums have always been less about certain tracks and more about the record in its entire flow. Switch on (the album), switch off (your mind) and dream yourself away. It’s the credo of every TYCHO release so far. Awake, his fourth studio album, repeats this formula once again. A fact that is both – the record’s biggest strength and biggest weakness.
Awake basically continues where 2011’s Dive left us for good. It’s a continuation of the typical TYCHO sound. Dreamy keyboard melodies, psychedelic synthesizer pads, slow grooving beats, gentle guitar play. Music for a day in the sun, an evening on the beach a life far away from the troubles of every day life. And to make one thing clear right from the start – Awake sounds almost exactly like Dive, only slightly different. The main difference lies within Hensen’s subtle transformation into a full band. TYCHO now also features Zac Brown on guitar and bass) and Rory O’Connor who’s responsible for the live drums. They’ve all been playing together for a while now – and their performance clearly influenced the new record.
You’re not sensing it on the opening title track but clearly on the second piece Montana. Brown’s guitar comes into focus, the live drums are also more present. One thing this element clearly brings is an acceleration of TYCHO‘s dreamy electronica. See might start smooth but creates a magnificent drive at the end. And especially Spectre is way faster than previous material of the project. It’s a nice diversification from the usual TYCHO formula. In-between the paced up pieces slow grooving tunes like L or Dye mark the right contrast.
But still, here lies the main problem. TYCHO perfected their really lovely recipe on Dive. Waiting three years for Awake only to find out there’s nothing new to discover leaves a slightly bitter taste in our mouths. Don’t get it wrong – it’s still a solid record that works great as a whole. But the few new ideas – the more ‘live’ sounding instruments – are a bit too less. Same goes for the record itself which only comes with eight songs. TYCHO needs a new formula, a few fresh sounds and surprising structures in the future, to stay as relevant as it is. But it’s actually quite easy to ignore these points of criticism once you close your eyes and dream yourselves away once again. They’re getting away with it, once more.
TYCHO’s fourth album ‘Awake’ marks a return to the well known formula of the dream pop act – but it clearly lacks of fresh ideas and feels a bit foreseeable.
NBHAP Rating: 3/5