Hovering on the hazy horizon of the electronic music scene is San Francisco-based Scott Hansen, also known as Tycho, an ambient-psychedelic artist and producer known for his rolling, scenic, all-instrumental soundscapes. With his breakout EP, Dive (Ghostly International, 2011), Tycho brought us his swirling melodies and smooth percussion on singles like Daydream and Adrift that sound exactly like what their titles suggest—a solo mental stroll at sunset, or a float down a lazy, winding river. Keeping with the vibe of a nostalgic, liminal journey, Tycho’s newest album, Awake, consists of the alluring, melancholy soundscapes and hypnotizing percussion that define Tycho as a musician. Float through this album right when you wake up or right before you go to sleep. Either way, it’ll calm you down and make you think.
Tycho begins the album with the title-track, Awake, which sums up his mastery of a light, simple melody paired with a build-up that makes you feel like you’re waking up, feeling excited but a little daunted by the day’s upcoming events. Hansen slowly adds sounds and layer throughout the progression of the song, simultaneously generating a “go with the flow” attitude, but also raising some serious-sounding stakes. Awake is definitely the most impactful song on the album, with heavier percussion than most of the other tracks and an unparalleled beat-based crescendo that promises careful contemplation.
The rest of Awake is divided into two different camps of tunes: the slower, darker ones that resemble more of a slow roll or an uphill hike, with a slight feeling of struggle and accomplishment; and the poppier, floatier tracks that feel like you’re gliding from cloud to cloud in a Mario video game. Within the first camp are tracks like Montana, Dye and Spectre, all of which boast effective basslines and backbeats that could set the scene for an aimless road-trip across a dark part of the country. In the other camp are tracks like L, See and Apogee, which release you into a soundscape of high-pitched synth raindrops and bubbles that explode into danceable, upbeat bursts of dynamism. Tycho imbues in these light, ambient tracks a contagious optimism and calmness, and we can’t help but sink into this dreamy, aerial world, despite the album’s slightly darker moments.
Tycho ends the album on a sentimental, reflective note with Plains, a song that features an acoustic guitar riff, lending it a little bit of a countryside feeling. The track sounds like we’ve finally decided to settle into one spot after a long-winded, emotional journey, and are ready to drift off asleep. We can finally climb under the covers and lose ourselves in a totally ambient space with little grounding in the real world.