Music Reviews

Tycho Awake

(Ghostly International) Buy it from Insound Rating - 5/10

Scott Hansen comes through within all his works as peaceful and innocuous, just about crossing a decade-long career sculpting ambient soundscapes that are guarded in a conscious state. His is a quiet competence that could very well break if ever he encounters a disturbance. He’s carried that virtue to such an extent that it’s almost unimaginable to picture him trying anything outside his established limits, and seeing as his releases come after extended periods it’s safe to say he’s in no rush to prove otherwise. Known under the nom de plume of Tycho, the graphic designer-by-day writes pieces that reflect the soft gloom of a descending evening, which could very well describe his work ethic - that of unwinding with his other passion project after meeting the more structured demands of a long day at work.

Hansen brought on a more slower paced offering in 2011’s Dive, merging an all-embracing fusion of organic and synthetic elements spliced in minimally varying proportions. That aesthetic continues in his latest effort Awake, although the results are far less engaging - the fiddling guitars of Dive are now exercised to a point of exhaustion, set against a drifting backdrop of soothing textures that are agreeable at best. It’s almost as if Hansen is trying to methodically augment his recurring motifs without a clear rationale of where he wants to take them - the cosmic electronic pulses of L, though glistening in an icy coating, sound slightly off-putting when set against an analogue groove, while the title track extends listlessly into post-rock noodling without any semblance of verve. Even the more rhythmically pounding moments, like See, stay at a frustrating middle ground since they only amount to light head bobbing when they should call forth ease and carefree movement. And the sudden change of tempo in Apogee, which suddenly simulates a drum and bass beat, hints at some variation before it reverts back to those characterless delayed guitars and glinting pre-set tones.

Expecting any development in Tycho’s musical approach may be asking too much considering how staunchly he adheres to his singular vision. Awake is completely aware of what it wants to accomplish, but it also comes across as stunted and unvarying in emphasis. Those cascading notes are sleekly produced and warmly atmospheric, meandering in a leisurely drift that is devoid of any tension or climactic build. Only slight refinements are made when a reinvention could make a wealth of difference, and that pleasant glow he sticks occasionally borders on the blandness of an electronica compilation found in a boutique book retailer. Hansen has appropriated this kind of self-reflective, blissful IDM with skilled craft, but when the final result is too inwardly focused and monolithic you wish he’d let out a bit more.