photo by Reuben Wu

photo by Reuben Wu

Tycho is driving music. The swirling, forward-moving, polyphonic symphonies on his latest album, Awake, couple with the static horizon of the Mojave desert in the distance, the boulders and Joshua trees entering and exiting the passenger window frame, and the sun setting somewhere in the rearview.

Awake will be Scott Hansen’s fourth full-length as Tycho, ten years after his debut Sunrise Projector (2004). It’s his first album as a full-time musician, after spending his “20’s as a graphic designer.”

“Awake,” the magnificent title track and lead single was released late last year, followed by “Montana,” and last week’s “Spectre.”

Awake‘s charm emanates from Hansen’s trademark melodic ambiance and the fact that each track stands on its own. Microtonal triads and twinkly jewel tones ring clear on Awake. The only giveaway that the album was written at once is the presence of recurring thematic material. It’s powerful unity is almost too much, but several tracks work to alleviate the overbearing beauty of Awake’s shared melodies.

“See,” for example, begins percussively with a steady clap, lauding the track prematurely for an innovative reverb on its plucked melody. Three-note runs escape sporadically from the vortex created by atmospheric layers and a syncopated shaker groove. The build on this track is feverish, jostling the listener from a near-comatic state (we suspect this one is here for the late night drivers).

A distinct introduction isolates “Spectre,” too, from the rest of the album. Just shy of four minutes, the third single is the strongest evidence of Hansen developing a deeper, darker tone on this new album; if his prior album, Dive, was Pacifica, Awake is Indio. Whereas Dive’s sea foams fluttered prettily, Awake’s emeralds comprise a class nearly as fiery as the bass-driven, experimental work Past is Prologue (2006). The easiest way to explain the evolution is that Tycho got comfortable. More precisely, Hansen seems to have surrendered rhythmic variation in favor of thoroughly examining tonal depth.

The album ends on a slower tempo, with “Plains,” as the thematic material plateaus and the melodies stretch out into the dry, dimming horizon. Drive on, vagabond.

Awake will be available on Ghostly International March 17. Stream it now via NPR.

Article by Joanna Jiang

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