The surprisingly dully named Scott Hansen alias Tycho has established himself since the middle of the past decade as one of the most vibrant, rangeful and respected DJs within the ever-growing popular sphere of ‘ambient music’, delineated by Wikipedia as ‘music which puts emphasis on tone and atmosphere over traditional music structure’. If sitting in a quiet room and conjuring up an atmosphere of pure chill takes your fancy then Tycho, so to speak, is your man. However there is always room for development and growth and the man known as IOS50 for his photographic and design work has embraced this all-encompassing philosophy by employing the help of a full-time drummer (Rory O’Connor) and continuing to seek out the services on a more regular basis of a live collaborator on guitar and, possibly more importantly, on bass (Zac Brown). Tycho is now, in the loosest definition of the word, ‘a band’, and this new par-solo nature is perfectly timed as Awake navigates the tricky path away from a stale follow-up to ethereal 2011 LP Dive (Hansen’s first release on Ghostly International, a label containing numerous titans of ambience, Com Truise, Gold Panda and Seven Bells to name but a few). Instead, it blows the listener away with a new soaring tempo while retaining an ambient back-beat and ultimately delivering the same production quality that left Dive being lauded with such critical acclaim.
It’s clear from the off that Hansen is keen to emphasise his newly-beloved change in direction. The opening ten seconds of the title track in isolation could have seemingly been ripped off anything but a Tycho album, a daring riff which would probably sound more at home on an Interpol record from the mid-noughties it is then speedily joined by a sumptuous bass line (note to listener – this album is far better enjoyed with the aid of a sub-woofer) and combined with layer upon layer of the traditional Tycho ambience we are already so in-tune with. The formula is repeated for pretty much all of the seven following tracks and yet with enough in the way of tweaks to leave the listener in constant admiration at the skills of a master of his art. ‘Montana’ provides us with a sharper hint of bass while ‘L’ sees him turn up the levels of epicness as his decks-work is brought further to the forefront and combined with O’Connor’s deceptively fast-paced drumming. As the LP progresses, the ebbs, flows and sweeping tempos of the likes of ‘See’ and ‘Apogee’ are plain for all to hear.
And Hansen isn’t finished yet, not only content to fill our ears with sweet sweet music he has also put pen to paper on what could be one of the year’s most ambitious album covers, a fictionalised flag combining the colours and symbols of some of his favourite states. The design is testament to Tycho’s continued preference of opening our eyes to his past while never being lured into the tendency of adding any manner of vocal input. Awake combining with Dive appears to have led the powers that be at Ghostly International to a dual-package of longevity, two albums that can never be ‘worn out’ so to speak. Let’s hope in the not-too-distant future our man from the Mid-West is released from the shackles of a gruelling touring schedule to convert this into a trilogy.