A man of many talents and of many guises, San Francisco native Scott Hansen has become the name to drop in the design world thanks to a series of sun-drenched visual works under the name of ISO50. But it’s his equally striking blend of melodic post-rock and ambient electro, recorded under the moniker of Tycho, for which he remains best-known.
Having recruited guitarist Zac Brown and drummer Rory O’Connor to help transform his solo vehicle into a three-piece band capable of recreating his warm and evocative instrumental sound on the road, Tycho’s fourth album, Awake, is inevitably a different beast compared to 2011 predecessor Dive.
Indeed, whereas his previous material buried the six strings low into the mix, here they take center stage, with the opening title track just one of many built on the kind of echo-drenched cascading riff that The Edge has turned into an art form, and the gorgeously dreamy closer “Plains” featuring little more than a languid guitar hook drifting over an atmospheric Minimoog pattern.
O’Connor also gets his chance to shine, most notably with the emphatic percussion on “Spectre,” a shimmering 80s-tinged affair which suggests M83 now have some competition when it comes to retro shoegazey synth-rock, and the disjointed breakbeats of the New Age-inspired “Apogee.”
But Hansen’s shape-shifting song structures also play their part in ensuring Awake avoids drifting into background music territory, whether it’s the woozy space-funk of “L” seguing into a pulsing piece of sci-fi techno or the breath-taking “Montana” melding the Balearic vibes of New Order’s Technique with the soaring cinematic tendencies of Explosions In The Sky.
Retaining the synergy between his graphic art and his music while also pushing his sound forward, Tycho’s Awake is an impressive leap forward from an artist who’s fast becoming the master of beautifully serene IDM.