Awake is Tycho’s third album, but the first after his breakthrough Dive. Now I could talk your ear off about the struggles of the follow-up album for an artist. It’s a real trope in pop music, but for Tycho’s turn to bat, none of it seems to apply to him. While I can’t say it was unanticipated, he takes a step away from the dreamy electronic ambience of Dive for Awake, and it works. It comes off as the life-long companion to Dive. With prevalent featuring of acoustic instruments, the album creates a more vibrant and upbeat world, turning down the otherworldly nostalgia if only for a more realized look to tomorrow. The lovely trance atmospheres evoked on tracks like “Ascension” are lost in this transition, with only “L” and “Dye” to recall the slower, glazed moods on Dive. Awake also finds itself being more danceable, with the chugging guitars and the faster beats.
With all the subtle changes, the album feels to have gone in a new direction instead of simply one-upping Dive. It’s for the better, as it makes it feel fresher than a simple Dive2.0 would have. Despite this though, Hansen does step a bit close at times to a cheesy reminiscence of New Age. He never fully commits to the sound, but I’d be lying if it doesn’t find itself lingering about the album’s sheeny shiny cleanliness and recollections of “bettering for tomorrow”. It’s something to be conscious of, but is easily overcome in just how much expertise comes across through the album’s arrangements.
With the oh-so-important follow-up out of the way, I’d say Tycho has gracefully cleared the most dangerous pitfall in his career. With his direction established, I’m already excited to hear Tycho #4. I just wonder if it’ll have a big circle on the cover too.
Recommended Tracks: 3, 2, 1, 6, they’re all pretty great
RIYL: Dive, Boards of Canada, Com Truise