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Tycho Awake

A couple of years ago I was in a rented car driving through the Canadian Rockies. The scenery was appropriately stunning and we had a soundtrack to match its shimmers and breathtaking expanses. Tycho’s third album, Dive, was on the car’s CD player. It might have been chief composer, producer and ringleader Scott Hansen’s eye-catching design arm ISO50 – a case in point is the album art for Awake, above – that guided the homogeny between sight and hearing. Or maybe I’m just getting sentimental and I was recalling the misty-eyed faux idealism of your typical 4x4 advert.

This fourth LP, his second via Ghostly International, captures that same empowering succinctness of sounds as gentle hammers and slides linger just long enough to be missed when they’re gone. But it’s the overarching synth work that seeps in the furthest, with its high notes soaring above chugging, palm-muted strumming.

There’s a tendency to introduce songs with the same finger-picked echo and delay that contributes to Snow Patrol’s blandness. You momentarily feel like a passenger in ‘Chasing Cars’ as ‘Montana’, ‘Spectre’ and the title track pull away in first gear. But an equally common theme is the ability to accelerate beyond that opening jitter. Flourishing by foregoing any insipid lyrical whining, Awake instead tells its instrumental stories through finely crafted fade outs and crescendos, fashioning deliberately subtle melodies to ebb and flow along with simple, effective bass line pulses, carbonated fizzes and driving staccatos.

I’d heard murmurings that this was a change of direction and moving closer to a full band format, but however it was recorded the end product is just the same. Hansen has pulled off another readymade compilation for a journey through undulating countryside.