Atmospheric and intimate

Tycho is the brainchild of Scott Hansen, a musician and producer who also is known for his photography and graphic design work under the name ISO50. Both his music and visual work exude a certain warmth and texture that have helped him establish an easily identifiable style. From the design of the album’s packaging to the songs contained within, Hansen always provides a unified product that is recognizably “Tycho.” His latest album “Awake” is no exception, with a more straight ahead musical approach reflected in the stark shapes and simple colors of the album’s artwork.

If you’ve never heard a Tycho record before, “Awake” is an excellent introduction. These are instrumental rock songs layered with a healthy dose of synthetic keyboard and percussion sounds. The timbres of the instruments and synths are warm ones, and there is little to no dissonance to be found, creating a pleasant, tonal listening experience. It often is mislabeled as ambient or post-rock music despite having too much rhythm to be truly ambient, and none of the trademark stylistic tendencies of post-rock except its lack of lyrics. It is visual music, often accompanied by live video projection behind the band during live performances.

For those already familiar, this record doesn’t have anything to offer that other Tycho albums don’t. This sounds negative, but to fans it actually may be a selling point. Tycho isn’t an artist we look to for wild innovation or radical departure in sound, but one that we hope will continue to develop his own sound. “Awake” falls in line with his other releases as an album full of warm, visual soundscapes that you will want to take everywhere with you.

This release does set itself apart from other albums by being the first to involve more than just Hansen in the recording process. Bringing his live band into the studio with him has created a simpler, more direct sound featuring more acoustic instrumentation than in previous releases. “Spectre” is demonstrative of this, with the raw sound of the acoustic drum kit creating a sense of immediacy akin to a live performance. This, along with the interesting structure and form of the song set it apart as one of the more exciting things we’ve heard from Tycho in recent years.

This album serves as an excellent soundtrack to just about anything you might do. Put it on while cooking, driving, cleaning, running, dancing or sleeping and note how significantly each of these activities improves. While it may not be groundbreaking or innovative, there always will be room for more of Tycho’s warm, visual, beautiful music.

3 1/2 stars out of 5.