Music

Tycho: Awake

Lack of substance and interest plagues Tycho's fourth album.


Tycho

Awake

Label: Ghostly International
US Release Date: 2014-03-18
UK Release Date: 2014-03-17
Amazon
iTunes

Tycho has always owned an odd niche in the indie world. Electronics and post-rock sensibilities collided on Scott Hansen’s last album Dive which netted him hype and praise. Now that album number four, Awake, has been released Hansen seems more dedicated to mashing the sounds of Maserati and Mogwai with more downtempo aspects. Mogwai’s recent, and solid, Rave Tapes serves as a great touchstone for Awake. Both albums infused driving guitars and rolling bass lines with more synthetic and calmer sounds. Unfortunately Awake isn’t quite up to par. Being able to enjoy Awake means you’ll have to deal with stretches of empty minded prettiness to get to any real substance.

It should be said that Awake often borders on beautiful. The production here is tremendous and is easily the album’s best quality. Synths sparkle and cascade while the drum work makes the songs glide along. Certain moments within these songs prove that Hansen is a hell of a producer. The middle section of “Dye” sounds like it was recorded underwater and the technicolored ending of “See” is the album’s most energetic moment. Sadly, even with Hansen’s work, the album never finds its center. In direct contrast to the album title, Awake feels half-asleep and bleary eyed, occasionally threatening to burst into something interesting but never quite reaching far enough.

Despite the relatively short run time (only three songs here go over five minutes) Awake’s tracks seem to stretch on much longer than necessary. The title track opens the album seems poised to break into something grand. Well-placed guitars strum around a rumbling bass and the middle section is a calm yet driving piece of work, but it never goes anywhere. Much like many songs on this album, it lacks any sense of direction. The following track “Montana” bursts into its climax too early leaving the tail end of the song to peter out unceremoniously. “L” meanders for a good three minutes before a head-bopping groove finally appears and leads the song out. It’s deeply unsatisfying to hear these segments of excellence go by, like they were from some superior version of Awake only to be surrounded by long sections of torpidity. Thankfully, only one song here feels truly awkward and out of place. The dirty drums of “Apogee” seem to have been slapped on over the more tranquil parts of the track.

What makes Awake truly frustrating is that there’s only one song here that is excellent the whole way through. “Spectre” manages to combine the album’s best guitar work with pulsing drums and smartly placed bass. Everywhere else on the album, moments of greatness are bogged down by slog. The opening and ending of “See” are two of the album’s best moments, but the middle section is sleep inducing and utterly directionless. The closing track “Plains” appropriately ends things with a whimper. It’s the shortest song on the album but its three minute run time is misleading. After about two minutes it begins to fade away into nothingness, only a repetitive drum beat and rising white noise remain. “Plains” might be the best example, but over the eight songs here Hansen struggles to be engaging leaving an album that is pretty, stream-lined, and much too often dull.

4


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

The 10 Best Experimental Albums of 2015

Music of all kinds are tending toward a consciously experimental direction. Maybe we’re finally getting through to them.

Books

John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, and Their Fellow Freedom Riders Are Celebrated in 'Breach of Peace'

John Lewis and C.T. Vivian were titans of the Civil Rights struggle, but they are far from alone in fighting for change. Eric Etheridge's masterful then-and-now project, Breach of Peace, tells the stories of many of the Freedom Riders.

Music

Unwed Sailor's Johnathon Ford Discusses Their New Album and 20 Years of Music

Johnathon Ford has overseen Unwed Sailor for more than 20 years. The veteran musician shows no sign of letting up with the latest opus, Look Alive.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Jazz Trombonist Nick Finzer Creates a 'Cast of Characters'

Jazz trombonist Nick Finzer shines with his compositions on this mainstream jazz sextet release, Cast of Characters.

Music

Datura4 Travel Blues-Rock Roads on 'West Coast Highway Cosmic'

Australian rockers Datura4 take inspiration from the never-ending coastal landscape of their home country to deliver a well-grounded album between blues, hard rock, and psychedelia.

Books

Murder Is Most Factorial in 'Eighth Detective'

Mathematician Alex Pavesi's debut novel, The Eighth Detective, posits mathematical rules defining 'detective fiction'.

Music

Eyedress Sets Emotions Against Shoegaze Backdrops on 'Let's Skip to the Wedding'

Eyedress' Let's Skip to the Wedding is a jaggedly dreamy assemblage of sounds that's both temporally compact and imaginatively expansive, all wrapped in vintage shoegaze ephemera.

Film

Of Purges and Prescience: On David France's LGBTQ Documentary, 'Welcome to Chechnya'

The ongoing persecution of LGBTQ individuals in Chechnya, or anywhere in the world, should come as no surprise, or "amazement". It's a motif undergirding the history of civil society that certain people will always be identified for extermination.

Television

Padma Lakshmi's 'Taste the Nation' Questions What, Exactly, Is American Food

Can food alone undo centuries of anti-immigrant policies that are ingrained in the fabric of the American nation? Padma Lakshmi's Taste the Nation certainly tries.

Film

Performing Race in James Whale's 'Show Boat'

There's a song performed in James Whale's musical, Show Boat, wherein race is revealed as a set of variegated and contradictory performances, signals to others, a manner of being seen and a manner of remaining hidden, and it isn't "Old Man River".

Music

The Greyboy Allstars Rise Up to Help America Come Together with 'Como De Allstars'

If America could come together as one nation under a groove, Karl Denson & the Greyboy Allstars would be leading candidates of musical unity with their funky new album, Como De Allstars.

Music

The Beatles' 'Help!' Redefined How Personal Popular Music Could Be 55 Years Ago

Help! is the record on which the Beatles really started to investigate just how much they could get away with. The album was released 55 years ago this week, and it's the kick-off to our new "All Things Reconsidered" series.

Music

Porridge Radio's Mercury Prize-Nominated 'Every Bad' Is a Wonderful Epistemological Nightmare

With Every Bad, Porridge Radio seduce us with the vulnerability and existential confusion of Dana Margolin's deathly beautiful lyricism interweaved with alluring pop melodies.

Music

​​Beyoncé's 'Black Is King' Builds Identity From Afrofuturism

Beyoncé's Black Is King's reliance on Afrofuturism recuperates the film from Disney's clutches while reclaiming Black excellence.

Reading Pandemics

Colonial Pandemics and Indigenous Futurism in Louise Erdrich and Gerald Vizenor

From a non-Native perspective, COVID-19 may be experienced as an unexpected and unprecedented catastrophe. Yet from a Native perspective, this current catastrophe links to a longer history that is synonymous with European colonization.

Music

John Fullbright Salutes Leon Russell with "If the Shoe Fits" (premiere + interview)

John Fullbright and other Tulsa musicians decamped to Leon Russell's defunct studio for a four-day session that's a tribute to Dwight Twilley, Hoyt Axton, the Gap Band and more. Hear Fullbright's take on Russell's "If The Shoe Fits".

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.