Awake has a majestic widescreen whirr that evokes a gleaming machine taking flight. Cool, hopeful, anthemic and surprisingly emotional, the album takes Scott Hansen away from the pastoral ambient music of his previous releases, into something between muscular post-rock — complete with live musicians — and electronic dance, nested with taut builds and breaks. Below the bold and luminous melodies, reshuffling rhythm tracks make fine adjustments to the dynamic temperature. The guitar work sometimes makes one think of the xx with the curtains flung open, especially on the gorgeous, ineffably nostalgic title track.
A wistful feeling pervades the album, though each song finds its own way to get there. “Montana” builds on starry synths and guitars with virtual choral harmonies, while “Dye” and “Plains” let the earthy texture of acoustic guitar infiltrate this sleek, synthetic world. Cunningly built to fit both propulsive nighttime drives and placid early-morning reveries, Awake proves Hansen to be a lyrical instrumental writer as well as a technician of sound.