November 15th, 2016.

That was the day that I received my very first iTunes Gift Card from a friend for my birthday—I was 11 years old, and I didn't have any clue what to do with it. I had an iPod, but all of my music was either pirated or from the radio anyways; I didn't have any need for it.

Thinking that it'd be a pretty big waste not to use it, I decided to go onto the iTunes Store for a change (just to check the scene out), and as soon as I hit that large dark-purplish music icon, I saw an incredible picture.

A simple white square, studded with synthwave-esque ribbons of orange and deep indigo, resemblant of the sunset that I was looking at right out of my bedroom window. Tycho's Awake album was something different from the very beginning, and while Grade 6 Rishi knew what good music was like, he never realized the impact that this one singular album would have on him.

I remember listening to the first few tracks on the list as previews; the crisp guitar introductions of Awake and Spectre slapping me in the face with cleanliness, the claps of See acting as a serenade and a metaphor for the new beginnings that I was going through, heading into a brand-new middle school, and the purposeful mistakes that turned into incredible echoes of brightness on Apogee rhythmically puncturing me with... etherealism? Even now, I don't think that any word can well and truly capture the trance that I was put into when I heard the first 15 seconds of each song.

Needless to say, I ended up buying the whole album then and there, spending the entire gift card's money on that one journey of 8 songs (admittedly, young Rishi didn't exactly know the value of good investing, but I'd say that this was worth it nonetheless), and promptly spent the next 3 hours doing nothing except listening to it on repeat. This was my first taste of music from the underground—it was something that I found myself, not playing on the radio or from random street corners in downtown Toronto. Awake was a magical album musically, but its appearance based on the context surrounding my life at that point in time increased its significance for me tenfold.

Back then, I was a tiny, mouse-like skinny noodle of a human trying to find my way around life in a brand-new environment. I enrolled in a new middle school, leaving behind my old friends and family for a new experience, and to say that I was lonely was an understatement. Everyone felt so distant; I was  the nerdiest person possible in a school where having interests outside of high grades and basketball was frowned heavily upon. I was lost in a sea of blackness, with nothing anchoring me down, but nothing lifting me back up, either.

Tycho came at a pivotal moment in my childhood; when I first listened back to the (now mesmerizing) departure from convention in that 2014 album, I discovered a part of me that I actually liked. The hours I spent at my desk, listening to those hard-hitting bass notes, strangely orchestral drums, and summery guitar riffs would make me prouder and prouder of the person that I was becoming. It became one of the core parts of my personality throughout middle school—that album was the place where I found my first friend in middle school, and the motifs that Tycho brought into their works from that point on were transformative towards my own musical journey from that point on. I'd go on to discover artists from all across the electronic spectrum, from ODESZA and Jai Wolf to Daft Punk and Lemaitre: each of which would change my psyche more than the last.

At its core, I suppose the fact that Awake was so tenderly different, so surreal with the musical ideas that it brought to the table, was a real proof for me that not fitting the norm didn't mean that you weren't beautiful anyways. It just meant that you just need to find the right person to mesh with.